Melissa Maykut, Staff Writer

Kelley Miller passes the competition in the All-Ohio Championship Oct. 2, 2009. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

The Miami University men’s and women’s cross country teams are just days away from kicking off their 2010 seasons.

In 2009, the men’s team struggled throughout the season, placing 4th at the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship. Then, due to illnesses and injuries, the RedHawks placed 14th at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships.

“The guys had put more emphasis on running the races in practice last year and burned themselves out when they got to the actual race,” Head Coach Warren Mandrell said.

To make the team stronger and more consistent, Mandrell is focusing on balancing the team’s workouts.

“We will be running more hills, running on grass and adding more volume, adding the number of miles to our runs,” Mandrell said.

Over the summer, the guys averaged 60 to 80 miles a week and had a mix of hard and easy workouts. The team also did a five-mile acceleration run where the speed gradually increases with each mile this past week at Hueston Woods.

“The team is looking very strong with nine or 10 different guys finishing in the top five each week,” Mandrell said.

According to Mandrell, seniors Michael Perry and Robbie Fisher and junior David Eichenberger are expected to run well this year.

While the men’s cross country team has much room to improve this season, the women’s cross country team, led by Head Coach Kelly Phillips, is searching for a third MAC championship.

“Obviously the team wants to go for a third MAC championship, but the conference is a lot tougher this year,” Phillips said.

The girls have averaged 45 to 65 miles a week over the summer and their practices consist of a combination of two to three hard days and one long day.

Unlike the men’s team, who lost four of its seven top runners, the women’s team only lost two seniors. While the decision on team captains is still being decided, Phillips feels very confident in seniors Rachel Patterson, Amanda Mirochna and Katie Lenahan. Freshman Kathryn Carter is also looking strong and is likely to do well this season for the RedHawks.

While the women’s team won a second MAC championship last year, they ended up finishing 8th in the Great Lakes Regionals, missing the chance to qualify for the NCAA championships.

“I don’t expect that to happen again this year,” Phillips said. “They’re older this year and more prepared. They just got scared.”

So far, the men’s and women’s cross country teams are looking healthy and strong and excited to start off the season at the Dayton Flyer 5K Sept. 4.

“This is where we find out who are the racers, who are the practice runners and what our overall fitness is,” Mandrell said.

The men’s team finished 2nd last year at the Dayton Flyer 5K, while the women’s team is looking to repeat their 1st place victory.