MONTEVALLO, Ala. – Florida State’s five-hour trek to get out of Hurricane Michael’s path and squeeze in a final tune-up before the cross country postseason turned into a cross-town battle at Friday’s UAB Blazer Classic.
The Seminole men, No. 5 in the most recent South Region rankings, and No. 6 Florida A&M squared off in a head-to-head battle that wasn’t decided until the final kilometer.
“It was an 850 dogfight,” FSU men’s coach Bob Braman said. “We were up there looking good at the 2k and probably even or a little behind at the 4k. They had five runners in front of our No. 3 at about 6k and we did not catch them until the last 1,000 meters and just kind of rolled them up in the end.”
Caleb Pottorff and Steven Cross finished second and fourth, respectively, but it was the late-race surge of Istvan Szogi, Tyson Murray, Paul Stafford and Matthew Newland which enabled the Noles to squeeze out the victory over the 8,000-meter course.
In search of his third win of the season, Pottorff battled at the front with FAMU’s David Too throughout, ultimately slipping into second over the final two kilometers and cross in 24:06.49; 10 seconds back of the individual winner. Cross came home right behind FSU grad student and assistant David Barney (24:17.23), who was competing unattached, in 24:25.24.
Closing with purpose, the Seminoles’ supporting cast of Szogi (12th, 24:56.09), Murray (15th, 24:59.72), Stafford (17th, 25:04.35) and Newland (19th, 25:07.44), raced past the Rattlers’ 3-5 runners to secure the win.
FSU’s 43-point total was good for nine-point margin over runner-up Tennessee Tech (52 points), the No. 8 team in the South Region, which also managed to race past Florida A&M (64) in the late stages. In all, the field included 19 teams – 11 NCAA Division I squads – and 133 runners.
“Matthew Newland, our sixth guy, out-kicked [FAMU’s] No. 3,” Braman said. “It was a really great effort on our guys’ part. The best race of the year for Cross, Isty and Ty Murray; gut checks a bit for Stafford and Newland, but they came through and did the job…We’re coming together.”
Pottorff, Murray, Stafford and Newland each recorded 8,000-meter personal-bests.
While the top seven runners from the FSU women’s roster was preparing for Saturday’s Wisconsin Pre-Nationals race in Madison, a quintet of Noles chasing spots on the ACC Championship roster turned in a highly-competitive effort.
Redshirt freshman Ellie Wallace led the way in the first 6,000-meter race of the season, placing 15th in 22:04.11, pacing the Noles to a fourth-place team finish out of 19 teams, and in front of 10 NCAA Division I squads.
The Noles finished with 137 points, trailing Tennessee (45), Alabama (61) and Southern Miss (83), who came into the meet ranked 8-9-10, respectively, in the South Region.
Seniors Sarah Candiano (21st, 22:13.45) and Fatema Jaffer (24th, 22:21.31) were FSU’s second and third finishers, followed by freshman Erin Phelps (36th, 22:43.26) and sophomore Kate Bernicke (62nd, 23:25.92).