Shannon Whitson, For The Miami Student

Miami University’s Division I Men’s Cross Country team is gearing up for what it hopes will be a successful fall season. With the graduation of only one of the team’s runners, Brian Gallagher, the Men’s Cross Country team will return 10 runners who will soon be joined by about eight of Head Coach Warren Mandrell’s incoming recruits.

Redshirt senior Brett Wagner said with all of the team returning the Red and White’s 2012 cross country runners will be stronger than ever, if all goes according to plan throughout the summer and into the new season.

“I think it will be a good season coming back,” Wagner said. “We will definitely have more experience going into bigger meets this coming year.”

Redshirt junior Matt Marol also is confident heading into the fall. He maintains high expectations for his returning teammates and for the eight athletes joining the team in 2012.

“All eight of these guys, who are coming in have pretty legit times,” Marol said. “I think we all have really high hopes for our team this year; and I see the team making it to the national meet if everyone runs what they are capable of.”

Last season at the 2011 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Outdoor Championships eight of the team’s 11 runners raced the 8K in Muncie, Ind. at Ball State University.

However, Miami struggled through the meet, placing eighth out of the nine teams and racking up 173 points. This was the RedHawks’ worst finish at the league meet since 1989, where the Red and White also placed eighthin the same nine-team field.

Mandrell was less than thrilled with the runners’ execution at the MACs last season, especially since the ‘Hawks tied for second at the same meet in 2010.

On a positive note, rising senior Jarrod Eick placed fifth at the championship meet with a time of 24:38.9, earning him a personal-record and First-Team All-MAC honors for the first time in his three-year collegiate career. Eick’s improvement was astounding, as he placed 21st in the Mid-American Conference Outdoor Championships as a sophomore.

Rising junior David Wing was the second Miamian to finish behind Eick, running a personal-best 25:05.7. Wing placed 21st overall.

Behind Eick and Wing was a pretty substantial gap, as three of the RedHawk’s top and most experienced runners redshirted for the season. These runners included: Marol, Wagner and redshirt rising senior David Eichenberger, all of whom were injured.

Marol, Wagner and Wing all think staying healthy this year could make a huge difference in the team’s placement at the MAC meet this fall.