TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – As Florida State’s leading runners, Tyler Udland and Colleen Quigley are chasing a little bit of history Saturday at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Udland, a graduate student in his final year of eligibility, is pursuing All-American honors for the first time in a decorated career, which began at Princeton. Quigley, a senior, can join an elite group of Seminoles by claiming All-American honors for a third time.
Their individual success will go a long way toward setting the tone for the 28th-ranked Florida State men and 13th-ranked women, who will compete against fields of 31 teams and 36 individuals at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in their respective races.
Both the women’s and men’s races will be streamed live on ESPN3, at 12 noon and approximately 1 p.m., respectively.
“I think I’m as fit as I’ve ever been,” said Udland, who was the runner-up at the NCAA South Region meet. “I think coach [Bob] Braman has done a really good job of getting us ready for the national meet…I feel more prepared than I ever have been for this meet…
“The legs just feel fresher than they have at this point in the season. I feel like my best race is still to come.”
That’s a positive sign for Udland, who was a career-best 47th a year ago at the NCAA Championships – the top 40 earn All-American honors – and within eight seconds of attaining that goal. Saturday will mark his fourth career NCAA appearance. As a member of the Tigers, he also placed 79th in 2012 and 156th in 2011.
Quigley will also be making her fourth NCAA Championship appearance, having improved significantly in each of her three previous title races. The St. Louis, Mo. native, who captured her second consecutive NCAA South Region individual title last week with a commanding performance over the final 1,000 meters, was sixth at the 2013 NCAA meet, 12th in 2012 and 79th as a freshman in 2011.
Another strong performance will place Quigley among the most successful cross country runners in program history. Four-time All-American Susan Kuijken and three-time All-American Amanda Winslow are the only Seminoles to be so honored more than twice.
“Going down in the mileage just makes you feel light and fresh. Having some good workouts, where you get a little less mileage and more speed, makes you feel quick,” Quigley said of her preparation. “That’s happening at the right time…It’s a good sign.”
Quigley and Udland are among six Seminoles competing in their final collegiate cross country races, joining senior women Linden Hall, Pippa Woolven and Chelsi Woodruff, and graduate student Antony Taylor.
Hall, like Udland, was tantalizingly close to claiming All-American honors last season, placing 48th.
By tapping into those near-miss experiences, the Seminoles hope to write new chapters on Saturday.
“He’s been right on the cusp of making it, so he knows exactly what to do,” Braman said of Udland. “Having that guy come right in…you know that he’s going to be in that race, and the only way it will surprise you is if he finishes better than we think. He’s a consistent, tough competitor, and that really helps us because it gives Jack [Goodwin] and Zak [Seddon] a guy to run with for as long as they can. If you’re with that guy, he’ll bring you home; he’ll bring you to where you want to go.
“He knows this course. He knows bad conditions. He’s a fifth-year senior and knows what he’s doing.”
A similar scenario exists on the women’s side, where Hall and Woolven been racing in close proximity to Quigley throughout much of the season. And in race fields in excess of 250 runners each, placing three runners close together at or around a top-40 finish, virtually assures a strong team finish.
“We’ve run together in pretty much every race all year – at least a good part of the race – and I don’t think that should change on Saturday,” Udland said, referring to Goodwin and Seddon. “We’ve run well together and it’s always better to be able to run with teammates. It just helps out mentally.
“Even without Glen [Yarham], I think we can still do really well. We all still have our best race in us, which in a lot of cases at nationals, a lot of people don’t. Their best races are behind them. If we run like we can, I think we can surprise some people.”
Yarham is injured and unable to compete for the third consecutive meet after sharing the top spot among Seminoles with Udland earlier in the season.
Like the other Seminoles competing, Udland has been pointing to Saturday’s meet for some time. He even chose not to chase Auburn’s Ty McCormack, last week’s South Region champion, in an effort to be at full strength for the race that matters most.
“The point of last week was to make sure the team got through [to nationals] and then after accomplishing that, to be as ready as possible for this week,” said Udland, who has embraced his final season of eligibility with the Seminoles.
“Overall the experience is great. I’m just so happy I was able to get another opportunity to go for All-American, because it was a bit disappointing just missing out last year. I couldn’t ask for a better experience this year to give it one more shot.”