October 11, 2014 - by
Locals Pace Cross Country Noles To Sweep

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A pair of homegrown products were at the root of the success the Florida State men’s and women’s cross country meets enjoyed Friday evening, leading the Seminoles to a sweep of the team titles at the FSU Invitational.

Junior Carly Thomas and Stanley Linton finished third and fourth overall in the women’s and men’s races, respectively, leading the Seminoles to a pair of victories in the 32nd edition of the meet.

On a steamy evening at the Seminoles’ Apalachee Regional Park home course, the women’s team – which competed without seven of its top runners – received big lifts Thomas, Christine Griggs, Katie Slater, Madison Harris and Courteney West to squeeze out a one-point win over UCF.

Thomas covered the 5000-meter course in 17:58.69 – one of only three runners to crack the 18-minute mark – and chased UCF’s Anne-Marie Blaney (17:23.65) and her sister Catherine Blaney from South Florida (17:52.26) across the finish.

“When you have 30 teams and 29 teams, I don’t care what division you’re in, that’s challenging because if you slip up a little bit you might get beat,” FSU men’s coach Bob Braman said. “I thought, particularly the ladies, did a really good job. We talked about kids fighting for conference spots and we had at least two [Thomas and Griggs] that stepped up and said, ‘Hey, I’m doing well.’…

“It’s great for our local stars to have led us to wins today. They really know how to work this course and did so superbly today.”

Griggs was a strong fifth in 18:10.71, with Slater 12th (18:31.01), followed by Harris (25th, 18:52.25) and West (27th, 18:54.25).

The Seminoles slipped past the Knights, 72-73, among a field of 10 NCAA Division I programs, on the strength of Harris, West and Chantelle Brodie (28th, 18:55.45) beating UCF’s fifth runners across the finish line.

“The goal today was to run around 18 minutes and be in the top three to continue on to conference,” said Thomas, an FSU junior who starred at Tallahassee’s Chiles High. “The team goal was to try and get as many girls as possible through that finish line before any other team…

“It was hot, but it wasn’t as bad as it has been. It’s Florida. We’re so used to the heat and you have to deal with the weather conditions as they come.”

Linton, a product of Crawfordville’s Wakulla High and a first-year Seminole in cross country, authored a similar storyline under slightly different conditions. He teamed up with teammates Michael Hall, Antony Taylor and Otniel Teixeira through the first three miles of the 8000-meter men’s race, then began bagging a long line or runners in front of him.

“I just followed the plan and went through (the 3-mile) at 15:25 and just tried to bring it home the last two, which was pretty successful,” Linton said. “I think the group did well as well.”

And it didn’t hurt that, like Thomas, he had plenty of local supporters who turned out in huge numbers for the largest college field to ever compete at the FSU Invitational.

“It was great,” said Linton, who finished second among Division I runners in 25:17.91. “You feel like a celebrity, but it’s really comforting to be near friends and family all of the time. This is where I’ve been raised. This is the fifth time running this race and to have so many people out here supporting you it was awesome.”

Working in a group, Hall (11th, 25:39.90), Taylor (15th, 25:45.53) and Teixeira (17th, 25:51.28) came blazing through the pack to pass in excess of 80 runners over the final 1.5 miles. Bryce Kelley (45th, 26:36.36) rounded out the Seminole scorers.

“Bryce Kelley was having the race of his life and got a bad stitch in his side, but hung on and got us the win,” Braman said. “The guys doing the workout – those first four guys for us – executed perfectly. They ran people down and moved up from 100th to top-15, so mission accomplished from that point. The races went really smooth.”

The FSU men claimed the NCAA Division I title by a 30-point margin over Louisiana-Lafayette, 48-78. Auburn was third (78), followed by Florida Gulf Coast (82) and Vanderbilt (112).

“I think it was a good tune-up for Wisconsin next week,” said Linton. “We were training through this meet. We really wanted to do well, but the big goal is up ahead at Wisconsin. We want to beat out some ranked teams and move up in the rankings. Hopefully I can be a solid fifth guy.”

In addition to the Division I competition, the Tampa women’s team came out on top from a field of 18 teams from NCAA Division II and lower, getting past runner-up Saint Leon by an 85-102 margin. The Florida Southern men captured the college division by edging Alabama-Huntsville, 74-92.

Individually, Flagler College senior Corey Mundy claimed the men’s individual title in 25:01.40.

The FSU Invitational continues Saturday with 10 high school division races, featuring most of the top-ranked boys and girls teams from Florida in a meet that also serves as a tune-up for the FHSAAA State Championships. More than 2,200 runners are expected to compete with the first race scheduled for 7:40 a.m.

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