Nov. 20, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida State cross country teams (Men- No. 20/ Women-No. 8) will take the course Monday, November 23, for their final stint of the 2009 season at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. The Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course will welcome the nation’s elite teams including Oregon (Men- No. 8/Women- No. 4), Washington (Men- No. 15/Women- No. 1), Colorado (Men and Women- No. 6) and Syracuse (Men- No. 9/ Women- No. 12).
“The first big relief is over,” FSU men’s head coach Bob Braman said. “We knew we had a top 20 type team. We probably made qualifying a little bit more difficult than it had to be. We really put it all on the line that day and they responded but now moving forward we are a little tired from the race. However, we have said all year long the reason we are so back loaded is because it’s two races over nine days of that difficult of a magnitude.”
The Seminole men will kick off the 10k championship at 12 p.m. with captains Matt Leeder and Daniel Roberts slated to pace the squad. Newcomers Ciaran O’Lionard and Wes Rickman alongside Justin Harbor are also expected to score for FSU.
“We have to go in there and compete hard like last time,” Coach Braman said. “A top 20 finish is very realistic because we are ranked 20th. We have done that three of the six last times so maybe this is the tiebreaker whether we are a historical top 20 team. We would need a special day in order to take a top 15 and top 10 spot, but we have trained for it so the possibility is there.”
Roberts led the Garnet and Gold in the 2008 championship with a 66th place finish while Leeder came in 89th place to help the men score 576 points to take 26th place.
“We have put everything on the line for this race,” FSU women’s head coach Karen Harvey said. “The sacrifice and maybe not doing as well as we could have at regionals. Susan could have also been in the running for athlete of the year, but that doesn’t matter to us. Everything is about Monday. We need to be a team. I told the girls Terre Haute is like rapids and they are going to have to paddle through those rapids together. They cannot at any time quit. We are definitely going to beat what we are ranked.”
On the women’s front senior and captain Susan Kuijken will look to win her lone title she has yet to earn at FSU, the NCAA Cross Country title. In spite of setting a new personal record with 19:35, Kuijken came in a close second to last year’s winner Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech. With Kipyego graduated, Kuijken is favored to be one the meet’s top finishers. Alongside Kuijken will be co-captain Pilar McShine and Pasca Cheruiyot helping guide the way for freshmen Jessica Parry and Amanda Winslow.
“I have enjoyed the challenges of this season because there have been a lot of them,” Coach Harvey said. “But more than anything I am going to enjoy what they are going to do on Monday. We are going to have specific race plans and they need to stay focused on beating that course. They are in phenomenal shape. This team is better than last year’s team. They are significantly better and I am excited about that. We are ready.”
At the 2008 championship, the `Noles earned a third-place finish with 163 points for the second-consecutive season. Behind Kuijken’s second place finish, McShine came in 22nd place with a personal-best time of 20:35.
For the third-consecutive year the championships will be live on television with VERSUS broadcasting both races. Fans can also keep up with the Seminoles on twitter @fsu_xcountry and www.seminoles.com.