Nov. 12, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - As he watched Florida State runners David Forrester, Mike Fout and Breandan O Neill stream across the finish line - 1-2-4 - coach Bob Braman felt confident his Seminoles were on their way to an NCAA South Region title.
"We're excited to be back to where we think we belong - to be a region champion and a potential top 10 team," Braman said, after the Seminoles captured their first regional title since 2006, Saturday at the Harry Pritchett Cross Country Course. "We're back in the mix."
Karen Harvey's Florida State women, ranked No. 1 in the country, spent the better part of their 6-kilometer race running as a pack, about 10 seconds off the lead pace set by three Florida runners. Assured of no worse than an at-large berth to the NCAA Championship entering the race, the Seminoles were able to bide their time to the end.
That's when the trio of Amanda Winslow, Hannah Brooks and Violah Lagat authored a thunderous kick, overwhelming the Florida trio with 300 meters remaining, en route to a 1-2-3 sweep. The Seminoles placed all seven runners in the top 20, running away with a second consecutive NCAA South Region title.
Winslow, FSU's junior co-captain, captured her first individual victory of the season in 20:33.4, followed by Brooks (20:34.1) and Lagat (20:35.0).
"We treated it like heats in a track race," Winslow said. "You just had to get through the race, qualify and stay healthy. We knew the plan was to pound it in the last mile and that's what we did. It was really awesome to be surrounded by my teammates throughout the whole race. We all kept pushing each other during the entire race."
The 1-2-3 sweep was a first for the Seminole women at the NCAA Regional and a clear message that Harvey's team is poised to make its strongest run yet at the school's first NCAA Championship.
"It was cool; it was good to see," Harvey said. "We had a few problems; we always have a few problems."
"Kayleigh Tyerman really stepped up. Colleen is still getting over her ankle. ... Obviously our top 3 really ran incredible. They followed the race plan. The last kilometer they ran 2:55 with a tight up-hill. They were rolling."
Florida State's depth - all seven Seminoles earned All-Region honors - provided the decisive edge as they rolled past runner-up and fourth-ranked Vanderbilt 34-54, with Florida fading to third with 62 points.
The 16th-ranked FSU men entered the day confident they were ready for the bump up to the 10-kilometer distance, but a little wary of how they would hold up without junior co-captain Wes Rickman, who sat out as he continues to rehab a sore calf.
"Kuba did it," Braman said, pointing to Zivec as the difference-maker. "That was huge! He looked fantastic today."
Two weeks removed from walking off the course at the ACC Championship, Zivec showed no ill effects of a tender back and hamstring, which have hampered him through the middle of the season.
"We had four great races and just a steady race from Seth," Braman said. "It was good; a lot of fun. O Neill took the initiative and started pounding it with a 1 ½ (miles) to go. I thought we were going to go 1-2-3."
Forrester, a junior, scored his first collegiate victory in 30:43.3 with Fout, FSU's senior co-captain, right behind in 30:46.0. O Neill, a senior transfer from Dublin, Ireland, was fourth in 30:57.2.
"Today it was about my teammates," said Forrester. "Mike, Breandan and I are just really clicking on all cylinders. We've been working out phenomenally together all year. We just got to running and no one got close to us apart from one guy, and that person had a good race as well. It was just like the end of a training run to be honest."
Zivec (15th, 31:42.0) and Proctor (18th, 31:46.0) rounded out the Seminoles' scorers.
FSU's scoring five earned All-Region honors as it captured the team title with 40 points, followed by Florida (68), which also secured an automatic NCAA Championship berth. It extended the Seminoles' mastery of the Gators at regionals for a ninth consecutive year.
The Seminoles will have nine days to polish up their performances before the Nov. 21 NCAA Championships at the Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind., where they were national runner-ups in 2010.