GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Florida State cross country teams started the 2020 season with a bang at the Mountain Dew Invite, which was held at the Mark Bostic Golf Course in Gainesville, Fla.
Junior Paul Stafford brought home his first career collegiate victory, winning the men’s 8K with a time of 24:44.85 followed by redshirt freshman Gabriel Curtis in second at 24:51.29.
The duo led the Seminoles to the team title with 19 points, winning by a margin of 34 points over Georgia Tech (53) and 49 points ahead of Florida (68), in third. Miami finished fourth with a total of 110 points. It was the lowest point total for the Seminoles since a perfect 15-point performance at the FSU Invitational in 2016.
“This was one of the best openers we’ve ever had,” FSU head coach Bob Braman said. “It was a really good effort and they had a good focus. You worry about that after not racing for seven or eight months. I was really pleased with our effort. Our first race is typically low key and not that good since our goal is to peak at the end of the season and we usually do a good job of that, but today we did a great job, went into our rivals’ course and brought home the win.”
As a team, the Noles executed their plans, keeping as many runners together at the top to start the race, as junior Caleb Pottorff (6:08.3), freshman Zach Leachman (6:08.6), Stafford (6:08.7), senior Harrison Martingayle (6:08.7) and sophomore Jacob Holmes (6:09.1) turned in the five fastest splits at the first checkpoint.
The Noles stayed together as they approached the third checkpoint. Curtis had made his move, jumping up seven spots to take the slight edge over Stafford (18:58.8) at the 6K. At this point, both runners began to distance themselves from the pack, leading by just under four seconds.
Down the stretch, Stafford pulled ahead of Curtis in order to win his first career collegiate race, crossing the finish line at 24:44.85. Curtis followed at 24:51.29 for silver, and Holmes (25:09.22), Pottorff (25:15.42) and rookie Anderson Denton (25:17.64) placed fourth, fifth and seventh respectively.
“For a large portion of the race, it really was a sea of Garnet in Gainesville,” Stafford said. “Everyone worked so well in every aspect, and this team in my mind is only going to get better as this season goes on.”
Bert Freire (25:24.16) placed ninth and Leachman (25:27.04) was 13th in his collegiate debut.
“Some of our young guys did well,” Braman added. “They didn’t let the moment swallow them up and they handled their business. Bert was a great surprise this morning. He’s a fifth-year senior, and he’s more of a track guy and he decided to come and be elite in cross country and he had a great summer and that’s the best cross country race he’s ran in his career.”
The women also had a strong start to the season, finishing in second place in the 6K with a total of 30 points, just five behind Georgia Tech.
“I thought we also had great effort today,” FSU women’s head coach Kelly Phillips said. “It’s early in the year but it was great to get out there and race. We had some freshmen get their feet wet and do really well in their first collegiate race.”
Florida State was led by sophomore Rebecca Clark, who took silver with a time of 20:57.11, ahead of junior Addi Coggins in third at 21:00.27. The performance was the highest finish for both student-athletes in their collegiate careers.
Clark and Coggins held second and third place for the majority of the race, hitting each checkpoint at 7:01.0 and 14:13.5 together in stride until Clark pulled ahead near the finish.
Junior Ella Swigler (21:15.97) placed sixth, followed by freshmen Alyson Churchill (21:36.29) in ninth, Caitlin Wilkey (21:39.48) in 10th and Rebecca Bergnes (21:54.35) in 15th place. Sophomore Erin Phelps crossed the finish line in 16th place with a time of 21:55.01.
The Seminoles will be back in action in the FSU Invitational on Oct. 2 at Appalachee Regional Park.
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