YANKEETOWN, Fla. – For the 14th consecutive year the Florida State cross country teams will dip an empty water bottle into the Gulf of Mexico at an obscure boat ramp near Yankeetown, collect a sample, and carry it on a two-day trek that ends at the Atlantic Ocean on Daytona Beach.
The Across the State Relay, the Seminoles’ annual community service and team-bonding event, gets underway Friday afternoon. In all, 56 runners from the men’s and women’s teams will take part in this year’s event, supported by a group of eight coaches and staff members who handle the logistics and transportation.
“It’s all men – and women – on deck,” said FSU men’s coach Bob Braman, who launched the initial event back in 2001. “Everybody that’s healthy and in the program is expected to go and raise $100. We start this back in the summer and it goes from their communities and into our community. The goal is to bring it from their home communities into our community because that’s new money.”
Since its inception, the Noles have raised $65,000; a total that will grow by $5,000 again this year.
“We’ve always donated at least $5,000,” Braman said. “Historically we’ve tried to give to the United Way of the Big Bend. We did give to Fanconi Anemia a couple years ago.
“It’s their project and this is our community service…It’s more productive. We’re making a difference, giving $5,000 to the United Way.”
It’s a unique way of raising funds for a worthy cause, all the while taking care of the daily running needs of the teams. In most instances the runners are paired up and cover legs ranging from 3-6 miles, before passing the symbolic water bottle to the next duo.
“We’re not racing it all out, but we’re running it as a hard training run,” Braman said.
The entire trek covers approximately 127 miles, with a smaller group of runners – usually those who don’t have classes on Friday – handling the first 41 miles from Yankeetown to Bellview in southern Marion County. There, they are met up by a larger contingent, who will join in for Saturday’s 86-mile run which begins at 7 a.m. and usually concludes with toes in the Atlantic around 5 p.m.
“Everybody has fun in the surf, hanging out and we take pictures,” said Braman.
For years the team has been fed at the conclusion of trip by the Andrews family, whose sons Trey and Trevor and niece Kendall have all competed for the Seminoles over the years.
“It’s surprisingly smooth, how it goes,” said Braman, who drives the lead vehicle, which drops off runners who are about to embark on their respective legs. A trail vehicle and a support van, sporting an “Across the State Relay” banner, handle the pick-up duties at the conclusion of each leg and also provide a buffer between the runners and the East-bound traffic.
“It’s a lot of fun…It’s nice and cool and beautiful,” said Braman, who three years ago made the decision to move the event from September to December. “It’s a great team-building activity because it’s the only time that we really bring all the distance runners together.”
In addition to the community service and physical activity, the team also uses the time between running legs to study for final exams, which await upon the Sunday return to campus.