Oct. 16, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
At the midway point in what Florida State cross country coach Karen Harvey has described as a "rebuilding year," the Seminoles once again appear to be shaping up as a national contender.
The Seminoles won their second consecutive major meet Sunday, overwhelming the Pre-Nationals field at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind. with a miniscule 46-point total.
FSU placed three runners in the top eight, five in the top 14 and six in the top 20. The `Noles entered the meet ranked No. 3 in the USTFCCCA national polls and dispatched No. 4 Georgetown, the runner-up, by 53 points. Fifth-ranked Colorado was fourth, behind Michigan.
"They took a one-on-one race with a great Georgetown team and were really determined to win the meet," Harvey said. "That determination really showed."
Junior co-captain Amanda Winslow led the charge with a fourth-place finish over the windy, warm and slow 6-kilometer course in 20:44.Violah Lagat (seventh, 20:47) and Hannah Brooks (eighth, 20:48) continued the assault on the field, followed by freshman Colleen Quigley (13th, 21:03) and Jessica Parry (14th, 21:03). In short, the Seminoles put together an impressive 19-second, 1-5 split that was no match for the field of 40 teams and 303 finishers.
"I'm very pleased with that," Harvey said of the split. "We've never done that since I've been at Florida State. That split for 6k is very, very good."
Winslow stayed with the lead pack through the first half of the race, but fell off the pace, only to recover over the last 1,500 meters when she found Lagat at her side.
"Faith and courage has been our motto all season," said Winslow. "I'm so thankful Violah came up and really helped me. She was encouraging me in the end, `Come on Winslow.'"
"That took a lot of courage to do that," Harvey said of Winslow's resolve. "She regrouped when she saw Violah. ... The response was fantastic."
A lot like the Seminoles' overall performance.
"We still have quite a few people who have big room for improvement. ACC's are in two weeks and it's all about keeping them healthy and hungry."
The collective performance of the Seminoles certainly should provide a boost as the team locks in on continuing their ACC dominance on Oct. 29 at Clemson.
"We were all really happy with that," Winslow said of the tightly-knit pack of Seminole finishers. "Thirty seconds [between Nos. 1-5] was kind of our goal. ...The new girls did pretty amazing. That's why we went there, for the new girls to see the course. I think it worked out pretty well."
The Seminole men were not as fortunate. They tied for fourth in the 35-team field, but were at less than full strength, with junior co-captain Wes Rickman held out with a hamstring strain and sophomore Jakub Zivec nursing one of his own.
Those ailments didn't keep the 11th-ranked Seminoles from turning in some outstanding individual efforts as junior David Forrester and senior Mike Fout finished fifth and sixth in 24:09 and 24:14, respectively.
Senior transfer Breandan O Neill, in just his second appearance in an FSU singlet, was 27th over the 8-kilometer course in 24:46.
"I felt like we did really well at 1-2-3," FSU men's coach Bob Braman said. "Dave and Mike ran a team-type race. ... Breandan ran really well. We'll need him down the road."
Without Rickman, and with Zivec less than full speed after spending a week on the shelf, the `Noles simply couldn't keep pace with team champion Colorado (82 points), Portland (104) and Iona (109). FSU finished with 186 points, dead-locked with Eastern Kentucky.
Seth Proctor (71st, 25:25), who faded over the final 3,000 meters, and Zivec (80th, 25:32) rounded out FSU's top five. Freshman AJ del Valle was 193rd (26:38) in his first look at the NCAA Championship meet course in Terre Haute, Ind.
"We're not full strength and we're just not deep enough when we're not full strength," Braman said. "We've got work to do. We're still a top 20 team without Wes, but we're not a top 10. ...
"I felt like the efforts were there, we're just beat up right now. We've got ACC's coming up and we're the defending champions. We've just got to get healthy in two weeks, or less than two weeks."