BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – In ideal weather conditions and on a fast track, the Florida State cross country teams both finished in third place among a stacked field at the Blazer Classic on Friday morning, which was held at Veterans Park.
The fourth-ranked women’s team took bronze in the 6k with a total of 115 points behind top-ranked Arkansas (42) and No. 15 Georgia Tech (104). The Noles edged three ranked teams, finishing ahead of No. 5 Ole Miss by three points (118), No. 14 Tennessee (121) by six and No. 11 Kentucky (126) by 11.
The (RV) men’s team tallied 97 points in the 8k for third, ahead of No. 13 Tennessee (110) and No. 12 Kentucky (202), ACC foe Georgia Tech (138) and Florida (196). Fourth-ranked Arkansas (29) took home the title ahead of No. 5 Ole Miss (50).
Juniors Addi Coggins and Paul Stafford led the way for each team, crossing the finish line in fifth place in their respective races behind personal best times.
“Addi has really stepped into a new runner this year,” FSU head women’s coach Kelly Phillips said. “She’s really strong and powerful. She went out with the leaders and was right in there running with some good student-athletes. She’s put herself in a good position to be an All-American cross country runner.”
Coggins led the Noles for the third time this season, clocking 20:22.80 in the 6k, while Stafford posted his best at 23:30.06 in the 8k. Both Coggins and Stafford have finished in the top five in all three races this season.
“It was a fantastic race for Paul,” FSU men’s head coach Bob Braman said. “He was in the middle of a bunch of All-Americans from Arkansas and Ole Miss and held his own. That’s one of the better 8k races that’s been run at Florida State. It was an elite-level 8k that Paul ran.”
The women’s 6k green flight started off the day, as Coggins and junior Elizabeth Funderburk stuck together in the front half of the race. Coggins made her move at the 3k, breaking away with the leaders.
“It was really fun to compete against some of the top teams and ladies in the NCAA,” Coggins said. “The competition was stiff, so I wanted to put myself in a position where I could get in and run with the lead pack. I felt strong the whole way and was able to hang on in the last 1K. Overall, I’m happy with the result, but now we’re ready to gear up and get ready for ACCs.”
Funderburk finished in 15th place with a time of 20:40.32, followed by seniors Jennifer Lima (21:09.28) with her personal best time in 29th place, Maudie Skyring (21:16.31) in 35th and Jodie Judd (21:20.32) right behind in 36th (21:20.32).
“We had some good performances,” Phillips added. “But as a team we had an average day. We’ll have to gear up and get it back together for ACCs.”
In the men’s race, Stafford along with redshirt freshman Gabriel Curtis started out in the lead pack. Stafford claimed the lead at the 3K checkpoint and kept up the fast pace throughout the race before finishing a few seconds behind the winner from Arkansas (23:25.46) in a very tight field.
“We focused on leaning on each other this race and competing for each other rather than letting what other teams dictate how we feel,” Stafford said. “This mindset brought us closer together and made us realize that the result really depends on our focus as a unit.”
Curtis also turned in his personal best race at 23:55.45, finishing in 13th place. It was the first time under the 24-minute barrier for both Stafford and Curtis.
Redshirt sophomore Jacob Holmes (24:17.47) finished in 19th place, ahead of freshman Zach Leachman (24:37.63) in 29th place. Senior Matthew Newland (24:41.11) bounced back from his outing at the FSU Invite in order finish in 34th place. All three Seminoles contributed personal best times.
“I was really pleased,” Braman added. “Top to bottom, we had really good mental efforts. If you fight hard, and you believe, that’s all I can ask of you. We graded in the 90-plus percentile in that today. The mission was to get up here and compete hard and I thought we could finish third and beat some good teams, and we did. But more importantly, we have some great momentum heading into ACCs.”
The Seminoles will head to Cary, N.C., for the ACC Championships on Oct. 30.
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