Clay Packel, For The Miami Student

With September drawing near, the Miami University men’s and women’s cross country season is nearly here. The first meet for the men’s team, the Dayton Flyer 5K Challenge, takes place Saturday, Aug. 31. The women begin their season by hosting the Miami Invitational Saturday, Sep. 7.

As head coach Warren Mandrell enters his 20th season with the men’s team, the RedHawks look to build upon last year, which saw them narrowly miss out on a NCAA Championship birth.

Miami will be returning senior standout runners, Matt Moral and Dave Wing. They were Miami’s top two runners last year, but both have had their eligibility expire.

After nearly a week of preseason workouts, Moral said he feels good about the Red and White’s chances.

“I’ve had a tremendous summer,” Moral said. “I feel the strongest I have in four years, I’m hungry.”

He also stressed the importance of beating schools that will impress the NCAA selection committee.

“We need to beat bigger teams and we need to gear up for the Mid-American Conference Championship, which has eluded us these last couple of years,” Moral said.

Miami also returns the 2012 Ohio Cross Country Freshmen of The Year, Joe Stewarts, as well as key redshirt junior Dan Garleb.

Mandrell had praise for junior Ryan Moncrieff., who was a top-5 runner his freshman year.

“He is looking very good in workouts after coming off injury,” Mandrell said.

Miami may have graduated a lot of its core runners, but Mandrell said he is still hopeful his young group can step up and contribute.

“If we’re going to be successful, the young guys have to produce, which I think they’re capable of,” Mandrell said.

With only two seniors, it’ll be up to the youth of the men’s squad to determine whether or not they can maintain their tradition of finishing in the top four of the MAC, a feat they have managed 16 out of the last 19 years.

The Miami women’s team enters the season with only two seniors on its roster however, they only graduated one last year.

The team put together a successful season last fall with strong performances from juniors Jess Hoover, Alex Chitwood and Melissa Girgis.

Head coach Kelly Phillips and her youthful team managed to finish second at last year’s Dayton Flyer 5K Challenge as well as at the MAC Championship. They finished 10 at the Great Lakes Regional Championship, narrowly missing out on an NCAA Championship birth.