BLACKSBURG, Va. – Behind a trio of top-10 finishers the 10th-ranked Florida State women’s team posted the best ACC Championships finish for the program since their 2013 title, placing second Friday morning at the cold, muddy and wind-swept Buford Meredith Cross Country Course.
With junior Lauren Ryan (sixth), sophomore Elizabeth Funderburk (eighth) and junior Maudie Skyring (10th) leading the way – and earning All-ACC honors – the Noles pushed No. 6 NC State to the wire, with the Wolfpack prevailing 64-76 for their fourth consecutive title.
“I think they had a great day,” said fifth-year FSU coach Kelly Phillips. “We weren’t supposed to beat NC State. I thought we could and I still think we had a legitimate shot, but they had a good day as well.”
The No. 21 Florida State men finished sixth in the 15-team field with grad transfer Kasey Knevelbaard (13th) and sophomore Paul Stafford (17th) turning in All-ACC performances to lead the way. The Noles weren’t especially sharp, but their performance was further hindered when Knevelbaard, expected to contend for the individual titles, fell in the first mile of the race and expended a great deal of energy to get back in the mix.
“The main problem for us was I trained us more for regionals and nationals,” veteran FSU coach Bob Braman said. “Physically we weren’t sharp and that’s on me. We trained really hard last week, thinking about nationals and the guys just weren’t as sharp as they were two weeks ago.
“I do know that having Kasey goes down hurts you points-wise, but it hurts you emotionally to see your leader go down early in the race as you try to work your way through.”
There were no shortage of strong performances for the Seminole women.
Ryan, who hadn’t finished in the top spot on the team since the opener, teamed up with Funderburk and Jodie Judd early on, setting the tone for the title contenders.
A transfer from Villanova, where she was sixth as a freshman at the Big East Championships, Ryan and Funderburk traded places throughout the race.
“I sat in a good position the whole race and I was working well with my teammates, Elizabeth and Jodie, at most points during the race,” said Ryan. “I was really disappointed with my last performance. I just got in my head mentally. This whole week I’ve just tried to treat this as a workout. In workouts I’m working with my teammates and I know that my training is there and I’m fit.
“It was just about executing in the race and it worked well being more relaxed and taking it as a workout. I got on the start, put myself in a lot better position than the last time and pulled through with sixth. Happy days.”
Funderburk improved seven spots from her 15th-place finish in 2018.
“It was nice having Lauren right there with me,” she said. “We were kind of going back and forth. It helped us both finish strong. I was happy with eighth place.”
Skyring, took a different route to her first All-ACC honor. Traditionally a fast starter, the junior was running in 35th-place at the mile along with teammates Megan Mooney and Addi Coggins, before turning things up.
“I went out a little bit slower – not that it was completely planned – but it gave me a lot of confidence at the end of the race,” she said. “I was catching people the whole way; caught a lot of people the last [kilometer]. I was very motivated. It made me push through the hills. It was a fun way to race. It definitely feels a lot better than being caught.”
The 10th-place showing was quite an improvement for Skyring, who was 94th as a freshman and 34th last year.
Judd and Mooney also posted career-best ACC Championship finishes, placing 23rd and 29th, respectively.
That has been a common progression under Phillips, who is now in her fifth season and has followed back-to-back ninth-place finishes by improving on last year’s fourth-place showing with a runner-up finish.
“Having the depth has really been fun,” said Phillips, who had eight Noles finish among the top 41 finishers. “They are a really good group. They just train really well together. The culture is really good. When the culture is good it makes the coach’s job easy. They get each other going.”
Coggins (37th) and freshmen Ava Peeples (40th), Rebecca Clark (41st) and Yasmine Abbes (68), along with sophomore Erin Phelps (72nd), rounded out the Noles’ 10 entries.
And it was nearly enough to deliver the eighth title in program history.
“We really wanted to get out there today and win,” said Skyring. “We didn’t get that, unfortunately, but we’re all really happy with our performance and how we ran as a team.
“Our goal this season has been to perform well at nationals. This is something we did care about, but our ultimate goal has been the end of the season, so this performance definitely shows that we can do what we want to do.”