TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There will be a few new stops on the schedule for the Florida State cross country teams this fall, leading up to the NCAA South Region Championships, which will be contested on the Seminoles’ Apalachee Regional Park home course.
That the FSU men and women will have the opportunity to secure NCAA Championships appearance on their home turf – just as they did in 2012 – is a bonus. Coaches Bob Braman and Karen Harvey are hopeful that revisions to the schedule – including first-time trips to the Paul Short Invitational for the women and the Wisconsin Invitational (both teams) – will set the stage for a big finish by both teams.
Gone from the schedule are the long-standing season-opening Covered Bridge Invitational in Boone, N.C. and the mid-October visit to Terre Haute, Ind. for the Pre-National meet. In their place the ‘Noles will open at the Virginia Invitational on the testy Panorama Farms course which will the ACC Championships, and a trip to the highly-regarded Wisconsin Invitational.
“We’ve decided to switch it up a little bit and are getting off the Pre-National meet,” said Braman, who is entering his 15th season as the FSU men’s coach. “With Coach Harvey having a veteran team that has run Terre Haute more than they want to count, we thought it was a better points opportunity to go to the Wisconsin Invite. That will be an even greater challenge because it’s going to be even bigger and tougher – in terms of competition – than the Pre-National meet.”
There will be ample challenges along the way for both squads, who have traditionally opened the year at the low-key Appalachian State on Labor Day weekend, but instead will tackle Virginia’s home course and a stronger field in what amounts to the Pre-ACC meet on August 29.
“As usual we’ve set up a schedule that is as good as anyone’s schedule in the country,” Braman said. “It is set up to get them preseason competition in cooler climates against ACC schools…That’s essential but it also gives us a Labor Day trip where we can get up and get quality training on the course, race on the course and get into the mountains.”
On Sept. 19 both teams will return to the Commonwealth for the Virginia Tech Invitational at Blacksburg, tackling a course that hosted the 2012 ACC Championships.
“[Virginia Tech and] North Carolina will be there and maybe some other ACC teams,” Braman said. “Those are two very good programs… We’ll get on some time-tested courses, get in cooler climates against ACC competition. Then we’ll go back to Notre Dame, which is the best meet in the country on that weekend. That’s more of an intra-regional meet where we can start collecting at-large points against a lot teams from outside the region.”
The Notre Dame Invitational (Oct. 3) has been a staple event for both the Seminole men and women for many years. This time, only Braman’s men will be making the trek to South Bend, Ind.
That same day Harvey’s FSU women, who return six of the top seven runners from last year’s ACC and NCAA South Region championship team, will deviate from the norm by trekking to Bethlehem, Pa. for the 41st running of the Paul Short Invitational. It’s a meet that traditionally draws from the talent-laden Northeast and last year boasted 150 college teams.
With two-time All-American Colleen Quigley and fellow senior Linden Hall leading the way, the ‘Noles should be a formidable force.
“We want to find the highest levels of competition available; to be put in the fire every time we race in October and November,” Harvey said of the decision to shake up the schedule. “We also want to race championships distance and Notre Dame is only 5k.”
Harvey’s Seminole women will almost undoubtedly encounter defending national champion Providence, as well as traditional powers Georgetown and Villanova, among others at the Paul Short Invitational.
“The cross country mecca for the women is in the Northeast, while on the men’s side, it’s a little more Midwest,” Braman said. “We’re both taking care of our business there and get chance to earn some [NCAA at-large] points.”
A week later the ‘Noles return home for the FSU Invitational at Apalachee Regional Park, where the Oct. 10 collegiate races will serve as a preview for the NCAA South Region, which historically taken a back seat to the 10-race Oct. 11 high school meet which is one of the largest in the Southeast.
Both teams will make their debut appearances at the Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 17 at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course, which opened in 2009. In just its first five years, the meet has risen quickly as one of the nation’s finest – and fastest – producing individual champions who have gone on to win NCAA titles, like two-time winners Lawi Lalang and Sheila Reid, as well as Abbey D’Agostino.
Then it’s back to Panorama Farms in Earlysville, Va. for the 2014 ACC Championships (Oct. 31), where the women will attempt to bring home the team trophy for the eighth consecutive year and the men will begin their climb toward the top of the heap in the 15-team conference.
“It’s a very challenging course and we’ll be glad we’ve gotten there [earlier],” Braman said.
For just the second time, the Seminoles will serve as host to the NCAA South Region on Nov. 14, with more than 30 men’s and women’s teams vying for the top two spots and guaranteed trips to the Nov. 22 NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.
“It’s always exciting to host the region, but even more exciting is it puts us in a much, much better position to not only qualify for nationals, but perform well at nationals, when you’re removing the travel,” Braman said. “We can recover quicker, we can prepare better without the travel wear-and-tear and we get to run on the course we know like the back of our hand.”
Florida State’s men and women each claimed South Region titles in the 2012 at Apalachee Regional Park, and not only advanced to the NCAA Championships, but finished fifth and fourth, respectively.
Both teams report back to campus on Aug. 12 to begin preseason conditioning.