Justin Maskulinski, For The Miami Student

“Anti-climactic.”

That is how Head Coach Kelly Phillips described the third place finish at the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championships by Miami University’s Women’s Cross Country team last fall. The RedHawks’ finished behind The University of Toledo and Central Michigan University, respectively.

“We were a young team,” Phillips said, referring to the eight true freshmen on the fall 2011 team.

Freshman runner Alex Chitwood agreed the third place finish was not what Miami was hoping for.

“[The third place finish] was disappointing because all of our hard work didn’t give us the reward we had in mind,” Chitwood said.

Jess Hoover was another member of the large freshmen class.

“[The season] could’ve gone better,” Hoover said. “[However,] I was happy overall.”

According to Phillips, the team does not have a stand out runner, but rather a core group of talented athletes.

“It’s a mystery,” Phillips said when asked who the top runners will be in the upcoming season. “There are about eight to ten girls [who could be the top runner].”

Senior runner Monica Fischer said she is excited about the upcoming season.

“Last season was hard, we were a young team,” Fisher said. “But there is room for improvement.”

The RedHawks’ finished first on two occasions last season: once in Oxford and at the All-Ohio Championship in Cedarville, Ohio. The team also finished 11th at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship meet in Toledo last year.

Phillips and Chitwood agreed the RedHawks’ goal is to finish in the top five this season.

Aside from the Conference and Regional Championships Phillips mentioned other key meets in the upcoming season.

“The Pre-Nationals are in October,” she said. “That should give us a good idea [of who our top runners will be].”

Meets in Chicago and at Michigan State University also caught the head coach’s eye.

“Running against different teams will help us see where we stand,” Phillips said.

The University of Toledo Women’s Cross Country team, the 2010 and 2011 MAC Champion, is once again favored this year due in part to its strong upper classmen runners.

“Toledo, Ohio University and Western Michigan University [will be our top competitors],” Hoover said.

Fischer said the entire MAC will be competitive this year.

“The conference is wide open this year,” Fischer said. “It really just comes down to who has the most guts.”

The RedHawks’ hope they have what it takes to become the 2012 MAC Champions and compete in the NCAA Regional meets.

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