BOONE, N.C. – As measuring sticks go, Florida State cross country coaches Bob Braman and Kelly Phillips feel pretty good about the one they will get when the Seminoles launch their 2018 seasons Friday afternoon here at the Covered Bridge Open.
This will mark the 18th time in Braman’s 19 seasons in Tallahassee that the Noles have opened up at the Appalachian State-hosted event, which will be contested at State Farm Fields and the Don Kennedy Trails. Phillips’ women will take the first starting gun of the season at 5 p.m. for the 5000-meter race, with the men to follow over 8000 meters at 5:45.
In the case of both squads, the first competition of the season isn’t as much about winning, although the Noles have done their share of that here. Both the men and women have won nine Covered Bridge Open team titles, including last season’s sweep.
Armed with all that meet history, Braman is anxious to see how his teams’ fitness compares to those from years past.
“I just want to see where we are compared to other years,” Braman said. “I see it as a little bit of a measuring stick. We’ve been here 18 years. We can look at any times in the last five or six years when we ran 8k and see how we measured up against those guys.”
Redshirt freshmen Caleb Pottorff and Tyler Dau, and former All-Big 12 honoree Toby Hardwick (Iowa State) will make their Seminole cross country debuts, joined by senior Istvan Szogi, redshirt junior Tyson Murray and redshirt sophomore Bert Freire.
“We’re a tired team, but we always are at this time of year,” said Braman, adding that his group will deploy together through the first two miles before picking up the pace as they climb to the top of a ridge near the three-mile mark. From there the racing will commence.
Phillips has a similar strategy in mind for the women; kind of a test-run for a long-range plan with an eye toward the postseason.
“We’re really going to treat it like a tempo because we’re really trying to push the [racing] season back and really not open up until Notre Dame [Sept. 28]. This is going to be about learning to run in packs and running with your group.”
She believes in order for the Noles to return to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2014, they must be able to “pack run” effectively.
“It seems to be a very good chemistry team as far as working together, so I’m excited to see that,” Phillips added. “It should be fun. They’ve all grown up a lot. They’re just in a different place athletically and in a different headspace.”
While the men’s roster is heavily weighted to underclassmen, the women are a largely veteran group, led by defending race champion Militsa Mircheva.
She is also anxious to see how freshmen Elizabeth Funderburk and Erin Phelps, and redshirt freshman Kayla Easterly, fit in with veterans like Mircheva, Jodie Judd, Megan Mooney and Maudie Skyring, among others.
The 11-team meet includes host Appalachian State, East Tennessee State and UNC Asheville, as the top competitors from the Division I ranks.
You can follow the Seminoles throughout the race and the season via Twitter @FSUXC with photo recaps @fsu_xc on Instagram, as well as Seminoles.com, for a complete recap.
Men sixth, women eighth in ACC Coaches Poll
The Florida State men were picked to finish sixth and the women eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference, according to a poll of conference coaches released Thursday.
The Syracuse men were tabbed to win their sixth consecutive title, while the NC State women were the choice to claim a third consecutive crown.
A full breakdown of the 15-team pecking order can be found here: https://theacc.co/xcpoll18.