Nov. 16, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky.– It’s fitting that the city which hosts one of the most famous races in the world and has produced “The Greatest” champion of all time serves as the backdrop for the single most important event on the Florida State cross country schedule in 2012.
The steeples at Churchill Downs, home to the Kentucky Derby, and boxing legend Muhammad Ali are iconic figures in Louisville, but E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park is venue where the Seminole women and men will slug it out Saturday at the 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
It’s the destination and event coach Karen Harvey’stop-ranked Seminole women have been pointing toward for a year as the push to claim their perch on the top step of the championship podium. The veteran Seminoles are the favorites in a field of 31 full teams and 38 individual qualifiers who will compete for the national championship, just as they were a year ago when they finished fourth.
Led by senior co-captains Violah Lagat and Amanda Winslow, fellow classmate Kayleigh Tyerman and sophomore Colleen Quigley, the Seminoles will be pushed by second-ranked and perennial power Oregon and third-ranked Iowa State.
“There are two, three other good teams out there that could be feeling and thinking the same things; peaking at the right time and it’s all about peaking,” Harvey said. “To be honest, the way we performed at ACC’s wasn’t the greatest collective effort that I have seen. It’s really made them come even harder and focus more on nationals.
“That is our final goal. We learned a lot last year and we want to apply it this year and run to the best of our ability. I believe if we run to the best of our ability we can win.”
On the men’s side, the Seminoles enter the meet ranked No. 18 nationally, but like the women are coming off an impressive romp to last week’s NCAA South Region championship. That’s a promising sign for coach Bob Braman’steam, which appears to be rounding into peak condition after a season-long battle to overcome offseason injuries.
“Coming off where we were last Friday … I felt like what we ran was top 10 (worthy),” Braman said. “I felt like we gained our focus. Outside of winning the conference, the season has gone pretty much to plan, where we thought we would be.”
Finishing in the top 10 is the annual target for Braman’s men, who were 12th last season after finishing second in 2010. Junior Jakub Zivec and seniors Breandan O Neill, David Forrester and Wes Rickmanare all capable of claiming All-American honors, which would certainly set up the Seminoles for a big day.
While top-ranked Oklahoma State, defending champion Wisconsin, along with Oklahoma, Stanford and Colorado are expected to battle for the team title, Braman said the Seminoles are, “in that next group.”
“You may have more teams who have a reasonable claim of a top 10 goal than you’ve ever had,” said Braman, who expects his team to mix it up with Arkansas, Iona, Michigan, Virginia and Texas, among others, in pursuit of that goal. “It’s a big chase group.”
The women’s 6-kilometer championship race is scheduled for a 12 noon start, with the men setting out in the 10-kilometer final at 1:15 p.m. The cares will be streamed live at NCAA.com and accessible directly here: http://www.ncaa.com/championship/liveplayer/player?gameId=220766&date2012/11/17
You can also follow the Seminoles via Twitter @FSU_XCountry, monitor the live results at DeltaTiming.com and check back later for complete championship coverage here: http://www.seminoles.com/sports/c-xc/fsu-c-xc-body.html
2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships
Pre-Championship Press Conference
November 16, 2012
Florida State Women’s Coach Karen Harvey
Opening Statement …
“Obviously, we’re happy to be here and more than happy to be healthy. That’s just a massive undertaking for not only myself, but my assistant coaches and our trainer, doctors and everybody involved. Getting us here healthy is half the battle. We had a good look at the course again and felt like we ran the race over again, and the preparation is done. We’re really excited for tomorrow.”
On her team’s chances for its first-ever NCAA Cross Country Championship …
“I think there’s probably three or four teams that could win on any given day. Looking at it on paper, Oregon is super strong and Iowa State, and probably another team from the West, even. I feel like, once again, we have worked really hard, we have done all of our preparation, training has gone great and that means we have a chance to win.”
On the difference between the 2012 Florida State team and past teams …
“Just a lot of experience. All these girls, even our freshman, Georgia Peel has had world-level experience. She is a youngster. In Britain, they call her a fresher, so that’s a new one instead of freshman. Even though she is probably the least experienced, she does have world-level experience and talent. Almost all my other girls have been All-Americans, so that’s nice. They have track ability and talent and just that experience. This is the most experienced team. I have a lot of recruiting to do after this year. That’s how good this group is and how mature they are.”
On the course at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park …
“I definitely think this is more of a track athlete’s course rather than just that pure strength runner. I think that it definitely could be better for a 1,500-meter runner. They could be even more in the mix. I think Terre Haute probably favors more of a 5K-10K girl. That’s my opinion. At the same time, I expect – and I hope to be right – that my entire top-seven runs personal bests. I think it’s going to be lightning fast. There’s not much to stop you out there; it’s going to be pretty fast.”
On what she learned about her team at the NCAA South Regional …
“Regionals was great. We had a plan going in and they definitely executed it well. We did not want to lay ourselves out in any way. We have been saving for this race mentally, emotionally and physically. This is our race; this is the one we want. We learned last year that if you don’t come in like that and come in with a chip on your shoulder, you’re going to get killed. That was us last year. We didn’t come into it with that animal instinct. We didn’t come in and really realize that this is the biggest race of the season and no one is going to give it to you. After seeing regionals and then running hard for the last mile – they wore their racing flats – and we were able to do that; we’re very fortunate in our region. I know that there’s a big race in there, and obviously I’m praying that it comes tomorrow. There’s not much else I can do. We’ll make sure they get to the line and have a good warm-up, but it’s all up to them now.”
On Violah Lagat, the 2012 USTFCCCA South Region Women’s Athlete of the Year …
“It’s been wonderful to watch. Last year, she seemed like a freshman. You can say she was a junior and a junior college transfer, but she really didn’t know what it was – the NCAAs and the level of competition. Last year, she kind of just ran like a deer in headlights, and ran really well. This year, it’s just like she’s taking her running to a whole different level. She’s really serious about it, she really wants it and she’s realizing now that she’s as talented as some other members of her family, so I think that’s been really fun for her.”
On what it’s like to see her team finish 1-2-3 at the South Regional and waiting for the rest of the team …
“You can’t be like ‘Oh, we’re awesome through three and four.’ You’re hoping that five is sooner. I think all of the coaches have experienced going ‘Where is my fifth runner?’ I’ve experienced that several times and I think every coach has. I have a lot of faith in this group and I’m really proud of them, and I’m going to be proud of what they do tomorrow because they’re going to give 100 percent and I can’t ask for more than that.”