August 27, 2009 - by
Florida State Cross Country Season Previews

Aug. 27, 2009


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With the 2009 Florida State cross country season quickly approaching, women’s head coach Karen Harvey and men’s head coach Bob Braman sit down to talk about what to expect this season and which Seminoles to keep an eye on.

Florida State Women’s Cross Country Preview-with Head Coach Karen Harvey

What Goals Have You Set For This Year And What Steps Are Necessary In Order To Accomplish This?

Our team goal at Florida State will always be to compete at the highest level in our conference, region and in the nation. We will need to once again integrate some new talent, transfers and freshman into our family. We also want to get everyone on board with the goals of achieving excellence everyday in the classroom and in practice. We need to become one as a family, team so we can go on the Seminole War Path together.

Who Will Your Team Look To For Leadership?

Susan Kuijken is an obvious choice for our team captain. She has proven to be a true leader not just as an athlete, but as a trusted teammate. Her work ethic, knowledge and love for the sport and bubbly personality are truly a blessing to those around her. Pilar McShine is also very respected on the team and will be looked to help lead the team with Susan.

In Just Your First Year As The Head Coach, You Brought Florida State Into One Of The Top Ranked Teams In The Country. What Steps Are Necessary In Keeping Your Team Among The Elite In The Nation?

I think when a coach gives 110 percent their athletes will follow suit. But one thing I have learned is a coach can never want a win and success more than the team. It’s important in cross country to have a core group of 12 runners who know their roles on the team and that everyone has a role and are important. However, these roles can change and everyone is accountable to help the team. When you have runners believing they are part of the team and have a role then they want success.

What Is The Key To Surpassing Last Year’s Success And Paving A New Way For Your Program?

It’s a new year, a new beginning. We lost some seniors, but have gained some amazing talent. We have two extremely talented returners coming in new this year. It’s a journey every year, with its challenges and victories. Take one week at a time, and keeping the injury bug away will be huge.

How Do You Feel The Schedule Will Prepare You For Nationals?

We are going to follow the same racing schedule as we have for the last two seasons. It works well with the training per iodization that I believe in and provides enough competition to prepare the team for ACC’s AND NCAA’s.

You Have Four Talented Freshmen Coming In For The New Season. Talk A Little Bit About How They Will Impact The Team On And Off The Course?

We have four new talents joining this fall- transfers Andi Palen and Pasca Cheruiyot and freshmen Jessica Parry and Amanda Winslow. I really believe that all four will have the talent and the passion to help tighten and strengthen our pack.

Do both of the men’s and women’s cross country programs work together or are they completely separate entities at Florida State?

Before Florida State I had only experienced separate programs at the University of Michigan and Illinois. However, FSU is different so it was a change to be part of a combined program. I absolutely love it! It is so great to travel with the men’s team and really get to know them. The men and women’s cross country teams are very close. They will often run around cheering for each other during races. Bob leads the combined similar to a real family feeling. He is very experienced in motivating and loves encouraging everyone; men and women on the team. Like Bob, I am very set on keeping the Florida State Seminoles on the map for long distance running. We both give a 110 percent as coaches, and find our naturally do the same.

Florida State Men’s Cross Country Preview-with Head Coach Bob Braman

Senior Daniel Roberts Stepped Up In Several Meets To Guide The Seminoles in 2008. What Do You Expect From Him And The Seminoles In 2009?

As the No. 1 man for the Seminoles at the regional and national meets, obviously Daniel is one of leaders and Matt Leeder was a great leader particularly in track season, so Matt and Daniel are captains and they’ll be two guys who have a chance to make the All-American list which is the top forty athletes. Daniel finished 70th at nationals last year so he’s close. Experience is huge in cross country because it’s such a difficult sport. Running 10,000 meters twice in eight or nine days is pretty difficult so those guys being able to manage their weights for the season and being at their best at the end of the regional and national meet is huge. The other guy that we think will be right there with them is our transfer Ciaran O’Lionard. O’Lionard will be a redshirt junior so he’ll have two seasons with us. Last year he finished in the 60’s at nationals which would put him in front of Daniel so technically he is our top guy. We see those three guys as all working together and being a big part of our success we have.

When we step back from that and look at the rest of the team, Justin Harbor has made a lot of progress with a great track season. He made All-ACC indoor and outdoor and has always been a good track runner. Mike Fout, the national high school champion, endured some injuries last year so we redshirted him in track. We need mike to be good this year. Very much like Mike, one of the top freshmen in the country was Wes Rickman from Colorado. I think Wes is the kind of guy that can step right in.

Every year we’ve had something unexpected happen so you’ve got to have somebody step up where they overachieve and either throw in for an injury or take you to that next level and last year we had three walk-ons that were our top six that really, really carried us when we had to have them. This year those candidates will be Jared Bell who will be a senior transfer. Bell was a 4:01 miler at Yale and is like Justin Harbor. He is great in track and good in cross country and we need him to be a part of that chase group for us. The other guy is Nick Maedel who transferred in last year and we think could be right in there.

What Are The Team Goals You Have Set And How Do You Plan To Achieve Them?

