Clay Packel, For The Miami Student

The Miami University men’s and women’s cross country teams are back in action at Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind. for Pre-Nationals.

Both teams will be up against the best schools from across the country. It is by far the fastest and most competitive race either team has run all year. With crucial points on the line for qualifying towards nationals, no one will want to go home empty handed. Miami University women’s head coach Kelly Phillips said it’s a big weekend for the team.

“The top 86 teams in the country will be there, and we’re one of them, so it’s ours to take or break,” Phillips said.

The women’s team is looking to knock off the likes of the University of Toledo, Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin and Indiana University. All teams currently ranked higher than Miami in the region.

Phillips said she’s slightly more confident entering Pre-Nationals this year because her squad is deeper and stronger. Her team is also completely healthy entering Saturday’s race, which has not always been the case in years past.

The race itself was initially supposed to be divided into two heats, an ‘A’ race and a ‘B’ race. It is not clear whether this will still be the format, but if it is, Phillips believes her team would most likely be in the A race.

“If they split it clean down the middle we’re definitely good enough to be in that top heat,” Phillips said. “I actually prefer having the two heats, it’s less crowded.”

The men’s team will have its the race split into three heats of 25 teams each. Of those 75, 52 are regionally ranked. Head coach Warren Mandrell (LINK 2) said the loaded field doesn’t frighten his team.

“It’s just another race as far as we’re concerned, “Mandrell said. “The guys have been doing reasonably well and I hope they run well on Saturday.”

The men’s team, is not as healthy as the women’s, but it will still have its top seven runners available Saturday.

Despite having a young squad, Mandrell said he thinks his runners will hold their own.

“I hope the event will affect the younger guys in a positive manner,” Mandrell said. “All-Ohio helped prepare them for the event, and there wont be as many teams on the starting line as there were then, just more quality.”

With eight of the nine MAC schools running in the men’s race, the RedHawks hope to prove they’re not only one of the best teams in the state of Ohio, but also the conference and region.