TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – What happens when a largely veteran Florida State women’s cross country team visits a new venue, with a new vibe and the same end-of-season expectations?
Coach Karen Harvey and her sixth-ranked Seminoles will begin to unravel those questions Saturday as they travel to Bethlehem, Pa. to compete in the 41st Paul Short Run, hosted by Lehigh University. The Seminoles will compete in the Women’s Gold Division race (11:45 a.m.), which also features No. 5 Georgetown, the defending champion and only team to beat FSU in the regular season, along with perennial and No. 13 Villanova.
This marks Florida State’s first racing foray at Paul Short on the first weekend in October, after dominating the Notre Dame Invitational with four team titles over the past six seasons, including each of the last three.
Harvey made the decision to alter the schedule largely because it provides the Noles with an early test over 6,000 meters (Notre Dame is only 5,000 meters), on the rolling Goodman Campus Course, which should better prepare her team at the end of the season.
The Seminoles enter the meet with a well-distinguished lead pack, paced by seniors Colleen Quigley, Linden Hall, Pippa Woolven and junior Georgia Peel.
“We definitely have two groups that need to work together,” Harvey said. “Our top four has been really working well together in training and honestly they are an elite four. They remind me of some teams past, but they’re even better. They’re really good. It will be nice to let them loose; just go out and run hard with the top people, no matter who it is.
“I expect the top four to continue to work together and take some risks early in the race and really get some experience running against some of the best people in the country.”
Among the top individual contenders, outside the FSU top four, are Iona’s Katie Avery (third at 2013 NCAA Championships), Georgetown’s Katrina Coogan, Cornell’s Taylor Spillane, Mississippi State’s Rhianwedd Price, Villanova’s Stephanie Schappert and Florida’s Lauren Brasure and Rebakah Greene.
Harvey is hopeful that a fifth scorer will emerge from the collective group of Carly Thomas, Chelsea Jarvis, Bridget Blake, Katie Slater, Chelsi Woodruff and Madison Harris.
“I have challenged all of them in that next group to help that fifth runner, no matter who it is that day,” Harvey said. “We’re working on it. That group has some improving to do, but more than anything it’s just them taking charge of this challenge I’ve given them.
“I’m looking for that to happen in the race and it’s something that I think down the road is very beneficial.”
The Seminoles are coming off a team title at the Virginia Tech Invitational, which saw Quigley, Woolven, Peel and Hall finish 1-3-6-7, with Blake nabbing the ninth and final spot.
Saturday’s race, however, will mark the first time Harvey cuts her team loose from the start, as she is carefully measuring how to bring the Seminoles along over the course of the season.
“I don’t feel like there is a lot of pressure on at Paul Short,” Harvey said. “It’s our first race. In years past our teams and our staff – and I’m responsible for that – have been too emotionally charged, too soon. The intensity was too much, too soon, and I believe near the end of the season we just got tired.
“We’re being careful on how excited we are, on how much we’re looking at the rankings and paying attention to the results. We’re just going to keep turning it up every week. I feel like the timing is in our favor right now.”
Most importantly, Harvey wants the team to build a common bond in their continued pursuit of excellence. After claiming a sixth consecutive ACC title and fourth straight NCAA South Region championship, FSU finished eighth at the NCAA Championships; the first time the Noles did not finish among the top four in Harvey’s seven-year tenure.
“My other challenge to this team is to be a team,” she said. “If they both do what they’re supposed to do, as Pippa said, ‘If we stay together, we win together.’ She’s right. I think they can all help each other.
“This is their first test and I would love to see what they do in training in a race setting.”
You can look for live updates Saturday via @FSU_XCountry, followed by a complete recap at Seminoles.com.