GAINESVILLE, Fla. – It wasn’t surprising to see Florida State’s Jodie Judd and Althea Hewitt leading the women’s cross country team around the Mark Bostick Golf Course Saturday morning. Seminoles’ coach Kelly Phillips expected the veterans to show the way.
What she wasn’t anticipating was the assault on personal-best 5000-meter performances, recorded by a substantial number from FSU’s developmental group. That effort turned into a third-place finish from a field of 27 teams competing at the Mountain Dew Invitational.
Judd, completing her first competition since the 2018 indoor season, finished seventh overall (17:24.9). Hewitt, who volunteered to compete after she was disappointed with her performance last week in Boston, was 12th overall in a new lifetime-best of 17:34.4.
“I’m so glad I did,” said Hewitt, a senior who ran four minutes faster than she did on the same course as a freshman member of the Noles’ developmental group. “There is no comparison with how I felt today and how I felt at Boston…I felt really good today.
“It was really inspiring to see Jodie up ahead and kind of see the lead group and work up toward them.”
Hewitt’s improvement throughout her career is inspiring to many of the Noles who made up the group of 20 competing Saturday morning; nine of whom established new personal-bests to go along with three additional collegiate-best performances.
“I like how they all followed the race plan; ran really tough in the middle,” Phillips said. “Kate Bernicke was my biggest surprise. She didn’t seem to come into the season as focused at first and today was definitely a game-changer. She ran fantastic.
“There were a lot of really good things; really good racing and really good teamwork. It was fun to see that many PRs.”
Redshirt freshman Ellie Wallace was 25th (17:59.4) in her second race with the Noles; also a major improvement on last week’s effort at Franklin Park in Boston. She was followed by a pack dominated by first- and second-year Noles.
Freshman Erin Phelps whacked nearly 30 seconds off her previous best for 5000 meters, placing 36th in 18.19.0. Bernicke, a sophomore, was 46th with a new collegiate-best of 18:34.2.
“The conditions were great and the coaches have been training us well, so I think we were all ready to run our best today,” said Bernicke. “Usually when I race I tend to die a little bit. Today I started out a little more conservative and I was able to pick it up and pick people off at the end.”
With all five scorers in, FSU’s total of 122 points trailed only host Florida (80) and North Florida (102), both of whom raced their top athletes. Florida A&M finished fourth (153).
“It felt really good,” Phelps said. “I was trying to focus on staying with the other FSU girls, keeping them within my sight, and just racing.”
The Noles did a good job of that across the board, coming across the finish line in bunches.
Among those with personal-bests on the day were freshman Ella Swigler (51st, 18:39.7), sophomore Sarah Myers (62nd, 18:50.2) and junior Elizabeth Cobb (80th, 19:04.5). Sophomore Micaela Torres recorded a collegiate-best of 18:50.7 (64th), as did junior Claire Hooker (19:32.4, 108th).
Freshmen Alondra Reyna-Lopez (115th, 19:45.6), Anna Lewis (149th, 20:22.1), Kaia Stevenson (150th, 20:22.7) and Julia Blankenbaker (153rd, 20:25.4) rounded out the personal-bests on the day.
Hewitt was genuinely excited to see the progress of her younger teammates.
“It’s awesome because that’s where I was two years ago, so it’s really good to see them improving, getting up to where they want to be and setting goals,” she said.
“Althea is someone I look up to on the team because she started out [like many of us] and made her way up to the top group,” Bernicke said. “That’s something I want to do in my time at Florida State. She’s really an inspiration to me that way.”
She wasn’t alone, at least not through the eyes of Phillips.
“As a whole we’re getting deeper and better,” Phillips said. “Our middle of the pack is getting a lot better. And they’re just a much better cohesive team. It’s fun to see the fire in their eyes. There’s no pecking order yet, so they’re all trying to make it and that’s fun to see.
“Our freshmen did a great job today.”