In the bare minimum we need to keep our national qualifying streak alive. We look at goals on three levels: minimal, reasonable and ultimate. I think a minimal goal is to continue our streak at nationals and I don’t think it’s going to take anything for this group. This group is more talented particularly at the end of the year than last year’s team and probably more talented than the year before that so it’s one of the better groups we’ve had. We’ve got to develop a lot. There’s no question about it, but to continue that streak will be a very minimal goal. I think it’s reasonable that we could be a top 20 national team which we’ve been twice in the last six years. We were 17th one year and 18th the next year. I think it’s pretty reasonable that we’re a top 20 team. I think ultimately if we pull it all together we could be a top 10 team which the school record is eighth place going all the way back to 1981. It’s one of those unrealized goals because we’ve always put more emphasis on track and field than cross country and being a distance coach, even though I’m the head track coach, you know that’s something we really want to do and if we can crack that top ten it could carry us through. The other ultimate goal would be to finally break through and win a conference championship. We had four runner-up finishes, a close third two years ago and a team last year where we finished fourth but had some injuries that hit on us on race day. If we run like the way we did at regionals, we might have won the conference meet. We’re going to be the dark horse in the conference. We’re going to be behind the Alabama’s and Auburn’s at regionals, but you know we won Notre Dame last year which we had never done that before. We finished the top 10 and got some great points at the pre-national meet without Luke Gunn. That is the character of this team that we can get still get points for nationals even missing our top guy. This is the standard of Florida State!

How Will The New Freshmen Play A Role On The Team?

The only true cross country freshman we have is Wes Rickman and we targeted Wes a year ago when he was the No. 1 returning two mile runner in the country. He’d run 9:00 flat and was the faster junior who was a rising senior. He had to overcome some injuries but still ended up I think the sixth-fastest in the country at two miles at the Nike Outdoor National Championships. He’s a clutch guy and a performer. He’s a guy that can come right in like other elite freshman and be an All-ACC performer right away. He certainly better be an All-Regional performer right away because we need him to be. I think he can be an All-ACC right away, be All-Region right away, be a top 100 at nationals and those are things that Matt Leeder accomplished as a freshman.

In 2008, Four Seminoles Broke Several 8K Records And Inscribed Their Name In The FSU Record Book. Do You See The Same Success In 2009?

I wouldn’t be surprised if our entire top eight or nine guys don’t beat their all-time best. I mean they’re that good. The indications are there from track season or from last year. There’s going to be people that will be like Justin Harbor and crush their all-time best. Mike Fout, if healthy, is going to crush his all-time best performance and obviously Roberts and Leeder are fast so they are going to inch it down. There are athletes on our team that are poised for a breakthrough and that’s what you look for as a coach. It’s a testament to what those young guys did last year, but they were guys who were in our top six who knocked it down. We can’t be decent. We have to be good and we’ve got to be close to our best.

You look at Coach Harvey’s side. Two years ago that was a pretty good team and nobody expected them to finish third at nationals, but you could see it coming throughout the year better and better and better. We look at cross country and say `okay, that is not out of our wheel house of possibilities and out of our talent wheel house that we could be a top 10 team.

Are the men and women completely separate in what they do?

We’re a combined program. Coach Harvey’s training is a little different than mine but obviously very successful. We don’t train together per se like it’s the same trail at the same day, but there’s a real bond between the two teams. We get along with them really well and we respect each other quite a bit. We do a lot of social things together and travel to the same meets which is not always the case when a team has a separate head coach like we do. Coach Harvey and myself do a lot of things together and I think it helps us because they’re going to be low points for either team and when you’re at that lowest point whether it’s injury or illness or training worn you out and you struggle it’s really nice to be able to look over and go okay, we’re going through the same things they’re going through and we’re on the same cycles that they’re in.

How Does The 2009 Schedule Prepare You For The NCAA National Meet?

We haven’t changed it a lot. It’s kind of funny because Coach Harvey comes right in two years ago and had the same philosophy about how we race and when we race and so the key meets have stayed the same and you pick a couple of regular season meets where you can earn large points. For us we found the Notre Dame and pre-nationals really help us. You want to run at the pre-national meet on that course to get use to it, but it’s about 36 teams. Notre Dame is a great set-up race for us for pre nationals. The men’s team has always run great at the regional meet which most people would say is the most important meet because without it you don’t go to national’s so we’ve always ran great at regional’s. For whatever reason our ACC’s has been okay or decent or good but it’s always been our setup race for nationals. Coach Harvey has been able to hit it well on all three of those championship races. Our earlier meets are for team bonding and team building which are Appalachian State and the Across the State Relay. The Pre-ACC meet is where we leave the state to get out of the hot weather and do some very hard training. By the time we get to meets like Notre Dame or pre-nationals we’ve established identity. We’ve always had the philosophy of let’s get some points and let’s protect ourselves in case we have an injury or illness or misfortune like in the case of Luke and Leslie last year where we lost two of our stars, our All-American candidates. We thought no problem because we’ve got wins and we’ve got capable people. Don’t panic, go out and get it done. Arguably our best race of the year for both teams was the regional meet when disaster loomed we stepped up and got it done.


Check out this link for the NCAA Cross Country preview:


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