Oct. 14, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – While many of the nation’s top cross country programs headed to Wisconsin this weekend, Florida State is returning to the scene of its 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championships runner-up performances.
The Seminole men and women will line up at the LaVern Gibson Cross Country Championships Course in Terre Haute, Ind. Sunday morning for the annual Pre-Nationals Meet. It’s a chance to see the course where the `Noles plan to finish the season on Nov. 21, battling for spots on the NCAA Championships podium.
“Besides the workout we’ll get while running the course together as a team, it’s good to get the guys that haven’t seen the course before to sort of get familiar with it, like our freshman AJ (del Valle) and Seth Proctor,” said junior co-captain Wes Rickman. “Just running a hard effort together against a few decent teams, like Iona, it will move us in the right direction towards ACC’s. And doing a really hard effort before ACC’s will pay off for sure.”
Bob Braman’s FSU men, ranked No. 11 in the current USTFCCCA poll, will be pushed. Coming off a runner-up team finish at the Notre Dame Invitational, the Seminoles must contend with fifth-ranked Iona, seventh-ranked Colorado, No. 12 Portland and No. 30 Eastern Kentucky in the 35-team field.
“It’s going to be a fast race,” said Seminole junior David Forrester, who expects Iona’s Leonard Korir, a strong contender for NCAA Championship individual honors, to lead the way. “Colorado, you know has such a strong history in distance running, so you know the field is not going to be a walk in the park by no means. We’ve got to out there and prove that last year wasn’t just a one-time (performance) … and we’re worthy of being a top-five team again.”
Senior co-captain Mike Fout, Rickman and Forrester, all scored for the Seminoles at last season’s NCAA Championship, with Fout earning All-American honors. Sophomore Jakub Zivec was also an integral part of that lineup, which rode a 42-second split between the first and fifth runners to the best NCAA finish in school history.
The key for continued progress by the FSU men will be the continued development of Proctor, senior transfer Breandan O Neill and del Valle, the highly-touted freshman.
“It’s definitely a different dynamic from last year,” Forrester said of the FSU lineup. “This year I feel like now that me and Wes are a year older we’re making that step up. We’re looking for me and Wes and Fout to be pushing that pace. … The team is a lot stronger in terms of depth.”
And adding valuable experience on the course where their season will be defined is undoubtedly a huge benefit, especially if the Seminoles can remain tightly-packed.
“Winning the race would be a pretty good moral boost, especially going into ACC’s,” Rickman said. “But, not winning would not put us down either. … This weekend we really aren’t going in for the win. We’re really going in for a hard effort as a team just to see where we are at as a bench-mark and then we’ll go from there.”
Florida State women’s coach Karen Harvey won’t have to look far to find the competition at Pre-Nationals. The third-ranked Seminoles, coming off a runaway win at the Notre Dame Invitational, will be flanked to the left at the starting line by No. 5 Georgetown – the preseason favorite to win the NCAA title – and No. 4 Colorado, to their left.
That’s pretty heady competition at the front of the 39-team field.
The truth is, Sunday’s race will mark the final tune-up before the Seminoles dive into the meat of their schedule, beginning with the Oct. 29 ACC Championships just outside Clemson, S.C.
Both Florida State squads are out to defend their conference championship titles.
Two weeks later, the `Noles will travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala. for the NCAA South Region, and nine days after that, they plan to be back in Terre Haute for the season finale.