Aug 29, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.- Despite the departure of five runners from last season's fourth-place NCAA Championship team, the Florida State women's cross country team was selected as the favorite to bring home a sixth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference title.
In a vote of the 15 ACC coaches, Karen Harvey's Seminoles edged Duke by the narrowest of margins - 213-212 - as the favorite. FSU earned eight first-place votes, while the Blue Devils were picked to win on six ballots. ACC newcomer Notre Dame earned the remaining first-place vote and held down the third-place position.
Men's coach Bob Braman will also be looking to fill five of seven lineup spots from last season's fifth-place NCAA Championship team. The Seminoles were tabbed to finish third - exactly where they placed last season - in the ACC. Conference newcomer Syracuse earned 10 first-place votes and the nod as favorite, while Virginia and FSU collected two each.
Harvey has tried desperately to play down the role of front-runner, given the retooling she must do with her seventh FSU squad. She isn't the only FSU coach facing a rebuilding job.
"Our conference will be super competitive this year," said Harvey, who will lean on returning All-American Colleen Quigley and fellow co-captain Linden Hall to show the way. "And more than ever we will need to be prepared and hungry for success. Right now we're just working on being better every day."
Despite the ACC coaches' subjective pecking orders, there is little debate that the conference will be one of the strongest in the nation in 2013. Earlier this week the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association preseason poll included six ACC men's teams and five women's teams among the top 25.
Surprisingly, the Seminole women checked in at No. 2 nationally, while the men were slotted at No. 21. At this juncture coaches Harvey and Braman would like to get their teams in position to extend a pair of impressive streaks. The FSU women have qualified for seven consecutive NCAA Championship meets, which is the nation's sixth-longest active streak. The Seminole men have made 10 consecutive NCAA Championship appearances, which ranks seventh among active streaks.
"I think, in the right scenario, if we don't beat each other up, we have eight [ACC] teams that have a legitimate chance to get to the NCAAs," said Braman. "The favorite [Syracuse], I don't think surprises anybody... We think Notre Dame is real good and I can see them winning it. But it's a short step back to get to eighth.
"It's going to be a fun year, with so many teams being so equal. It's going to come down to who puts it together, stays healthy and gels the best at the end."
Harvey and Braman will get a first look at their teams on Friday when they compete at the Covered Bridge Open, hosted by Appalachian State in Boone, N.C. The low-key meet has become an annual pilgrimage for the Seminoles over the extended Labor Day weekend, which provides the teams a chance to train in the mountains in cooler conditions.
"It's a perfect opener for us," Braman said. "We're up here in the nice weather and the competition is going to be equal to where we are at this point."
In addition to host Appalachian State, the Seminoles will compete against East Carolina, UNC Wilmington, USC-Upstate and VMI.