TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the second time in as many meets, Florida State junior Militsa Mircheva was the first across the finish line. And for the second time this season, the Bulgarian distance standout has been recognized as the ACC Women’s Cross Country Performer of the Week.
This time, Mircheva is sharing the spotlight with another Seminole.
FSU graduate transfer David Barney, who has led the Seminole men in each of his first two meets this season, was recognized as the ACC Men’s Performer of the Week.
Mircheva and Barney authored award-worthy performances at Friday’s Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational. Mircheva scored her second victory of the season, touring the rolling 6,000-meter Buford Meredith Course in 20:45.0 for a 30-second cushion over runner-up and freshman teammate Jodie Judd. Barney placed third overall – second among collegiate men – in the 8,000-meter race, closing in 24:52.4. That was a full 19 seconds in front of the top finisher from No. 26 Virginia Tech and just four seconds off the outright victory.
“I’m really happy for David,” FSU men’s coach Bob Braman said. “He’s had many seasons of injury at William & Mary and now he’s finally healthy and able to show his capabilities. He’s been completely on task and so it’s great to see him rewarded with this kind of success.”
Barney, who was second in the season-opening Covered Bridge Open, was happy to get the opportunity to return to his home state to compete in front of family and friends, and against some familiar faces. Despite some savvy racing, including a late push which separated him from a pack of five Hokies with under a mile to go, Barney was competing on the Virginia Tech course for the first time.
“It’s going well,” said Barney, a Lynchburg, Va. native, of the transition to FSU. “The training is a little bit different, but coach Braman sells it well and to be successful you have to believe in what you’re doing. Tallahassee has great trails. We run early enough to skip the humidity most of the time…I’m adjusting well. I like it. It’s fun to explore new places. This is my first time living outside Virginia.”
Braman was especially appreciative of Barney’s heady approach in the early-season event, where the Noles finished second to the host Hokies by 19 points without their full complement of runners..
“He keyed off the Virginia Tech pack,” Braman said. “He knew that they would handle the course and did a really good job of that and didn’t let the pack of four or five ACC rivals bother him. Late in the race he launched and tried to go up there and get the win and didn’t come up that far short. He really ran a great race. I think he’s finding himself.”
Mircheva has found herself out front and all alone after the early stages of her season-opening wins at Covered Bridge and in Blacksburg, Va. When asked about the confidence she has shown in two runaway wins, the 2016 Olympic marathoner side-stepped the obvious.
“Not too much because those are small races we’ve had,” Mircheva said. “I want to see where I am actually. In two weeks after Notre Dame I will know what kind of level I’m at right now.
“I feel good. The training is going well.”
Count FSU women’s coach Kelly Phillips in the same camp as her first-year cross country standout, who competed on the track for the Noles last season but sat out the cross country season on the heels of her Olympic experience.
“I think Notre Dame will be a good test for Militsa to see where she truly is,” Phillips said. “So far she has been running by herself, but at Notre Dame there will be some of the best in the nation so she will certainly have the to opportunity to be pushed.”
Still, Phillips liked what she has seen thus far, both from Mircheva and her team, which is unbeaten through two meets.
“It’s exciting as long as she keeps getting stronger,” FSU’s third-year coach added. “She ran comfortable and kept kind of giving me hand signals like, ‘I’m good, I’m good.’’’
The Seminoles travel to the Joe Piane/Notre Dame Invitational on Sept. 29.
Women move up a spot in South Region rankings
Phillips’ Seminole women, still burning over their selection for a 10th-place finish in the ACC (and No. 5 in the South Region), moved up a spot to No. 4 in this week’s USTFCCCA South Region rankings.
The Noles climbed over Alabama and still trail Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. The Rebels are ranked No. 17 nationally – tops among South Region teams – followed by Mississippi State (No. 24) and Vanderbilt (No. 29) in the coaches’ poll, which was released Tuesday.
Florida State’s men held firm at No. 4 in the South Region, behind Middle Tennessee (No. 19 nationally), Ole Miss (No. 23) and Alabama.
Solid group heading to Gainesville
Saturday morning’s Mountain Dew Invitational at the Mark Bostic Golf Course on the University of Florida campus will include a strong group of Seminole women led by Forever Young, Hailey Hendry, Jennifer Lima and Fatema Jaffer, who have raced with FSU’s top group the first two meets this season.
They will be joined by a solid supporting cast headlined by Elizabeth Jenkins, Jessica Lonas, Bella Poole, Micaela Torres and Kate Bernicke, who are among 26 Noles in the 5,000-meter race, set for 8:30 a.m.