Sept. 27, 2012
SOUTH BEND, Ind.- Since the 2004 season the Florida State cross country teams have used the Notre Dame Invitational as the launching point for their championship campaigns. Turning the page after a pair of early-season preliminary meets, the nationally-ranked Seminole teams jump into the competitive fray Friday.
Both the second-ranked FSU women and the 10th-ranked men are highest-ranked teams in the Blue Division races, covering the 5-kilometer and 5-mile courses, respectively. After controlled effort in each of the first two meets - which were swept by both FSU squads - the Seminoles will cut it loose around the plush and fast Notre Dame golf course.
"The team is ahead of last year in workouts, but can they apply that to race day?'" Florida State women's coach Karen Harveysaid. "That's the question. It's the first real race of the season so I expect to have some things to work on and some issues we learn from too. But it is time to put on the FSU uniform and race from the gun and I can't wait to cheer them around the course."
Men's coach Bob Braman won't have the luxury of letting his troops loose, entirely, as senior captains David Forrester and Wes Rickmanare still recovering from spring injuries, which have them slightly behind their teammates in terms of fitness. That, however, doesn't change the goals and expectations Braman has for his squad.
"At the end of the day we're trying to take the eight guys that we're bringing and have a plan for them that gets them ready for the championship meets," Braman said. "At the same time we've got guys like freshman Zak Seddon, who is going to want to get up there with the leaders and see what he can do.
"I think it's less of a team race, where we're trying to run as a pack, and more of an individual exploration."
Historically, the Seminoles have done quite well at the event. Harvey's women have won two of the last four team titles and not finished outside the top three in that stretch. Likewise, the FSU men have been a fixture near the top of the team standings and made off with the 2008 title as well.
Senior captains Amanda Winslow and Violah Lagat, and classmates Kayleigh Tyerman and Jessica Parrylead a deep FSU team that should be the class of the 19-team field, which includes No. 19 New Mexico, No. 20 Notre Dame and No. 25 NC State, as well 14 more teams who are ranked regionally.
"I really like the inner confidence and faith this team possesses, but I also feel they are hungry and out to prove a few things," said Harvey, who won a Notre Dame Invitational individual title while competing at Michigan. "The team is training smarter and harder than any team I have had in the past. We realize that the women's NCAA distance running is deep and there will be no free rides to success."
The depth of competitive teams is significantly different for the FSU men, who are one of 10 nationally-ranked squads in the 21-team field. Rival and defending ACC Champion NC State, ranked No. 11 nationally, will be joined by No. 14 Texas A&M, No. 17 Princeton and No. 20 Tulsa New Mexico (21), Notre Dame (24), Eastern Michigan (26), Michigan (26) and Washington State (29) will be joined by 10 other regionally ranked teams.
"It's a really good, first, big test, because you've got a bunch of good teams," Braman said. "I think it's good competition and it's from many different regions." In addition to Seddon, it will also be the first major meet for first-year varsity `Noles Paul Lagno, Josh Graciaand Will Bridges.
"Those guys are going to get a little piece of it and see what it's all about, which will be valuable for the championship meets," said Braman, who is hopeful the `Noles will pick up some potentially important NCAA qualifying points, while also learning a bit about where his team is at the moment in its training.
Good competition, a fast course and cooler temperatures should provide a nice barometer for both teams.