Oct. 14, 2004
Tallahassee, Fla. – At the beginning of the 2004 season, Florida State head cross country coach Bob Braman looked at the men’s team and beamed with excitement. He knew that this team, more so than any in the last 22 seasons, had the talent, experience and poise to get to the NCAA Cross Country National Championships. A large source of his enthusiasm is due to one student-athlete in particular – junior transfer Andrew Lemoncello (St. Andrews, Scotland/Stirling University).
“Lemoncello should be an impact athlete for cross country and track and field,” said Braman, at the beginning of the season, prior to Lemoncello, a 16-time Scottish National Champion, even stepping into a Florida State uniform. “He’s a potential All-American in both, which is something we’re ecstatic about.”
Lemoncello must have heard that prediction and used it as fuel to fulfill his coach’s prophecy because he began the 2004 season as best he could – taking home an individual meet championship in his first intercollegiate race, in addition to helping the Seminoles to a team victory. Add to that two Atlantic Coast Conference Performer of the Week honors and his season, despite being six weeks old, is shaping up pretty well. Compared to 2003, the Seminoles did not have one selection for the weekly honor, given to the best cross country runner in the league every week. This season, the Seminoles have taken three of six of the awards, including Lemoncello’s two nods.
In his first race at FSU, Lemoncello won the men’s 8K division at the Florida Intercollegiate Championships. His mark helped the men’s team beat fellow NCAA South Region opponent Samford by three points and win the meet title in the men’s collegiate division.
In his next outing, Lemoncello took fourth place at the highly competitive Notre Dame Invitational, racing against some of the best programs in the nation. Florida State competed against seven ranked teams in the MONDO Men’s National Cross Country Poll, upsetting two programs. Stepping in for injured sophomore Luke Beevor, the junior transfer took over the number one position in the Tribe’s lineup, helping the team to a sixth place finish. His time was the second fastest in Florida State school history, one second behind Larry Greene’s 1980 time of 23:48. The men’s squad, who sat at No. 26 until after the Notre Dame Invitational, moved up eight spots to eighteenth, largely due to Lemoncello’s top five performance.
“After the Notre Dame race, I was happy enough with it but I was a bit frustrated because I had not run my own race,” said the soft-spoken Scottish runner. “I listened to coach and held back and waited which isn’t usually how I race. For Pre-Nationals, I’m just ready to go in there and run.”
While Lemoncello is new to FSU and to intercollegiate competition, he is no stranger to running. His interest in cross country peaked around the age of 12, when he and a few friends went along with his mother to run in a race. While his mother volunteered at the meet, Lemoncello competed in the race finishing very well. After that, his interest in cross country continued prompting him to join a training club, the same group that former Seminole and five-time All-American Vicky Gill was a member.
After Lemoncello graduated from high school, he took a year off to focus on his running and then enrolled at Stirling University in Scotland. He took classes for two years in sport studies and continued training with his club all while looking at schools in the United States. While a few did make contact, ultimately the relationship he had with Gill and eventually Braman were what helped distinguish FSU from the rest. Gill’s career at Florida State, as well as her continued presence with the program, were two big factors in Lemoncello signing with Florida State. He knew that FSU had a formula for success.
While visiting his sister in Texas, he spent a weekend in Tallahassee to see if he would be a good fit in Garnet and Gold.
“When I was just finishing school, the University of Florida sent me some information,” said Lemoncello. “I took a year off to concentrate on my running and then I went to Stirling for two years. That’s when Vicky and I trained together and that’s when coach saw me race. We started talking there and then last October I came (to Tallahassee) to visit.”
It didn’t take long for the ideal weather, great location and the Seminoles reputation, to grasp Lemoncello’s interest. He knew that Tallahassee was a great place to train because of the excellent weather year round. Additionally, he was comforted by the fact that his sister was less than a two-hour plane ride away and his longtime training partner had already experienced three successful seasons in the Garnet and Gold and was still around to help him adjust.
“I never visited any other schools, although I talked to a few coaches. I talked to (Coach Braman) the longest and I felt very comfortable. I knew Vicky when she came out here and things were going great for her. It was good to know someone here and it helped with the transition.”
Once on campus, Lemoncello focused on the adjustment from Scotland to Florida. He sat down at the beginning of the season with Braman to put his goals in front of him and ensure that they fit in with what the team was looking to accomplish. Lemoncello is aiming to finish in the top 15 at the NCAA Championships while the squad’s goal is looking for to beat its best finish (8th place) in FSU school history, a mark set almost 23 years ago in 1981.
For now, despite the success Lemoncello has attained this season, his focus is still on the next meet. He is training for the championship stretch of the season which starts this weekend with the NCAA Pre-National Race. The meet is geared to give select teams a chance to run the nationals course prior to the November 22nd race. Runners from the top programs in the conference, region and nation will take their spots at the start line looking to set the tone for the second half of the season.
“I like to go into races with just a clear mind and see how it feels, running as hard as I can,” continued Lemoncello. “I ran a race back home that I was favored to win and I ended up doing horribly because I just crumbled under the pressure. Now, I just go into nationals with the mindset of one race at a time.”
Running aside, a few other things peak Lemoncello’s interest, including his studies and future goals. After completing an art project in his final year of high school, his interest in equipment design was tapped. The potential sport management major believes his dream job would involve designing cross country training spikes.
“In my final year of high school, I worked on a project where I designed training spikes. I really enjoyed it, thinking one day I could do that. I’d have to go a few more years in school and get a fashion design degree though. I’m not sure about that,” said Lemoncello with a smile.
After he finishes his eligibility and gets his diploma, Lemoncello wants to move to Colorado – an area he’s visited and reminds him of his home in Scotland. His plans are to stay involved with sports and coaching.
Until then though, Lemoncello will look at every race, and probably everything in his life, with a clear mind, one race at a time.