September 17, 2003
In the pre-dawn chill this Saturday, members of the Florida State University cross country team will dip their water-bottle "batons" into the brackish waters of the Gulf of Mexico at Yankeetown and head east to Daytona Beach. This will officially begin the team's third annual Across the State Relay.
The 13-hour, 140-mile trek is more than a training and team-building exercise, it's a chance for the team, men and women, to give something back to the community. Each runner, there are more than 40 of them, is asked to raise $140 through sponsorships from their high school coaches, families, friends and former employers at a dollar-per-mile. In the past, the event has raised approximately $7,000 for charities such as the United Way, the Dick Howser Center for Childhood Services Inc., the Red Cross's September 11th Relief Fund and Capital City Youth Services.
"We want them to feel empowered to help this group or that group of people who deserve it," said head cross country Coach Bob Braman.
Braman started the event in 1981 as president of the Tampa Bay Runners' Club then took it to the University of South Florida. Upon assuming the head-coaching job at FSU, Braman changed the relay into a charitable event.
"We thought this would provide a little more motivation for the athletes, and a great thing for the program." Braman said. "We bring the money from all over the country, if you will, into Tallahassee for good causes. It's a good team building event--the kids get to rally behind something together."
Racing in pairs, the team is expected to maintain a competitive pace of about 10 miles per hour. From Yankeetown, which is just north of Crystal River, the pairs will run across the peninsula through small towns, back roads and forested scenery in light traffic areas, in four to eight-mile increments. The runners will be accompanied by two chase vans throughout the course of the relay. The final leg will have the runners dip their water bottle into the Atlantic Ocean at Daytona Beach. Joining them at the end of the journey will be the remaining members of the team who will then dive into the ocean.
"Typically there are two vans going at once, one behind which is the trainer and medical team, and one in the front, which is the lead vehicle--that's me," explained Coach Braman.
The team's representatives on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) will recommend which charities they would like to fund to the athletic department, which in turn decides how to split the money among the charities. The cross country athletic budget will fund the costs of the event, which include hotel rooms and accompanying vans.
Please call Lauren Williams to schedule interviews and/or photo opportunities with coaches and athletes during the relay. Her office number is (850) 644-5653.