BOSTON, Mass. – Senior Militsa Mircheva and redshirt freshman Caleb Pottorff remained unbeaten on the season and so did the Florida State women’s and men’s cross country teams after rolling past Boston University at Franklin Park on Friday morning.
The Seminoles turned in a dominant performance against the host Terriers, which was secondary to their primary objective of getting in a strong workout and a good look at the 104-year course which will host the ACC Championships on Oct. 26.
Mircheva cruised to her fifth career victory in two seasons with the Noles, covering the 5000-meter course in 17:19.41, while Funderburk, a freshman, was second overall for the second consecutive win in 17:50.46.
FSU’s women claimed the first five positions, pitching a scoring shutout of the Terriers, 15-42.
Teammates Megan Mooney (18:41.04), Ellie Wallace (19:01.59) and Althea Hewitt (19:09.31) followed in positions 3-5, but the Noles’ dominance would have been even greater if not for a group of five getting lost on the course.
Maudie Skyring, Fatema Jaffer, Kayla Easterly, Sarah Candiano and Jennifer Lima were running in a chase pack behind their top two teammates heading into the final mile, but took a wrong turn on an unmarked section of the course. That “little snafu” according to FSU women’s coach Kelly Phillips likely prevented the Noles from pushing the first 10 runners across the finish line.
The wrong turn added approximately four-tenths of a mile to their race, based on their Garmin watches, adding as much a 80-90 seconds to their finishing times.
“I saw things from a few people – Candiano, Lima and Jaffer – that I hadn’t seen yet, especially for Candiano and Jaffer, our seniors,” Phillips said. “Through the two-mile they looked fantastic. It’s a shame for them because no one gets to see how well they’re running. I felt sorry for them, but hopefully it will motivate them to keep going…
“We’re a pretty deep team. I don’t think today’s results on paper will show what we are. Watching Maudie, even though she got lost, as aggressive as she was being irritated, was really good.”
The Seminole women trained through the meet, logging a pair of hard workouts prior to race day, which left a number of the runners a little flat, according to Phillips, who was fine with that.
Mircheva was not one of them, though she was also dealing with an illness earlier in the week.
“I felt pretty good the first two miles, but I was probably a little bad that last mile,” said the Bulgarian native, who hopes to improve on her sixth-place finish at the 2017 ACC Championships when the meet returns to Boston next month.
“That’s an amazing experience because knowing the course is probably like 30 or 40 percent of the success to run well on it, especially when the course is challenging…Being able to run it in advance was great.”
Mircheva also liked what she saw of her tightly packed teammates.
“We did a pretty good job even though some of the girls got lost,” she added.
Pottorff seized control of the race by accelerating away from Boston’s Paul Luevano, an NCAA Cross Country Championships qualifier last season, just beyond the two-mile mark over the 8000-meter course.
The Fort Pierce, Fla. native powered to the finish in 24:58.42 for a comfortable 16-second margin of victory. Pottorff was one of three FSU freshmen – joining Paul Stafford and Matthew Newland – to finish among the Noles’ top five.
Junior Steven Cross, making his season debut, was third overall in 25:20.60. It was Cross’ finest performance since a strong freshman season. Stafford was fourth (25:25.41) and Newland was seventh (25:33.59) in their collegiate debuts, sandwiching senior teammate Istvan Szogi (sixth, 25:32.27).
With all seven FSU finishers among the first nine across the line, the Noles cruised to a 21-40 victory over the fifth-ranked team in the Northeast Region.
“I like that we were dialed in,” Braman said of the overall performace. “We knew that this needed to be an ACC rehearsal, and we knew that Boston U. had some good guys. One of them didn’t have a very good day but the other two ran really well, like we knew they would. If you have three of them up there, all of a sudden this race is a lot different.
“I even told my 6-7-8 guys that whatever pace they set we’ve got to match that intensity. ‘Let’s get out fast and run this thing, because when we come back for the ACC meet it’s much more applicable for us to have come out here and hurt a little bit.’”
Pottorff liked the way the day played out, both for himself, and his teammates.
“I just kind of went with the race and the feel of it,” he said. “There was a good point in there where I could make my move after two miles and just kept moving along and it seemed to work.
“Right now I kind of feel like my training has kind of put me in the best spot, compared to last year. Physically and mentally I’m tougher than last year and I’m just ready for a longer season and battling with everybody and building our team goal of making it to nationals.”
“He looked really good,” Braman said of Pottorff. “He’s so strong and his form didn’t break down. It was one of those things where he said, ‘Excuse me. I’m sorry you told me to stay behind this BU guy, but I’m going to go now.’ … That was good to see.”
So was the way things played out behind Pottorff’s victory.
“It’s awesome to see [Cross] come back,” Pottorff said of his one-time high school rival. “I know he’s struggled a little bit since his freshman year and seeing him today get his groove back – knowing that once he gets it going – he’s a beast and he’s going to be up there with myself and Isty and Toby, when he comes back.”
The Noles ran without senior Toby Hardwick, who was left at home rehabbing in hopes of a return at Notre Dame in two weeks. In his absence, the youngsters shined.
“I love it right now,” Pottorff added. “We’ve got a young group and our freshmen are stepping up. It’s awesome to see them grow…It’s awesome to see that we’re all together and we’ve definitely got a bright future ahead of us.”
“The big thing was we got a great race out of Steven Cross,” Braman added. “Like Coach Kelly [Phillips] said, ‘Welcome back.’ It was good to see. He wasn’t having a perfect day. He had to come back from behind; he and Isty [Szogi] were back in the 4-5 hole and came all the way up to second place until the very end. Isty was going through some struggles, but he fought it instead of throwing in the towel.
“I felt like it was a perfect rehearsal and the great thing was that people found themselves in highly successful rates. Paul Stafford doesn’t know what he’s doing over 8k, but he did a great job. Matthew Newland doesn’t know what he’s doing over 8k, and he probably learned something today that will have him finishing with Paul instead of eight or 10 seconds behind him.
“That’s what you want to see. You want to see some fight, some execution and you want to learn something. I think we checked all three of those boxes.”