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Pushing Forward At Pre-Nats
Junior Bryant Blahnik is one of just two 'Noles who have raced on the LaVern Gibson Course collegiately.

Junior Bryant Blahnik is one of just two 'Noles who have raced on the LaVern Gibson Course collegiately.

Oct. 18, 2013

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Literally and figuratively there will be no shortage of competition for the Florida State cross country teams Saturday at the ISU Pre-Nationals Invitational on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.

The Seminoles will compete against jam-packed fields of 52 men's teams and 51 women's squads on the Indiana State University course which will play host to the NCAA Championship meet on Nov. 23. In addition to the high volume of competitors, the Seminoles will also be tested by quality competition. Eleven men's teams and 13 women's teams ranked among the top 30 nationally in the most recent USTFCCCA will help fill the field.

Karen Harvey's Florida State women, who are ranked No. 2 nationally, are the top seed in the field, which includes No. 5 Georgetown, No. 6 Oregon, No. 11 Stanford, No. 12 Colorado and No. 14 Michigan. ACC rival Virginia (No. 16) joins the elite field, along with Villanova (18), Oklahoma State (19), Butler (20), William & Mary (21), Princeton (23) and Penn State (27).

Bob Braman's FSU men, who fell out of the rankings last week after a 44-week run among the top 30 dating to 2007, will be similarly challenged. Oklahoma State and Colorado, currently ranked 1-2 nationally, are joined by Oregon (4), Tulsa (9), Princeton (10), Indiana (12), Iona (18), Boise State (19), Villanova (23), Georgetown (24) and Stanford (29) on the men's side. The quality competition will provide the Seminoles with an opportunity to collect some valuable at-large points in pursuit of an 11th consecutive NCAA Championship appearance.

In short, virtually every ranked team in the nation will be competing this weekend in either Terre Haute or at the Wisconsin Invitational in what amounts to the final tune-ups before the conference championship meets get going.

"As far as the competition, it's deep," Harvey said. "This is the best Pre-Nats, depth-wise, in a while. I think between Wisconsin and Pre-Nats, it's half and half. It's actually a real Pre-Nationals, so they're going to really have to be in big crowds, and although the course is wide open, they're going to have to find each other again and deal with herds of people."

FSU's women have won the last three Pre-National meets and four of the last five, but Harvey is looking at this year's meet as an important stepping stone on the postseason trail.

"We've got enough new pieces that we need to get out on that NCAA course and feel it, and I'm hoping to get some feedback from them," Harvey said.

"I know the girls are going to want to win the race. Can we win it? If we don't, what did we learn? Ultimately we want to do well at Pre-Nats, but the ACC [Championship] is our focus right now. It's even beyond Nationals. We're just thinking about ACC's right now, so how can we be a better team going into ACC's? If we make any mistakes, what did we learn?"

Like Harvey, Braman's primary race-day concern is dealing with the size of the field, especially with a lineup that does not include a single runner who has raced the course in an FSU uniform.

"The challenge we're going to have an aspiring national team to get points, is there are 52 in the seeded race," Braman said. "That's 350 and some-odd people. That's over 100 athletes more than we run at national meet. That's going to be the big challenge, to stay focused at an extraordinarily crowded field. I've been in this sport 31 years as a coach and four as an athlete and never seen a meet with 52 full teams. Not once. This will be a unique challenge and we'll try to use it to our advantage in that we can manage the chaos better than the others and not let it upset us. There are going to be some good teams that hopefully miss-step and open the door for us to get some quality wins as we continue to get in better shape, continue to get healthier and continue the build-up for the championship season."

Braman will welcome back sophomore co-captain Zak Seddon to the lineup after a couple of weeks of racing inactivity, but he expects transfers, senior Matt Mizereck (Florida) and junior Bryant Blahnik (Missouri), to show the way. They are the only Seminoles who have raced on the LaVern Gibson Course previously as collegians.

"We're looking forward to it," Braman said. "It's a place where we've run well; a place where myself and my staff know well, but it's a challenge. How do you run in a field of 350 when typically you run against a field of 210-220. ... It will be a lot harder for us to find each other in the race. I don't know that we've done the speedwork to get out fast and passing is going to take a lot of patience, toughness and a good mental state of mind."

On the women's side, at least two Seminoles - Colleen Quigley and Hannah Walker - figure to be in the thick of a wide-open, but highly competitive individual battle at the front of the pack. Quigley, who was 12th at the NCAA Championships last year, placed sixth at last season's Pre-National meet in Louisville. Walker, in her first season since joining the program as a transfer from Great Britain, also figures to be among the front group.

"That individual race - that top five - is going to be awesome," Harvey said. "It's going to be fun to watch and know that we could have a couple of girls in there going for that top-five, top-three and maybe the individual win. I think they're very fit right now. At the same time, Linden [Hall] can make some noise; Pippa [Woolven] and Georgia [Peel]. I think they're going to make some noise."

Laura Hollander (Cal Poly), Cally McCumber (Kentucky), Emma Bates (Boise State), Elaina Balouris (William & Mary), Aisling Cuffe (Stanford) and Shayla Kipp (Colorado) are all expected to be in the hunt for top individual honors.

The racing gets going at 11 a.m. with the Seminole men competing in the Blue Division 8,000-meter race, followed by the women competing over 6,000-meter course at 11:45 a.m. Flotrack.com will provide a live feed with a paid subscription, and live results, including race splits, can be tracked at www.branchsportstech.com.

You can track FSU's progress throughout the meet via Twitter @FSU_XCountry and get a full recap following the races at www.seminoles.com.

B-Teams competing at Alabama
While the top Seminoles will lace it up Saturday in Indiana, a second tier of Seminoles will race Friday afternoon on the NCAA South Region course at the Crimson Classic in Tuscaloosa, Ala. A number of FSU runners, men and women, will be competing for spots on the 10-member ACC Championship teams in a competitive environment.

Jess Butler, Teresa Ristow and Chelsi Woodruff, coming off strong performances at last week's FSU Invitational, will lead the Seminole women against a 27-team field at the Harry Pritchett Running Park. They will take to the 5,000-meter course when the gun goes off at 6 p.m. (ET).

Sean Quinn, Avery Lopez and Kemper Morton, will led a five-man FSU contingent in the 8,000-meter race, which is set for 6:30 p.m. (ET).

Winslow will be honored in Indianapolis
Amanda Winslow, who completed an All-American career with the Seminoles on the track in the spring, will be honored in Indianapolis on Sunday as one of 30 semifinalists for NCAA Woman of the Year honors. She was selected as one of 10 NCAA Division I honorees selected from more than 450 nominees.

A seven-time All-American and six=time ACC champion between cross country, indoor and outdoor track, Winslow was the ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year in both indoor and outdoor track in 2013. She also earned Capital One Academic All-American honors.

FSU women's cross country coach Karen Harvey, senior associate athletics director Vanessa Fuchs and associate athletics director Bernie Waxman will represent the university at the awards banquet.

Seminole Q-rating is up with sweep of ACC honors
Graduate student Sean Quinn and junior Colleen Quigley led the FSU men's and women's teams to a sweep of ACC Performer of the Week honors for their performances at the FSU Invitational. Quinn placed fifth overall in a lifetime best 8k time of 25:05.27 for the Seminoles, who placed second. Quigley smashed the Apalachee Regional Park course record by 35 seconds (16:55.53) in victory as the FSU women swept the top five spots. Both Quinn and Quigley were recently recognized for their academic prowess as well, repeating as Golden Torch winners.

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