CARY, N.C. – Returning to the scene of one of their stronger performances this season, the Florida State cross country teams will plunge head-long down the starting slope at the WakeMed Soccer Park course and smack into the postseason at Friday’s ACC Championships.
Six weeks ago the Seminole men won the adidas XC Challenge team title and the women finished third at WakeMed.
They hope those good vibes at the same site carry over to longer races with higher stakes.
The women get the ACC Championships season started at 10 a.m. when the gun sounds to start the 6000-meter race. The men’s 8000-meter title race follows at 10:45. Both races will be carried lived on ACC Network Extra.
Sophomore Carmela Cardama Baez, who earned All-ACC honors with a ninth-place finish last season, has her eyes set on a significant improvement while leading the Seminole women. Junior Bridget Blake, freshman Megan Mooney and senior transfer Catherine Blaney comprise a formidable foursome for the Noles, who will need to get a strong showing from the fifth spot to maximize the team’s finishing potential.
The Seminole women were seventh last season and should be poised to improve on that finish.
NC State, last season’s runner-up, enters the meet as the prohibitive favorite. The Wolfpack are ranked No. 3 nationally and return four All-ACC performers, led by senior Erika Kemp.
Sophomore Anna Rohrer, the runner-up last season and the race favorite, leads No. 19 Notre Dame, which will contend for a top-five team finish along with defending champion Virginia, Syracuse and the Seminoles. Boston College’s Isabelle Kennedy, Clemson’s Grace Barnett, Kemp and Cardama Baez figure to be among those challenging Rohrer for individual honors.
Florida State senior Harry Mulenga has enjoyed an outstanding season for the Seminoles. A two-time race winner and ACC Performer of the Week this season, the Zambia native is poised to improve on his 11th-place finish from last season’s championship meet.
Collectively, the Noles bunch up nicely behind Mulenga with transfers Michael Callegari, Ibrahim Ahmed and Brandon Shemonia consistently running in FSU’s top five, along with freshman Steven Cross. A three-time ACC Freshman of the Week honoree, Cross has an opportunity to become the Seminoles’ fifth ACC Freshman of the Year by being the first true freshman across the line.
Veterans Michael Hall and Grant Nykaza are among FSU’s most seasoned performers at the conference level and could provide a much-needed boost for the Noles, who are receiving votes in the USTFCCCA national poll.
Like the women, the Seminole men were seventh at last season’s ACC Championships; equaling their lowest finish in coach Bob Braman’s 16 seasons at the helm. And while they will be pressed to keep abreast of three-time defending champion and No. 6 Syracuse, the Noles are expected to be among those challenging for a spot in the top third of the 15-team field.
Both No. 16 Virginia and No. 26 Virginia Tech have designs on making the Orange work for a fourth title, as does host NC State.
Individually, Syracuse’s Justyn Knight, last year’s runner-up and winner of the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational two weeks ago, is the heavy favorite. He should have company in the front from Louisville’s Edwin Kibichiy, NC State’s George Parsons and Mulenga.
You can keep up with the action via Twitter @FSUXC and also by searching #ACCXC. Live results with splits can also be found at http://flashresults.com/2017_Meets/xc/ACC/index.htm.