Oct. 31, 2013
KERNERSVILLE, N.C.- A larger, deeper pool of talented teams and individuals greet the Florida State cross country teams Friday at Beeson Park, where the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships will be contested.
In the first contested ACC Championships including newcomers Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, the Seminole men and women, perennial contenders and champions for the better part of the last 10 years, will be tested.
FSU women's coach Karen Harvey, whose program has produced five consecutive titles - the second-longest title streak in conference history - will face significant challenges to keep the streak alive. Ranked fifth nationally, Florida State will be challenged by an old nemesis, No. 10 Virginia, and three other nationally ranked teams (Syracuse, Notre Dame and Boston College). Duke, which was ranked as high as No. 4 nationally earlier in the season, could also factor in the team title chase.
Coach Bob Braman's Seminole men, who have finished fourth or better in each of the last 10 ACC Championship meets, will be pressed to keep that run going. Despite a 10-runner lineup which represents FSU's most healthy group this season, the unranked `Noles will have their hands full with the likes of No. 14 Syracuse, No. 18 North Carolina and No. 23 Notre Dame.
Five of 10 FSU men on the starting line today have never run at an ACC Championship before. Still, there is optimism, thanks to the return of 2012 All-American and two-time All-ACC performer Jakub Zivec, who will make his season debut. Zak Seddon's return to racing form and the season-long solid work from Josh Gracia, Bryant Blahnik and Matt Mizereck, provides FSU with a solid top five.
In a year of transition for both programs, the ACC Championship marks the first of at least two tests, which will measure their progress.
"When I think back to August and I think about all the new pieces and how it's going to work out, it has really worked out well for us," said Harvey. "That is a tribute to our staff, a tribute to our captains and all of the girls who have come on board. They want to continue a tradition of excellence at Florida State."
Captains Colleen Quigley and Linden Hall have been charged with instilling the importance of maintaining the Seminoles' streak of ACC titles within the ranks of a team that includes four Seminoles competing at the conference championship meet for the first time.
"We have a lot of people who weren't here for the streak, or weren't here when we just dominated the ACC without too much worrying about it," Quigley said. "I'm not sure that they were all too aware of it, but for me it's a huge deal because we've always won it and it would feel really weird not to win it this year.
"I think everyone, has kind of gotten a better idea as we've gone on what the ACC is about. They're definitely motivated to win."
Quigley, a two-time All-ACC performer, finished fourth at the meet last season as a sophomore. She enters Friday's race as one of the favorites, along with junior transfer and teammate Hannah Walker, Duke's Juliet Bottorff, NC State's Joanna Thompson, Notre Dame's Kelly Curran and Boston College's Liv Westphal.
"It's definitely different," Quigley said of her new role as a veteran leader and favorite. "It's more pressure. I felt like last year and the year before [people were saying], `You did so-and-so and you're only a sophomore. You have time.' ... Now, it's time to suck it up because I don't have a lot more time, I have to get it done. Also part of it is having more experience and more confidence and knowing a bit better of what to expect and knowing exactly how to approach a race like this."
Harvey is equally confident that Quigley and her teammates are fit and confident to perform at a high level when the gun goes off.
"Colleen is ready to run her best race of the year tomorrow, as well as everyone else," Harvey said. "We really have not done that yet. We have not shown what we can do. Tomorrow we're putting the money out there and betting it all. We have to take risks and earn our best race of the year."
"We're definitely excited," Quigley added. "We're ready to kill it."
ACC Championship action begins with the 8,000-meter men's race set for 10 a.m. and the women to follow at 11 a.m. over their 6,000-meter course. The weather forecast is calling for rain in the morning.
You can follow the action via Twitter @FSU_XCountry and @ACCTrackField #ACCXC. A complete recap will be available at Seminoles.com, along with race photos at: www.facebook.com/FSUSeminolesCrossCountry
ACC Cross Country Championships Site http://theacc.co/XCchamp