Sept. 21, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Three years after moving to the new Apalachee Regional Park Cross Country Course, the annual Florida State Invitational race has never been bigger.
A field of 17 colleges and universities, including the host Seminoles, will toe the starting the line for two races Friday evening. Saturday’s high school portion of the meet will include 41 schools – including some of the finest programs and individuals from Florida and Georgia – and approximately 800 runners.
“We’ve got 17 institutions here,” FSU men’s cross country coach Bob Braman said. “That’s the largest field since I’ve been here. It’s exciting to me. A lot of folks will be coming here for the first time and hopefully we will be able to showcase one of the finest cross country courses in the country.”
There’s little argument that the course – commonly referred to as the ARP – is one of the prime cross country venues in the nation. Its development, a joint venture between Leon County Parks & Recreation, Florida State University and the Gulf Winds Track Club, came on line in 2009. From its tightly-mowed grass starting area, the course winds through comfortably-wide trails of clay and crushed shell, over a variety of topographical changes that test runners of all abilities.
It’s also a fan-friendly venue for both the 5- and 8-kilometer course. Spectators stationed between the start and finish areas will have the opportunity to see the runners pass three times. Two coach’s trails provide access to other areas of the course.
This will mark the third year the meet will be run at the ARP, after previously being held at Miccosukee Greenway and the FSU golf course during the 30-plus year history of the Florida State Invitational.
This weekend’s races will also provide organizers with a shakedown of sorts, as FSU will attempt to secure host status for the 2012 NCAA South Regional at the ARP.
“We’re hoping to host the Region next year and hopefully we can run them through and show (the NCAA) how effective we can be,” Braman said.
The racing action begins Friday at 6:20 p.m. with the women’s university/open division 5k race. The men’s university/open 8k race will follow with at 6:45.
Running enthusiasts will be treated to a full morning of racing Saturday, with the first of six races – the High School Invitational Boys Division – taking the gun at 7:45 a.m.
“It’s one of the bigger fields we’ve ever had,” Braman said. “It’s exciting to get 40-some high schools on our campus, many of them from out of state, including some of the finest programs in both Florida and Georgia.”
Admission is free. Apalachee Regional Park is located at 7550 Apalachee Parkway (US-27), approximately 4 ½ miles east of US-319.