TALLAHASSEE – With more than 3,500 cross country athletes participating in 14 races over two day, the FSU Invitational has never been bigger.
One year removed from the cancellation of the meet due to Hurricane Michael, the Seminoles are set to welcome 33 women’s teams and 27 men’s teams when the action begins Friday morning. The men’s 8,000-meter race is set for 7:40 a.m., with the women’s 5,000-meter race to follow at 8:20.
“It’s a great prelude to the championship meets that we have coming, whether it be regionals and of course, ultimately, nationals,” said FSU men’s cross country and track & field coach Bob Braman. “I like the big numbers because it gives us a lot of practice at processing the numbers. It’s a testament to the course.”
The Apalachee Regional Park course, which came on line in 2009, was carved by hand from Braman’s imagination and has evolved into a showcase facility, thanks to the investment from Leon County. Florida State will host its fifth NCAA South Region Championship here on Nov. 15.
A number of those schools from the South Region will be in attendance, including in-state rivals Florida, Miami, North Florida, South Florida. In all there are 33 women’s teams and 27 men’s teams competing in the collegiate races, including 14 NCAA Division I schools.
The Noles will not be running their full complement of athletes – men or women – as they prepare for next week’s Under Armour Pre-National meet, which provides both teams with the opportunity to score critical NCAA Championships at-large points.
“It’s tough to schedule for the elite collegiate teams, because it kind of falls on the weekend that fits,” Braman said. “For other teams, the D II teams, it’s a perfect fit for them. And it’s a great developmental tool. Our women’s B-team is really good and this is a really good opportunity for them. And they’re trying to fight their way up to the A-team as well.”
Coach Kelly Phillips’ FSU women have never been deeper, which was evident in their victory at the UAH Charger Open three weeks ago.
Regardless, Friday’s collegiate races are sure to be competitive as more than 500 athletes representing all divisions are set to do battle.
Following the morning session, the action turns to the younger crowd, with middle school and high school races set for Friday evening beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday’s eight-race schedule, which begins with the high school girls elite division at 7:40 a.m., serves as the Pre-State meet.
Apalachee Regional Park will host the FHSAA State Championships for the eighth consecutive year on Nov. 9, which is why county officials are anticipating more than 6,000 athletes and spectators on hand for the competition which will include nearly 300 teams.
“Having the big numbers says a lot about wanting to come here and we keep building on that,” Braman said.
There is no charge for admission or parking either Friday or Saturday.
You can follow Florida State cross country and all of the action via Twitter @FSUXC and Instagram @fsuxc and go to Seminoles.com for a complete recap of all the action.