MADISON, Wisc. – It does not appear that the Florida State men’s cross country team will be sitting out the NCAA Championship meet for a second consecutive year.
The 18th-ranked Seminoles tied for ninth at Friday’s Wisconsin adidas Invitational, defeating nine nationally-ranked teams – four of which were more highly ranked – on the strength a mere solid 35-second split between its first and fifth scoring runners. Those quality victories will go a long way toward assuring Bob Braman’s team an at-large berth to the national championship meet, should FSU not finish in the top-two at the NCAA South Regional to qualify automatically.
“We just ran very competitively – competed with our heads on right – in a very tough environment over a fast 8k course,” Braman said, shortly after the Seminoles completed their swift tour around the Zimmer Championship Course. “To run a tactical race in that kind of situation, I feel pretty good about what we did. We knocked some good people off and some really good people beat us.”
Tyler Udland finished 27th (24:10) to lead the way, followed by Seminole teammates Glen Yarham (40th, 24:15) and Jack Goodwin (48th, 24:20) against a field of 38 men’s teams – 19 of which were nationally ranked – and 265 finishers.
Florida State’s ninth-ranked women’s team placed eighth overall against arguably the strongest field assembled outside of an NCAA Championship meet. The Seminoles, one of 22 ranked teams in the field of 40 squads, received strong performances from seniors Colleen Quigley (13th, 20:10), Linden Hall (41st, 20:37) and Georgia Peel (72nd, 20:53) in the 6000-meter event which kicked the day off.
“We saw Linden and Georgia run much better than their last races, and progress forward,” said FSU women’s coach Karen Harvey. “We had trouble maintaining a pack and staying together the way I know we can.”
Harvey was hoping for significant improvement by her team after its third-place finish at the Paul Short Run two weeks ago. While the eighth-place showing wasn’t what she was hoping for, the Seminoles did manage to post the best finish by an Atlantic Coast Conference team, totaling 309 points.
Tenth-ranked Virginia, considered FSU’s primary threat to a string of ACC titles dating back seven years, was ninth with 367 points, followed by No. 13 North Carolina (11th, 382), No. 12 Syracuse (12th, 403), No. 17 Boston College (21st, 541), No. 28 Notre Dame (30th, 684) and unranked Duke (35th, 858).
“We have two weeks to ACC and I know this team is way better fitness and talent-wise than they are racing,” Harvey said. “But it’s all racing with that in your heart from the gun until the finish. Our focus has not changed. We want to win the ACC title and execute a tighter pack.”
Pippa Woolven (87th, 21:05) and Bridget Blake (111th, 21:16) rounded out the scoring Seminoles on the women’s side.
The Seminole men raced hungry from the start in what proved to be a tactical race as Goodwin broke for the lead at 1,000-meter mark with Udland running second.
“I think we just got a little glimpse of what we might see down the road with Jack Goodwin,” said Braman, following Goodwin’s second race in an FSU uniform.
The Seminole leaders were enveloped by chase pack at 4000 meters, but held their ground relatively well over the second half of the race.
“First of all we got lots of wins and that was Mission No. 1; what we came here to do,” Braman said. “The race was just bizarre. It was really windy and it went out slow. I knew it was going to be like a pace-changing Fartlek session, so we went out to the front and I’m glad we did.
“Our strategy – we thought it was going to go out hard – was to run hard to 6k, then take a break and kick it in. The lead pack at 5k was probably 60 or 70 guys. What we’ve got to be able to do in that situation is answer the bell a little bit better. We didn’t cover the move as good as we’re going to need to at the national meet.”
Zak Seddon turned in his best race of the season, finishing fourth for the Seminoles and 72nd overall (24:27), while Stanley Linton – racing for the third consecutive week – rounded out the scorers at 24:45 in 119th place.
The tight split between FSU’s scoring five was especially pleasing for Braman, whose team tied 11th-ranked Michigan for ninth with 296 points. Michigan defeated the Seminoles by a wide margin at the Notre Dame Invitational two weeks ago, as did BYU and New Mexico; two teams they defeated on Friday.
“I’m real pleased with that,” Braman said of the tight split and improved performance. “I believe when we get to the 10,000 meter distance [for Regionals], Stanley is going to get better.”
The men’s team title went to defending ACC champion Syracuse, which placed all five runners within the top 24 finishers. FSU was the next-best team among ACC schools, finishing ahead of four others.
“It was the kind of day where if you executed and had five guys who were hungry, you could pick off some quality wins,” said Braman, after the Noles also logged quality wins over No. 12 BYU, No. 13 Providence, No. 16 New Mexico and No. 17 Arkansas.