Dec. 3, 2001
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
Their names do not show up in the headlines, nor do they receive full scholarships to continue competing at the intercollegiate level. What the Lady Seminole Striders do get, however, is a chance to keep running.
The program, which offers expanded opportunities to female cross country runners, began under FSU cross country coach Bob Braman, who ran a similar program while coaching at the University of South Florida.
Through the Lady Seminole Striders, female runners who may feel for whatever reason that they can not compete at the intercollegiate level, have a chance to suit up and run with the FSU Cross Country team. However as Coach Braman is quick to point out, the Lady Seminole Striders is not a running club, or an intermediate activity. The cross country team treats these runners the same as any other runner on the team, which means they have to attend practice everyday, do community service, do fundraising, and maintain their academics.
For FSU’s part, the runners are treated exactly the same – they are given all the perks associated with being athletes, given equipment and coaching, and are allowed to compete in cross country meets.
“In cross country we have a unique opportunity where you can put an unlimited amount of people at the starting line,” Braman explained. “It’s not like most sports where you have a limited number of positions, and you would just be putting more people on the bench.
“In cross country, we literally can put them into action. They can go out and train and compete.”
To help maintain the concept that there are no differences between the Striders and the scholarship runners, the team budgeted for extra equipment to outfit the extra runners. The team also budgeted for and structured competition for the Striders.
“There are cross country races that are unlimited in size, such as the FSU Invitational, which we host,” Braman said. “We took them down to the Disney Invitational, which was an overnight meet, and we also took them to the Stetson Invitational, where they finished third overall and took home a team trophy, which was great.”
Another benefit of the program is that it isn’t much more difficult to coach additional athletes in cross country, as it may be in other sports.
“It’s a fitness and conditioning oriented sport, so everybody’s conditioning and running and training,” Braman noted. “You still have the fine tunings you do with your elite athletes, but we can condition maybe as many as 50 athletes.
“Our goal is to get up around 50, and we have about 35 right now.”
An example of the opportunity the Striders provides is senior Karen Daigle. The 33-year-old Daigle is a graduate student coming off military service who didn’t even think she would be eligible to participate. Her military service provided her with a loophole for the eligibility requirements, and because of the Striders program she is able to compete at the college level for her final year of eligibility.
Daigle noted the program is great for those runners who still want to develop at the next level.
“It’s a great opportunity for runners to develop to their full potential,” Daigle noted. “If anyone has any desire as a runner to continue to develop and compete, I would definitely recommend the Striders.”
Since the Striders receive constant training and coaching, many improve dramatically, as in the cases of Anne Clinton and Misty Harper. Harper and Clinton both joined the Striders, and developed to the point where Clinton earned a spot in the Seminoles’ top nine and varsity-travel squad. Harper’s performances this season nearly landed her on the All-South Region team.
Despite the lack of fanfare surrounding the program, the Striders are not a well-guarded secret. The coaching staff has promoted the program in high schools throughout the state of Florida, by preparing a brochure, running clinics, and putting the program up on the track and field website.
As part of the deal to expand the roster, FSU Athletic Director Dave Hart and Associate Athletic Director Charlie Carr wanted to ensure the Striders had a leader, and that the cross country coaching staff wasn’t stretched out. Coach Braman and the athletic department wanted to use a female graduate assistant who had come out of the FSU program, and former cross country runner and FSU graduate student Cynthia Campbell was selected to watch over the Striders.
The benefits of the program are evident on the both sides. From the standpoint of the FSU athletics department, the program extends the number of opportunities for female athletes, without having to break the bank starting up a new program.
The female runners who participate in the program also get a lot out of it. They have the chance to continue to participate in the sport they love at the intercollegiate level, receive top-level coaching, and can continue to develop as runners.