Nov. 15, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.– One impressive Florida State streak came to a close Friday at the NCAA South Region Cross Country Championships, while another – actually two – were extended in impressive fashion at the Harry Pritchett Running Course Friday.
Despite a determined effort highlighted by a few season-best individual performances, the Florida State men saw their streak of 10 consecutive NCAA Championship appearance end with a third-place team finish. Champion Georgia edged Florida 72-73 to claim the two automatic NCAA berths on a damp and dreary day that saw the Seminoles finish with 101 points.
The Seminole women are headed back to the NCAA Championship on the strength of their fourth consecutive South Region team title, romping past runner-up Vanderbilt 35-116. Junior Colleen Quigley used a tremendous closing kick to claim the third consecutive individual title for a Seminole, passing Florida’s Cory McGee 50 meters from the finish line.
“I think we did everything we needed to do,” FSU women’s coach Karen Harveysaid. “We executed the race plan and really controlled ourselves, at least through 4k [kilometers]. It’s hard to do that. It’s hard to hold yourself back. I don’t think they had a whole lot of fun out there, because they don’t want to be held back right now. …
“But if we don’t hold ourselves back now, we’ve cashed a check that we need next week.”
The fifth-ranked Seminoles will go hunting a sixth consecutive NCAA Championship podium finish – among the top four – next Saturday at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Ind. It will be the eighth consecutive appearance at the championship for the women, which ranks as the sixth-longest active streak nationally.
FSU’s tactical approach made the lopsided victory even more impressive as the `Noles turned in five All-Region performances, with Hannah Walker (fourth), Linden Hall (sixth), Pippa Woolven (seventh) and Carly Thomas (18th) chasing Quigley across the finish line.
“The basic plan was to go out and work together through 5k, stay relaxed and comfortable … and then let loose and let the wheels do their thing and have fun with it,” Quigley said. “We got swallowed up a little bit [at the start]. … Everyone stayed calm and moved through the crowds.”
Following the strategy to a tee, the Seminoles gobbled up the competition over the final stages of the race, turning a 47-point lead over Vanderbilt with two kilometers to go into an 81-point winning margin.
Quigley ran down McGee, who represented the United States in the 1500 at the World Championships this past summer, and won in 19:58.55.
“I was really, really pleased with the finishing speed of our top four,” Harvey said. “They’re getting sharper and sharper. It’s great to have Pippa Woolven100-percent back. Her and Hannah had really big finishing speeds for them. Linden is strong and keeps getting better. … To have Colleen come from so far behind and win the race, that was incredible.”
“No one really cares who the regional champion is when you’re at nationals,” Quigley said. “It’s about how you finish there. At the same time, my teammate Violah Lagat won last year and [Amanda Winslow] the year before that, so it’s kind of a Florida State tradition to have a regional champion. I was happy to continue that tradition.”
Bob Braman‘s Florida State men, besieged by injury throughout much of the season, entered Friday morning’s race confident they could continue the nation’s seventh-longest active streak of NCAA Championship appearances. As it turned out, things began to unravel early when senior Matt Mizereck fell off the lead pack and Jakub Zivec faded just beyond the midway mark.
“Even as it stands we probably ran our best race of the year, but we didn’t maximize,” Braman said. “As it has been all year long we had potholes that we keep stepping in and today it was Matt Mizereck had problems with breathing issues and Kuba [Jakub Zivec] fell off his scooter and sprained his shoulder 48 hours ago. Those are two of our most talented guys.
“Once again the other guys rallied up. We were close. We were in the mix with about a mile to go, but we just didn’t pull it together. It’s been that kind of year.”
While the team will not be moving on to the NCAA Championships, junior Bryant Blahnik will. The Missouri transfer turned in his finest race of the season, finishing eighth overall in 30:13.66 to claim an individual berth.
“He qualified individually for nationals so I’m sure that’s a big goal that he had coming here,” Braman said. “He’ll be back next year to do even better.”
Blahnik was one of four `Noles to claim All-Region honors as senior Josh Gracia (13th place), Zak Seddon (19th) and Kevin Johnson (23rd) each turned in strong performances, as did No. 5 runner Will Bridges (38th).
“The four All-Region [performers] and five scorers really stepped up and fought hard today,” Braman said. “I have a lot admiration for the way they kept believing and kept trying to pull it off. In the end, you can’t compete at this level with a bunch of broken pieces. You have to have all of your weapons and you have to perform well.”