Oct. 4, 2013
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Sophomore Colleen Quigley did not successfully defend her Notre Dame Invitational cross country title Friday, but she and Hannah Walker showed the way as the Seminoles won their third consecutive team title at the prestigious meet.
Quigley raced her way to a runner-up finish over the 5,000-meter golf course layout, finishing in 16:52.2 on day when the weather was not much different than what the second-ranked Seminoles left behind in Florida. Walker, a junior transfer from Great Britain, led early and finished fourth in 17:05.2.
“We squeaked out the win and we were a little lucky,” said FSU coach Karen Harvey, whose women have now won fourth Notre Dame Invitational titles in six year. “Colleen came from way back. I think she was a little worried early, started sniffing some people and came really hard at the end. Hannah worked really hard and pushed the pace. I wasn’t unhappy with her race at all.
“I think everyone learned something today. We said it was the first exam, the first test, and we didn’t know what to expect.”
“Pippa ran really strong late,” said Harvey, who saw Woolven charge to a 19th-place finish (17:33.1). Hall and Peel were close behind in 22nd (17:36.1) and 30th (17:43.7), respectively. “They came hard at the last 200-300 meters and that’s why we won.”
The Seminoles finished with 77 points, edging No. 15 New Mexico (82) and No. 24 San Francisco (96), from a 24-team field which included seven nationally-ranked teams. Duke’s Juliet Bottorf won the individual title in 16:43.8, but the fourth-ranked Blue Devils – the highest-ranked team in the field other than the Seminoles – placed 10th without the services of three of their top runners.
Coach Bob Braman‘s Florida State men came into at less than full strength as well and placed 10th out of the 27-team field. The 26th-ranked Seminoles received a solid performance from the trio of Matt Mizereck, Bryant Blahnik and Josh Gracia but did not have the horsepower to chase the front-runners.
“We had four guys within 21 seconds, which isn’t bad,” Braman said. “There are possibilities there. We just have to put things together. … I thought we competed pretty hard. We just have to get better, that’s all. I think we can get better and keep our streak going.”
The Seminoles are chasing an 11th consecutive NCAA Championship meet appearance.
Mizereck finished 41st (25:10.3) over the five-mile course to pace the `Noles, followed closely by Blahnik (45th, 25:13.8) and Gracia (48th, 25:14.8). Grad student Kevin Johnson was 73rd (25:31.2) followed by Will Bridges (102nd, 25:48.5).
“I would have liked to have seen those two guys [Mizereck and Blahnik] up there fighting together,” said Braman, who believes the Seminoles’ long-term strength will be the ability to pack up. Likewise, he is also encourage by Gracia’s progress from a year ago, when he finished 79th a year ago at the meet.
“If you keep putting those good ones together, that’s when the bank opens and you get a big one,” Braman said of Gracia, who has been solid throughout the early season. “The guys like Josh and Kevin are getting better each week. If we can put the talented guys with experience in there, we’ve got the pieces to really look good.”
Though the 26th-ranked ‘Noles finished well behind front-running Columbia (112), Tulsa (124) and Princeton (147) and did not beat any of the seven other ranked teams in the field, they also did not have All-American Jakub Zivec, Zak Seddon or Glen Yarham in the mix. That trio, expected to lead the way, is on the mend and Braman expects them to be ready for the postseason.
And being good at the end of the season is something both Harvey and Braman are targeting as they rebuild their respective lineups.
“I got some good feedback after the race in the warm-down,” Harvey said of her charges. “They told me they can definitely feel the difference. They feel so much stronger and don’t feel as fast. We’ve been working hard and I think it’s going to pay huge bucks.”