TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For programs that have long placed their focus on performing at the NCAA Championships, there is only one meet with equal or greater importance on the Florida State cross country schedule.
The Seminoles will wake up in their own beds Friday morning and make the short drive out to their home course – Apalachee Regional Park – where they will compete in the NCAA South Region Championships. It’s the penultimate meet of the season; the one that assures spots in that NCAA Championship meet with either a first- or second-place team finish.
Coach Karen Harvey’s veteran Florida State women’s team, led by senior co-captains Colleen Quigley and Linden Hall, know the drill. The Seminoles have won four consecutive and six of the last seven South Region titles, and Quigley – a two-time All-American – is the defending meet champion.
On the men’s side, Bob Braman’s squad had made 10 consecutive NCAA Championship appearances before a third-place South Region finish in 2013 brought that streak to a close. A re-tooled roster, which has performed at a high level throughout much of the season, will try and get a new streak started.
The racing begins with the women’s 6,000-meter race at 9 a.m., with the men’s 10,000-meter to follow at 10 a.m.
FSU’s South Region includes all of the NCAA Division I teams from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. In all 31 women’s teams and 27 men’s team will be represented. The Seminoles, however, are ranked as the favorites in both races, having held the No. 1 spot in the USTFCCCA South Region rankings throughout the season.
Harvey’s women, coming off a runner-up finish at the ACC Championships, are ranked No. 13 and eyeing a ninth consecutive NCAA Championship appearance. The Seminoles will send veterans Pippa Woolven, Georgia Peel and Chelsi Woodruff to the starting line, along with freshmen Bridget Blake and Katie Slater, in addition to Quigley and Hall.
Their stiffest challenge will come from Vanderbilt, which is ranked 16th nationally and second in the South Region, and has finished third to the Seminoles in each of the last three region championship meets. The Commodores are coming off a runner-up finish at the SEC Championship meet and challenged the Noles a month ago at the Wisconsin Invitational.
Alabama, Lipscomb and Mississippi State head up the next tier of top women’s teams in the field.
On the men’s side, the 21st-ranked Seminole men won’t be at full strength with co-No. 1 runner Glen Yarham still on the mend after missing the ACC Championship meet with an injury. FSU, however, is still strong at the top of the lineup with Tyler Udland, Jack Goodwin and Zak Seddon – all of whom earned All-ACC honors – leading the charge. With Stanley Linton back to full strength after battling illness two weeks ago, the Seminoles hope to get someone to step into the all-important fifth scoring spot from Antony Taylor, Otniel Teixeira and Michael Hall.
No other men’s team from the South Region is ranked nationally, however, Ole Miss and Auburn placed second and third at the SEC Championships and have the firepower to give a less-than-best Seminole team a push. Middle Tennessee State could also challenge with a return to its early-season form.
There is no admission fee to the NCAA South Region meet, and if you can’t attend, you can follow via Twitter @FSU_XCountry, monitoring the hastags #NCAAXC and #d1South.
A complete recap of the races will be posted to www.Seminoles.com. Final results will be posted at: http://www.halfmiletiming.com/Datafiles/Fall2014/FSUxc14/NCAAXCSouth14/NCAASouthXC14.htm