Sept. 1, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The long holiday weekend, a cooler climate and a little topographical diversity await the Florida State cross country teams in Boone, N.C.
The Seminoles officially open the 2011 season Friday evening at the Covered Bridge Invitational, but the trek to the North Carolina mountains has a far greater purpose.
“We have a real good opportunity to get out of town, get some good weather and bond as a team,” said FSU men’s coach Bob Braman. “The general approach every year at (host) Appalachian State is that we’re going to give the younger kids a chance to represent Florida State and score. … It’s a chance for the young guys who are aspiring to make the top seven.”
FSU women’s coach Karen Harvey looks at the season-opener in similar fashion.
“We will be racing a mix of newcomers and returnees; ladies that I think will benefit from some early season racing,” said Harvey.
Don’t expect many of FSU’s top returnees from either NCAA runner-up team to toe the starting line Friday at State Farm Fields. Both coaches subscribe to the theory that there’s little reward for a heavy racing schedule when the goal is to peak on Nov. 21 at the NCAA Championships.
Instead, the FSU lineup will likely be led by a quartet of Floridians – veterans Kara Taylor (Tallahassee Chiles) and Kaitlyn Iselborn (Jacksonville Bolles), redshirt freshman Chelsi Woodruff (Winter Park Trinity Prep) and true freshmen Teresa Ristow (Melbourne Holy Trinity) – along with freshman Linden Hall from Australia.
Among the stronger teams expected to compete in the meet are Wake Forest, UNF and host Appalachian State.
The outcome of the team results will not reflect actual strength of the two FSU squads. Both the Seminole men and women are top-ranked in the USTFCCCA NCAA South Region preseason poll and among the top 10 in the national rankings.
Braman’s men expect newcomers Breanden O’Neill, a transfer from Dublin City in Ireland, to be a factor on the 2011 squad that begins the year ranked No. 8 nationally. Heralded freshman signee Armondo “AJ” del Valle (Miami Columbus) could potentially figure into the mix as well.
Harvey’s women, who check in at No. 6 nationally after four consecutive NCAA podium finishes, expect to get a boost from the return of Hannah Brooks and the debut of former NJCAA All-American Violah Lagat, a junior transfer from Central Arizona this season.
Tentatively, FSU won’t send its full contingent onto a course until the Sept. 16 Clemson Invitational, which will serve as a preview of the course for the 2011 ACC Championships, where the Seminoles will attempt to defend their titles.