Nov. 1, 2013
KERNERSVILLE, N.C.- In a test of depth and late-race mettle, the Florida State women's cross country team pulled off its sixth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Friday at Beeson Park, edging runner-up Virginia, 52-65.
Buffeted by rain, juniors Colleen Quigley and Hannah Walker led the Seminoles' charge, placing second and fifth in 20:13.9 and 20:25.0, respectively, over the 6,000-meter course. However, the strong finishes of Linden Hall (8th, 20:34.3), Pippa Woolven (18th, 21:03.8) and Carly Thomas (19th, 21:05.6), enabled FSU to pull out the victory and extend the second-longest title streak in ACC history.
"We found new depth on our team today," FSU women's coach Karen Harvey said. "We needed several people to step up in the last 1k of the race and they did. With three minutes left, we were behind and that's when Linden Hall, Pippa Woolven and Carly Thomas came through for us and saved the day."
Hall and Thomas passed a combined nine runners down the stretch, while Woolven, who battled illness throughout the week, held her ground as the `Noles overhauled the Cavaliers. The first five Seminoles earned All-ACC honors against the largest field of ACC teams in conference history.
"That was no joke," Harvey said. "That was a very, very difficult group to race. Having that many All-ACC was just outstanding. We had to run like that. We were losing at 5k. ... Pippa runs out of her mind. She looked done at 3k but held on.
"Linden Hall, I thought she had nothing left with 1k go, and came on again. Those three, they really, really ran great and Colleen and Hannah ran solid. They are still looking for more. Luckily they will have more opportunities anyway. We've got to get better. I'm just glad we were deep enough to do it."
The Florida State men finished seventh in a tightly-bunched race which saw ACC newcomer Syracuse run off with the title with 64 points. The `Noles finished with a total of 145 - just 40 points out of third place - behind a solid lead trio.
Senior Matt Mizereck (12th, 24:23.6), junior Bryant Blahnik (18th, 24:34.0) and senior Josh Gracia (19th, 24:35.2) earned All-ACC honors for their performance over the 8,000-meter race. Kevin Johnson (39th, 25:01.3) and Will Bridges (58th, 25:28.0) rounded out the scoring Seminoles.
Mizereck and Blahnik, transfers from Florida and Missouri, respectively, now have the distinction of earning both All-SEC and All-ACC honors in their careers.
"Objectively, I think we ran our best race of the year," FSU men's coach Bob Braman said. "I think our top three guys ran really well to make All-ACC, particularly Matt, who had a chance at a top 10 and spent a lot of the race up there. ...
"Forty points is not far in that race from third place. There were a lot of positives. We competed hard but we absolutely have to find a way to get the No. 5 guy with the No. 4 guy."
The Seminoles will now turn their focus to the NCAA South Region meet on Nov. 15 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where the men will be gunning for a top-two team finish to secure an 11th consecutive NCAA Championship meet appearance.
After claiming the ACC title, Harvey's women are virtually assured of returning to the NCAA Championship meet, where they have finished on the podium each of the past five years.