Oct. 11, 2007
Tallahassee, Fla. – Forty-nine of the 60 nationally ranked Division I teams in both men’s and women’s cross country will make the trip to Terre Haute, Ind., this weekend for the NCAA Pre-Nationals, including the No. 11 Florida State women and No. 25 men. Both the men’s 8k and women’s 6k races will take place at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course with the men running at 11:00 am and the women at 12:20 pm.
“On the women’s team, with the return of steeplechase All-American Barbara Parker, we’re excited to see where in the top 10 that might put us,” said head coach Bob Braman. “It’s a great opportunity for the women to go to the pre-national meet and run against the best in the country. No. 1 Stanford is in our race, as is every ACC team at the pre-nationals. So, we get a chance for kind of an ACC Championship preview, too.”
Led by Parker and fellow All-American Susan Kuijken, the Seminole women will face 12 nationally ranked teams in the 6k blue race including No. 1 Stanford, No. 4 Minnesota and No. 7 Rice. Four ACC teams will also join Florida State in the blue race including No. 16 Boston College.
“On the guy’s side, it’s a little bit frustrating in that two of our top five, Luke Gunn and Javier Cruz are both nursing small injuries that, if it were a championship meet like Regionals or Nationals, they could run. We don’t want to risk their seasons,” said Braman. “So, the younger guys are just going to have to step up and get it done. But they’re fit enough and talented enough that we can probably rally up and get a couple of wins in there over ranked teams.”
Stepping up for Gunn and Cruz will be senior and early-season ACC Performer of the Week Mark Buckingham as well as freshman Matt Leeder. In his first season with the Seminoles, Leeder has shown a lot of promise as he finished his first two collegiate races in second (Covered Bridge Open) and 26th (Notre Dame Invite).
“The big mission this weekend is not just going to be the competition, but also to get to know the course and how to run it,” said Braman. “The coaching staff has to pick out some of that–where we struggled, where we didn’t. Then, when we go back there for the NCAA Championships in November, we’ll be ready to go.”
Following pre-nationals, Florida State will take a week off before heading to Charlottesville, Va., to compete in the ACC Championships. Going into pre-nationals, Florida State is the highest nationally ranked team in the ACC for both men and women.