BOONE, N.C. – For the third consecutive year and the 11th time in the last 20 years, the Florida State men’s and women’s cross country teams launched a season by sweeping the team titles at Friday’s Covered Bridge Open.
The Noles were led by a pair of newcomers. Graduate transfer Kasey Knevelbaard leaned on his 1500-meter All-American speed to claim the men’s title in 24:58.48 over the 8,000-meter Don Kennedy Trails at State Farm Fields. Junior transfer Lauren Ryan nipped teammate and fellow Australian Maudie Skyring, finishing 2-3 over a course which ran long at 5,200 meeters.
Neither team was seriously threatened by nine-team fields.
Florida State’s 20th-ranked women were especially impressively, grabbing positions 2-6 and pushing 11 runners across the finish line in the top 15. The Noles’ 20-point total was 43 points clear of runner-up East Carolina.
“They did a really nice job,” women’s coach Kelly Phillips said. “We looked so under control. I did not expect that many of them to be up there because I never let them go with the [High Point] girl when she went.”
FSU men’s coach Bob Braman was equally pleased as his makeshift lineup produced some encouraging performances by Knevelbaard’s victory, cruising to a 28-49 win over runner-up host Appalachian State.
The Noles placed five in the top 10 and received breakout performances from redshirt sophomore Tyler Dau and redshirt junior Bert Freire, who finished fifth and eighth, just behind Caleb Pottorff’s fourth-place finish. Redshirt freshman Jacob Holmes was 10th in his cross country debut.
“I was pretty pleased,” said Braman, who raced six runners and put six others through a time trial prior to the meet. “I felt like we had really good efforts, both in the race and by the guys running around the course…We’ve kind of created a little extra depth, and that’s going to be helpful as the season goes on.”
Knevelbaard, who joins the Noles from Southern Utah, was poised as he ran with App State’s Isaac Benz until it was time to go. He won by a comfortable eight-second margin.
“Kasey looked like the runner we knew he was,” Braman said. “He just sat on the guy and kicked the App State guy down at the end.”
The real surprise of the day was Dau, who was the alternate on last season’s NCAA postseason roster. With just over 800 meters remaining Dau was in front of Pottorff, his All-ACC and All-Region teammate. Pottorff, the defending race champion, sped off to finish fourth in 25:34.43, with Dau right behind him in 25:36.37.
Freire, who has spent most of his career focusing on the 800-meter run in track, dipped under 26 minutes for the first time in his career (25:56.96). Holmes locked up the team win, finishing in 26:06.15.
“For Tyler Dau and Bert, that’s a career Seminole-best for them,” Braman said. “Caleb was solid and did his part, and that was a good, solid Seminole debut for Holmes, too.”
Time trialers Matthew Newland and Silas Griffith finished together in 25:32, followed by Harrison Martingayle (25:47), Steven Cross (26:06) and Paul Stafford (26:25); all within the top-20 times of those who raced.
Phillips’ women were instructed to hit pre-determined paces and not worry about racing. They did so in the kind of dominant fashion one would expect from the only nationally ranked team in the field.
Ryan, in her first race since transferring from Villanova edged Skyring by four one-hundredths of a second for the runner-up spot behind High Point’s Famke Heinst (18:00.60).
Leading a pack of five Noles, Ryan crossed in 18:02.85, followed by Skyring (18:02.89), Ellie Wallace (18:04.08), Megan Mooney (18:04.44) and Elizabeth Funderburk (18:04.95), salting away the team title.
Even more impressive was the Noles’ chase pack. Addi Coggins, in her first cross country race since 2017, was ninth (18:37.63), followed by freshman Rebecca Clark in 10th (18:43.07). Close behind was another wave of Noles, claiming finishing positions 12-15.
Kate Bernicke (18:49.10), Kayla Easterly (18:49.14), freshman Ava Peeples (18:50.58) and Erin Phelps (18:56.21) made up that flood of garnet jerseys across the line. Freshman Yasmine Abbes, competing in the longest distance race of her career, was 26th in 19:21.90.
“Overall, I was pleasantly surprised,” Phillips said. “They all looked really good. They did the plan and ran comfortably.”
The Noles will spend the rest of the holiday weekend training in the Carolina mountains and won’t compete again until traveling to the Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational in Blacksburg on Sept. 20.