TALLAHASSEE – For the second consecutive year and the fifth time since 2012, the path to the NCAA Cross Country Championships winds through Apalachee Regional Park, Florida State’s home course.
The Seminole women and men would like nothing better than to duplicate their 2018 NCAA South Region performances, when they advanced together to the championship meet. The quest to repeat begins Friday at 8:30 a.m., when the defending champion Noles women take off on their 6,000-meter quest, followed by the men’s 10,000-meter race at 9:30.
The top two teams from each race, and the top four finishing individuals not on the qualifying teams, will advance to the Nov. 23 NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.
Both the Noles women and men are looking to do that for the fourth time in five attempts from their home course. The 12th-ranked women, the No. 1 ranked team in the South Region, are gunning for their 13th NCAA appearance since 2002. The men, who are among teams receiving votes national and ranked No. 4 in the region, are out to qualify for the 15th time in program history; the 14th under veteran coach Bob Braman.
“Obviously there’s big advantages of knowing the course and knowing what parts are challenging,” said Braman, now in is 20th season. “The second advantage is having people here, cheering for you and pulling you through…We’re more relaxed when we’re on our own course. We kind of know what to expect. You’re not trying to figure it out during the competition.”
A year ago the Noles rode a supportive home crowd and the performances of each other to qualify together for the first time since 2014.
“There is an elation to making it on your home course when you’ve got your people there,” Braman said. “Last year we were able to feed off each other a bit and that was a big deal when the women’s team punched their ticket and went from third-to-first in the last [kilometer].
“We may have to do something like that here.”
While the FSU women are favored against a field of 29 scoring teams, which includes No. 27 Ole Miss and a Middle Tennessee State team that is receiving votes, the men will be pushed to secure an automatic qualifying spot.
Ole Miss, ranked 11th nationally, is coming off an SEC title and has won each of the last three South Region titles (2014, 2016, 2018) contested at Apalachee Regional Park. Fifteenth-ranked Middle Tennessee is back to its 2017 region championship form, while No. 28 Alabama is formidable as well.
“That’s college sports,” Braman said. “We’re going to get up on them and make them beat us rather than hand it to them. If we run well and we’re not in the top two and left it all out there, we’ve still got a chance at making it as an at-large qualifier.”
Both squads would prefer to take matters into their own hands Friday morning.
There is no admission or parking fee to attend the meet.
You can follow the action via Twitter @FSUXC, monitor the real-time live results noles.co/2OdnvVk or watch Flotrack’s live stream noles.co/2NLn1XD.