The Miami men’s cross country team, coming off a victory in their first meet of the season at the UCF Invitational earlier this month, will compete today in The Great American Classic in Charlotte, N C.
The 8K race is the largest regular season invite the Miami cross-country team has ever received and probably the most competitive meet the Hurricanes have ever endured.
“It’s a national class meet that gives us a great opportunity to run against some of the top teams in the country,” head coach Mike Ward said. “It allows us to see where our individuals are, and most importantly, it will prepare us for our Big East competition this season. Our goal is to be competitive and finish better than the teams we know we are capable of defeating.”
The competition includes local rivals Florida and Florida State and six teams ranked in the top-25 – No. 5 Northern Arizona University, No. 7 North Carolina State, No. 8 Georgetown, No. 16 Colorado State, No. 19 Duke, and No. 23 Butler. Miami understands it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to defeat the ranked teams, but they feel, at the very least, it will prepare them for their challenging league play this season.
“Competing against top caliber teams will pull you towards a faster time,” said senior Dan Boniface, Miami’s No. 1 runner. “It will be a good test for our team to measure up against better competition. We want to beat the teams we have competed against before, most notably our state rivals UF and FSU.”
Both Ward and Boniface don’t expect to defeat the top teams in the nation, but they do want to leave the meet a better team than they entered.
“The teams competing are traditionally very good teams who year after year perform well at nationals,” Boniface said. “A lot of All-Americans come out of this meet, and it’s a goal of mine to become one.”
The Great American Classis is held at the Ballantyne Resort, a former hunting preserve nestled in the foothills of the southern Piedmont.
The 8K cross-country course weaves through wooded sections adjacent to an 18-hole golf course, over lush grass lawns on the golf course fairways, around lakes and ponds, and over ridges with vast panoramic views of the Piedmont.
The course will be extremely challenging and is one of the only southern courses with an all grass running surface.
“This course will have more hills than any course we run on down here,” Boniface said. “We been practicing on the Key Biscayne Bridge and doing heavy weight lifting with our legs. We should be alright.”
Boniface is fresh off his first career meet victory at the UCF Invitational on Sept. 6, which helped Miami capture a team championship at the meet in Orlando, Fl.
“He (Boniface) is our clear team leader,” Ward said. “Guys follow his examples and he has a great work ethic. He has given a great shot in the arm for this program.”
Boniface’s time of 20:26.20 was good for first place in the four-mile course.
“It was very satisfying to reward all the hard work and training I put in this summer,” said Boniface, who spent this past summer training in Colorado. “In addition to it being my first individual victory, it was even more gratifying to win Miami’s first team meet in my time here.”
Following Boniface at the No. 2 position is junior Matt Mulvaney, who finished just behind Boniface at the UCF Invitational with a time of 20:38.80, which was good for second place. Mulvaney will be counted on to perform well in long distance races this year for Miami.
“He (Mulvaney) is a really tough long distance runner and has pushed me to be better,” Boniface said. “He will beat me if I have a bad day. It’s great to have a teammate that is so good to train with and race against.”
Other top finishers for Miami at the UCF Invitational included freshmen Alex Brutvan, who finished seventh (21:13.70) and James Mullaly, who finished 14th (21:34.70). Both Brutvan and Mullaly show a lot of promise. Ward said the team must get consistent results from Brutvan and Mullaly at the No. 3 and No. 4 spot.
In order for the Hurricanes to be successful, Ward and Boniface stressed the need for Miami to establish a strong No. 5 runner. Right now, Matt “The Moose” Maloney and Billy Bludgus are competing to become the successful No. 5 runner Miami so desperately covets.
“It’s nice to have a great 1-2 punch in Boniface and Mulvaney, but in order to be competitive in the Big East this season, we will need strong play from our freshmen and someone to establish himself as good No. 5 runner,” Ward said.
Hopefully, Miami will get solid performances from their freshmen and find that No. 5 runner today in Charlotte.
You can reach Brian Poliakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.