BLACKSBURG, Va. – Graduate transfer Kasey Knevelbaard led the Florida State men’s cross country team with a runner-up finish at Friday’s Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational, but the host Hokies got the best of the Noles, thanks to a tightly-packed, top-five.
With just 22 seconds separating its top-five finishers, Virginia Tech got out quickly over the rolling course and held on to edge FSU 30-35 on the Buford Meredith course where the ACC Championships will be contested Nov. 1.
“I felt like we competed pretty well,” said FSU coach Bob Braman, whose men placed five runners in the top 11 while the Hokies squeezed their top five inside the top 10. “Clearly we’re both better than last year, but they’re ahead of us right now.”
A year ago the Hokies and Noles finished sixth and seventh in a stout field at the ACC Championships, separated by just three points. Virginia Tech’s Peter Seufer won the ACC individual title in what amounted to the difference in the outcome.
Knevelbaard got the best of the reigning champ Friday, placing second overall in 24:30.4 over the 8,000-meter course, as East Tennessee State’s Ben Varghese rode a big kick to the victory 24:25.9. Seufer was third in 24:44.3, after leading the race – and his teammates – much of the way.
“Kasey looked spectacular,” Braman said. “And he’s going to get better. I don’t know that [Seufer] was as focused on winning the race as he was leading his guys up there.”
While the Hokies were claiming positions 3-4-5-8-10, junior transfer Silas Griffith and sophomore Paul Stafford kept the Noles in the hunt. Griffith, who joined the Noles after two seasons at Lipscomb, was sixth in his FSU debut (24:55.6) with Stafford (24:57.0) on his heels in seventh. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Dau turned in his second consecutive strong outing, placing ninth (24:59.3), and sophomore Matthew Newland (25:16.7) finished 11th for FSU’s fifth scoring spot.
Steven Cross (14th, 25:34.0) and Caleb Pottorff (16th, 25:39.1) rounded out FSU’s top seven. Jacob Holmes was knocked down early in the race and came home in 26th (25:58.3).
In addition to Griffith, Newland and Cross also saw their first race action of the season.
FSU easily outdistanced the rest of the field, which included third place East Tennessee State (81 points) as well as ACC rivals Clemson and Miami, but the loss to the Hokies was even closer than the five-point margin. Virginia Tech’s top-five finishers averaged just two seconds a man faster than the Noles’ top five.
“If you don’t win you’re never really all that excited,” Braman said, whose disappointment was tempered by the improvement he saw from his team since their Aug. 31 Covered Bridge Open victory. “We’ve got work to do, but I feel like we got a little bit better from three weeks ago at Appalachian State.”
The Noles will get back to work over another two week block of training before facing a stout test Oct. 4 at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational.