TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A championship-caliber course, keen competition and ideal racing weather will serve as the backdrop for the Florida State cross country teams, when they compete Friday evening at Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational.
While the sixth-ranked Seminole women and 25th-ranked men will be tackling the regular season racing distances of 6000- and 8000-meters, respectively, for the first time, neither coaches Karen Harvey nor Bob Braman are all too concerned what the won-loss ledger looks like at the end of the day.
Never mind the presence of formidable foes North Carolina and Virginia Tech, who will be joined by East Tennessee State, Ohio University and Radford. For the Seminoles, the meet is just the first serious step in a long journey, which both coaches hope will culminate with strong showings on Nov. 22, at the NCAA Championship meet in Terre Haute, Ind.
“We’re still thinking end of the season and where do we have to be at ACCs, Regionals and Nationals,” said Braman, whose roster is loaded with runners representing FSU for the first time this season. “The key to our success as I look at this year’s team is going to be how well we can put together those last two scoring spots, particularly our fifth spot.”
Braman is quite confident that his lead pack of Glen Yarham, Tyler Udland and Zak Seddon, will be fixtures at the top of the lineup throughout the season. He’s less certain how the rest of the squad will shake out. To that end, the veteran coach plans to utilize a familiar strategy, which focuses more on working together early and finishing strong, then how many Tar Heel and Hokie scalps the team can claim.
“We’re going to hold back our top guys for the first three miles,” Braman said. “We’re going to run as a pack and try to do it in a controlled environment and then finish really strong. We’re hoping to really race the last two miles and run as a group the first three.”
Much of the focus on the men’s side will be the continued development of a group that will include redshirt sophomores Stanley Linton and Otniel Teixeira, as well as grad student Antony Taylor, who are battling for those precious final three positions, along with redshirt sophomore Max del Monte and redshirt freshman Bryce Kelley.
Braman hopes his most recent squad can follow a similar improvement arc to the 2012 team, which finished third at the ACC Championships – held that season on the same Virginia Tech course the ‘Noles are racing – and closed the season with a fifth-place NCAA Championships finish.
“I think we’re really on pace, or ahead of pace, of the 2012 team at the same time,” said Braman, whose team will be tested by No. 19 North Carolina as well as a Virginia Tech team which includes several members of the 2012 ACC Championship squad.
Harvey figures to deploy her squad on the course with similar instructions, fully expecting seniors Colleen Quigley, Linden Hall and Pippa Woolven to be among the first Seminoles across the finish line. Much like the men’s team, the FSU women are trying to sort out the depth of the roster behind the most veteran runners. Juniors Georgia Peel and Carly Thomas, redshirt senior Chelsi Woodruff, redshirt freshman Bridget Blake and freshmen Chelsea Jarvis, Katie Slater and Madison Harris round on the FSU squad competing.
“We are starting to get into a routine and starting to increase our intensity and focus as each week approaches,” Harvey said. “I am looking for the team to be accountable to each other and the goals they have set.”
Those goals will vary as Harvey intends to have five of her runners race the full 6k course, while five others will run together until the midway point, then use the last 3,000-meters as a time trial.
It won’t hurt that the Seminoles will be pushed by No. 22 and host Virginia Tech.
In the case of both programs, the trip to hilly Southwest Virginia comes at an ideal time on the schedule.
“We really look forward to more fall-like temperatures and lower humidity,” Harvey said. “It’s almost like we have been training at altitude in Tallahassee with all the heat and humidity. It will be nice to breathe in some extra oxygen and see what we can do.”
Braman echoed those sentiments.
“We’re going to get the break in the weather, which is really excellent,” he said. “We’re looking at 70 (degrees) with a 52 as low. There’s no way we can duplicate the three days we’re going to get up there.”
Women’s squad also headed to Gainesville
While Harvey takes her top 10 women to Virginia Tech, a second group of Seminoles will head to Gainesville, Fla. to compete at the Mountain Dew Invitational on the University of Florida’s Mark Bostic Golf Course. The 5,000-meter women’s race will be contested Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
Among the 14 Seminoles competing will be veterans Chantelle Brodie, Christine Griggs and Jensen Swopes, as well as promising newcomers Araceli Leon, Madison Scanlan and Sara Steele.
You can track the Seminoles throughout the season via Twitter @FSU_XCountry. Complete recaps and race results will be posted to Seminoles.com at the conclusion of each meet.