BOONE, N.C. – The Covered Bridge Open has been a fixture on the Florida State cross country schedule for years, but course familiarity won’t be a huge advantage when the Seminole men and women open their season Friday.
That’s because seven of 11 FSU women and three of nine men competing at the State Farm Field/Don Kennedy Trails course will be making their debut appearances as Seminoles.
The Seminoles are among five NCAA Division I teams competing at the meet, hosted by Appalachian State and including East Tennessee, Tennessee-Martin and UNC-Asheville. Six other schools, led by perennial Division II power Southern Indiana will also compete.
The women’s 5,000-meter race will kick things off at 5 p.m., followed by the men’s 8,000-meter event at 5:45 p.m.
While FSU coaches Kelly Phillips and Bob Braman are hopeful their respective squads will turn in winning efforts, neither will send a full complement of runners to the starting line with designs on racing all out.
“We’re running it as kind of a tempo and just finishing strong that last mile,” said Phillips, who begins her third season at the helm of the women’s team. “I want to see what they can put together starting out as a team and how tough they are that last mile.”
A trio of veteran transfers – Militsa Mircheva, Mackenzie Landa and Emily Edwards – will be competing as Noles in cross country for the first time, though all three enjoyed a level of success on the track this past season. They will be joined by a talented quartet who just arrived on campus, led by sophomore transfer Maudie Skyring (Wollongong, Australia) and true freshmen Kayla Easterly, Jen Lima and Addi Coggins.
Returnees Hailey Hendry and Fatema Jaffer finished 18th and 20th last season, when the Noles finished third. Sophomore Megan Mooney and junior Althea Hewitt will also be in the lineup, though they did not compete in the meet last year.
Senior Michael Callegari, whose promising 2016 season was cut short by injury, is the top returnee in the field from last year’s race. Callegari finished fourth a year ago (20:15.93) for the runner-up Noles, who also return Tyson Murray (27th), Will Simons (43rd) and Matt Magee (53rd).
Like Phillips, Braman has no plans to cut his team loose in an all-out effort for the opener.
“For us, this will be fine,” said Braman, who begins his 18th season at FSU. “East Tennessee has some good pieces. App State always runs well at home. We’ll be able to execute what we’re trying to do, which is kind of a five-mile progression race where we start out under control in a workout-like atmosphere, then turn up the intensity as we come to an end of it.”
Graduate students Stanley Linton and Bryce Kelley are the only other Noles competing with any race experience at State Farm Fields, but should be among the leaders.
The balance of the FSU men’s lineup will include the debut of graduate transfers David Barney, a three-time All-Colonial performer at William & Mary, and Tom Hogarty, who joins the program from Maryland. Redshirt freshman middle distance standout Bert Freire will make his cross country debut for the Noles.
Braman plans to have his full complement of Noles raring to go at the Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational on Sept. 15.
“We’ll get a lot more serious at Virginia Tech because it counts in today’s world of wins and we know Virginia Tech is really good,” said Braman, who still expects a strong effort from his squad on Friday. “We’ve got some regional ranking motivation to fire us up. We’ve got great weather, which is the centerpiece for this weekend – the weather and the training – and it’s a course we’re always good on and we know what to do.
“We’ll have a nice big pack and we’ll work it the best we can.”
You can keep up with the Noles in the opener via Twitter @FSUXC and check back at Seminoles.com for a complete recap Friday night.
ACC Coaches Tab FSU Men 5th; Women 10th
Reigning ACC cross country champion Syracuse men and NC State women have been selected in a vote of the league’s head coaches as the favorites to defend their titles in 2017.
Florida State’s men were picked to finish fifth, matching their 2016 conference finish, while the women were tabbed 10th in the poll, released by the conference office on Thursday.
“Fifth is probably about right for August,” Braman said, reflecting on the vote of league coaches. “I think the ACC is aware of our potential, but we have to progress from a collection of good runners into an achieving team.”
FSU’s men return six runners who competed at the 2016 ACC Championships – Michael Callegari, Steven Cross, Michael Hall, Bryce Kelley, Tyson Murray and Will Simons – but have bolstered their lineup with the addition of transfers David Barney and Istvan Szogi, and freshman signee Caleb Pottorff.
Syracuse, which has won four consecutive ACC titles, checks in at No. 3 nationally in the inaugural USTFCCCA coaches’ preseason top 30 rankings, followed by Virginia (No. 13), Virginia Tech (No. 26) and NC State (No. 28). The Seminole men check in right behind those four in the ACC poll.
A year ago the Seminole women finished ninth at the ACC Championships, but Phillips is retooling her squad with a mix of veteran newcomers and talented freshman. Eight of 16 women on the preseason roster will make their collegiate cross country debuts as Seminoles this fall.
“When you run like we did last year, I guess that’s what we get,” Phillips said. “Still, it’s insulting. It will keep us focused for sure, and we will prove that the ranking is wrong.”