MADISON, Wisc. – You can’t accuse Florida State cross country coaches Karen Harvey and Bob Braman of dodging quality competition, certainly not after Friday’s Wisconsin adidas Invitational, which will include 22 nationally-ranked women’s teams and 19 more on the men’s side.
“That’s exactly why we are racing at Wisconsin,” said Harvey, whose ninth-ranked Seminole women have finished no worse than eighth at the NCAA Championships in each of her seven seasons. “We want to run against the best. In years past I don’t think we truly got tested in a heavy competition until NCAA, and honestly I think it hurt us.”
Braman, whose men check in at No. 18 nationally, are not only looking for a test but also an opportunity to pick up some key NCAA qualifying points, should they need an at-large berth to the NCAA Championships. With 12 teams ranked higher than the Seminoles among the field, a strong showing could virtually assure FSU of a national bid.
“This is the closest we’ll get – until the National meet – of running in the National Championship-type atmosphere,” Braman said. “The number of teams is similar. The size of the field is almost identical…The quality; the intensity.”
Those are precisely the reasons while the Seminoles, and many other programs, have opted out of attending this weekend’s Pre-National meet in Terre Haute, Ind. in favor of a making the trek further north to race on the Zimmer Championship Course.
Harvey is hoping to see improvement from the Seminole women, who finished a disappointing third two weeks ago at the Paul Short Run, behind Canada’s University of Guelph and Georgetown. Senior Colleen Quigley, a two-time All-American who won at Paul Short, will get to measure herself against a host of legitimate national contenders, including: Shelby Houlihan (Arizona State), Emma Bates (Boise State), Liv Westphal (Boston College), Dominique Scott (Arkansas) and Michigan State’s Leah O’Connor and Rachele Schulist, among others.
“I think this meet gives you a good look at who is looking to contend for All-American status at the NCAA meet,” Harvey said. “I want to see our top four be closer to together than Paul Short and up in that top pack. Also we have a plan for our probable fifth runner at this point in the season, and support for her to race to her potential.
“There are a bunch of contenders for the win, top-10 and even top-20 even. It’s who wants to earn it the most that day.”
Pippa Woolven, Linden Hall and Georgia Peel have put in the work to keep pace with Quigley, their teammate, and keep the Seminoles in the thick of the team battle with No. 2 Michigan State, No. 5 Arkansas, No. 6 Stanford and No. 8 Iowa State.
The Seminole women, who have carried home the ACC Championship trophy each of the last seven seasons, will also get a better gauge of what to expect at the conference meet on Oct. 31. That’s because No. 10 Virginia, No. 12 Syracuse, No. 13 North Carolina, No. 17 Boston College, No. 28 Notre Dame and unranked Duke are all in the field.
“We have been talking about having good momentum going into ACC’s,” Harvey added. “This meet provides a national stage and a good look at our top conference teams.”
The Seminole men, coming off an impressive fourth-place finish two weeks ago at the Notre Dame Invitational – beating five nationally ranked teams – will have an opportunity to boost their resume.
Top-10 men’s teams include No. 3 Northern Arizona, No. 5 Portland, No. 6 Syracuse, No. 7 Stanford and Nos. 9 UCLA and Wisconsin.
For all but junior Zak Seddon, this will be the largest and deepest field of quality competition the Seminole men have faced.
“You want to look at it from a positive standpoint, not a pressure standpoint,” Braman said. “Rarely does it hurt you to lose head-to-head. That’s just a tie-breaker, but it gives you access to 25-plus teams that are going to be in the mix or on the bubble…
“It’s exciting. This is the meet you have to go to if you want to collect a bunch of wins. This is a qualifying process and this is a key meet in that qualifying process; the most key meet of the year.”
Like Harvey, the Seminole men have a clear-cut top four, led by Glen Yarham, Tyler Udland, Jack Goodwin and Seddon, with up-and-comer Stanley Linton beginning to settle in at the No. 5 spot. They will be joined by freshman Michael Hall and grad student Antony Taylor.
“You want to just compete well and if we do that like we did at Notre Dame, you’ll get a lot of wins,” Braman said. “You want to get the wins, because that’s mission No. 1. In order to get them you have to compete well and that’s part of the process you’re trying to get throughout the year…If you go up there and get intimidated a little bit, you still might beat some folks if you’re good enough, but you don’t rehearse the proper preparation you’re going to need for a national meet.”
The lone concern for either coach will be tackling the rolling Zimmer Championship Course for the first time, while battling elbow-to-elbow against fields well in excess of 250 runners.
‘It’s the first time we’ve been to Wisconsin,” Braman said. “So we’re having to figure the course out a little bit; what’s the best way to run it and what is the best strategy. Where do you want to be if you want to maximize…It’s good for the young guys and for our relatively new bunch to do that, because they’re going to go to Terre Haute and have the same experience.”
Naturally, there’s some excitement heading into the competition, which begins with the women’s 6000-meter race at 11 a.m. (CT), followed by the men’s 8000-meter race at 11:45.
“I am looking for the team to see that, if they execute the race similar to practice and work hard how, good they can be,” Harvey said. “Paul Short wasn’t even close to what this team can do this fall.”
You can follow the Seminoles in action via Twitter @FSU_XCountry and live results will be available at http://www.harriersolutions.com/xclive/. Also, Flotrack will stream the event live through it FloPro premium online channel.
A complete recap with photos will be posted later Friday at Seminoles.com.