MADISON, Wisc. – For the first time since 2014 the Florida State women’s and men’s cross country teams will tackle the nation’s best together at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, Saturday at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course.
The 18th-ranked Seminole women, under the direction of fourth-year coach Kelly Phillips, are making the programs’ 12th NCAA Championship appearance and first since a run of nine consecutive trips from 2006-2014.
The Noles qualified by winning their sixth South Region title on Nov. 9 at Apalachee Regional Park, defeating four nationally ranked teams in the process. Senior Militsa Mircheva won the individual title and led a group of five Noles in the top 24, all of whom earned All-Region honors.
Men’s coach Bob Braman is taking his Seminoles back to the NCAA Championships for the 13th time – FSU’s 14th all-time appearance – following a strong runner-up finish at the South Region meet. It is the men’s first trip back since 2015, which capped a string of 12 appearances in 13 years.
The race will be streamed live on Flotrack.com, with the broadcast beginning at 11:30 a.m. (ET) in advance of the 11:45 start to the women’s 6,0000-meter race. The men’s 10,000-meter race follows at 12:45 p.m.
Flotrack’s live stream requires a subscription and is available here:
In-race live results are available here:
FSU’s men arrive ahead of schedule with a lineup featuring three freshmen, led by redshirt Caleb Pottorff, who has spent the season in the No. 1 spot and followed up an 11th-place ACC finish by placing ninth at the South Region meet. And despite the youth, seniors Toby Hardwick and Istvan Szogi are the only Noles who have been here before, representing Iowa State (2016) and Southern Utah (2014), respectively.
Four FSU men finished in the top 25 for All-Region honors.
Now the focus turns to measuring up against the nation’s best. Each team will compete within a field of 31 teams, 18 of which qualified automatically from the nine region meets nationally as either the champion or runner-up, plus 13 at-large teams. Both the women’s and men’s field will include 38 individual qualifiers, pushing the total to 255 runners in each race.
It will be the largest field either the FSU women or men have faced all season, and not only made more difficult by the highest level of collegiate competition possible, but also likely impacted by the weather. With Friday’s overnight forecast calling for up to four inches of snow, and race time temps at freezing and winds between 5-10 mph, mental toughness will play a role equal to talent.
Neither Phillips or Braman plans to change strategy or approach coming into the race.
“The course is difficult and the weather is going to be a challenge and the more we can stay focused on the mission at hand, the more we have a chance to finish in the top 20 or top 25,” Braman said. “This is the meet not to feel sorry for yourself…You just have to go out there and fight like crazy.”
Phillips has liked the makeup of her team since the start of the season, and greatly appreciated the fact that her squad has readily accepted challenges and conquered them. That has been even more evident since the Noles’ 14th-place finish in their Pre-National race on the Zimmer Course just over a month ago.
“They used that as, ‘What I’m I missing? What do I need to fix?,’” Phillips said. “They’ve been really channeled. They’ve been really good at buying in, listening to the plan and doing it.”
And unlike the men, who have dealt with a season-long snub in the national rankings, the women have found a little additional motivation from being left out of the rankings much of the season, only returning after winning the South Region title.
“The whole season we felt like we were kind of getting cheated a little bit,” Phillips said. “It was probably the best thing that could have happened.”
Phillips kept a lemon in her car all season as a reminder to her team.
“Being bitter isn’t such a bad thing,” she added. “It [the snub] kept them irritated. If nothing else, I hope they keep that one more week.”
While Braman has set a goal of a top-20 finish, Phillips isn’t ready to put a number on where her team could end up with a strong performance on Saturday. And for good reason.
“After the workout on Tuesday they’re ready to race; they’re ready to go,” she added.