Nov. 15, 2003
Tallahassee – The Florida State men’s and women’s cross country teams added another notch to this season’s belt with second place finishes at the NCAA South Region Championships hosted by Auburn University on Saturday, November 15. Senior Vicky Gill won the 6k race on the women’s side in a time of 19:48.04 while junior Joep Tigchelaar finished second crossing the tape in 30:11.08 (10K).
Gill earned NCAA South Region Athlete of the Year along with a spot on the All-South Region team, made up of the top 25 runners in the region. The Lancashire, England native, who earned an automatic bid two years ago when she finished fourth overall, led last year’s Tribe women to their first ever appearance at nationals. This is Gill’s second NCAA South Region Championship title, her first coming last season in a time of 21:03.9. This time around, the former St. Andrews University student finished 54 seconds ahead of the second place runner.
“For Vicky, this season has been a reprieve. She’s in a position where she really values her second chance in competition. At nationals last year, she fought pretty good but was beat by UNC’s Shalane Flanagan. She finished 15th last year at NCAA’s, so this year she just needs to chill and run her race. With more experience under her belt, I think she understands how to do that,” said fourth year head coach Bob Braman.
Tigchelaar, who recorded his highest placing in the race, earned All-South Region honors and a bid to nationals for the third time in as many years. The Macharan, Netherlands native, placed fourth overall in 2002 en route to an automatic individual bid to nationals and in 2001 crossed the tape fifth, after earning ACC Freshman of the Year and All-ACC team honors.
“I knew (Georgia’s Simon Ngata) is a lot quicker with his kick than I am. Somewhere on the back of the course, I found myself in the lead. I figured I might as well go for it. I tried to develop as big of a gap as I could. Coming down the backstretch, though, I felt my legs lock up. When (Ngata) came up on me, there was nothing I could do. I really wanted to win this,” said the three-time All-South Region honoree.
The men’s team recorded 64 points with five runners finish in the top 20, all earning all-South Region honors. Junior Ian Hornabrook (30:44.84, 11th), sophomore Kevin Cook (30:58.17, 16th), junior Eddy Rodriguez (31:00.31, 17th) and freshman Luke Beevor (31:02.16, 18th) rounded out the top five scorers. Freshman Tom Lancashire who crossed the tape in a 10K personal best time of 31:35.00 while freshman Michael Walsh rounded out the top seven 32:30.33.
“I was personally motivated in the offseason to get a good recruiting class (to back up our veterans). If you notice, Joep and Kevin are the only two from last season’s top seven. I wanted guys who could come in and make a difference right away. Luke was our hero because he came out there and ran a great race. He was definitely our leader and that was very exciting. Tom ran a lifetime best. The guys really peaked for this race. It was definitely our best effort of the year,” Braman continued.
The last men’s team to make it this far into the postseason was the 1981 men’s team. Led by All-American Herb Wills aside Larry Greene and Doug Overfelt. Wills finished 16th overall in the NCAA National Championship meet while Greene finished 56th overall. After that season, six of eight guys were lost to graduation.
“I look back at that team and am familiar with them because I ran against those guys. That was a special team and I have so much respect for them. I feel this team will do well. They are not that 1981 team but that’s definitely what we’re looking at towards the future. We’re going to chase that for a while,” said Braman.
For the men’s program, it was their highest finish since the beginning of competition in the South Region in 1998. Last year, the men’s team finished fourth just short of an automatic bid and didn’t earn an at-large bid. In 2001, the men were two points from earning an automatic bid.
“Two years ago when we missed it but we ran better than we (expected) to run. That was exactly 20 years from the 1981 team (that placed eighth at nationals). I felt like we should have made it (to nationals) that year. Then we had a chance to make it last year but ended up finishing 16 points behind the second place team. I’ve been thinking about it for two years because I felt like we should have been an at-large selection,” said Braman.
For the Seminole women, junior Natalie Hughes finished 11th – receiving a spot on the all-South Region team alongside teammates junior Anne Clinton (21:43.16, 23rd) and senior Helen Hofstede (21:44.40, 25th). Junior Rachel Marsh finished 33rd crossing the tape in a time of 22:01.07, freshman Heather Clark finished in 58th with a time of 22:37.70 and sophomore Jennifer Gomez posted a 23:05.80 mark to place 79th closing out the top seven for the Tribe.
“On the women’s side, our hero was Rachel Marsh. She graduates in May, is not on scholarship yet she gets out there and runs a lifetime best by 30 seconds. We only beat Georgia by 16 points and her stepping in when others are struggling makes the difference in our second place, automatic bid and a third place possible at-large bid. I’m also proud of Ann Clinton who ran through an injury for us which again, really makes the difference,” continued Braman.
Both teams will be making their second championship appearance with the women earning a spot after last year’s second place South Region finish while the men will make first since 1981. The Garnet and Gold men have recorded a second straight history setting feat – with their first coming at the ACC Championships after placing second – the highest in school history.
“In order to win, it’s being good, being talented and being fortunate. If you look at that 1981 team, they didn’t do it the two years before that and they didn’t do it the year after that. They never made it again. So that’s the key – have a team that goes to nationals and learns and then goes back and does well,” said the former University of Florida standout.
The NCAA Cross Country National Championships will be held at the Byrnes Park/Irv Warren Memorial Golf Course in Waterloo, Iowa. The top two teams from all nine regions earn automatic bids with 13 teams selected at large in addition to 38 individuals to round out the 255 competitors racing. Last year’s team champion was BYU with UNC’s Shalane Flanagan winning the individual title.