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A Podium 2-fer
Ciaran O'Lionaird led the FSU men's cross country team to a second place finish.

Ciaran O'Lionaird led the FSU men's cross country team to a second place finish.

Nov. 22, 2010

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By Bob Thomas Seminoles.com

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - It must have been a Seminole Wind that swept across the LaVern Gibson Championships Cross Country Course Monday, because the Florida State men's and women's teams were clearly in their element.

The Seminoles are returning from the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships with a pair of national runner-up trophies.

On a day when coach Karen Harvey's women nearly made a magical championship run, Bob Braman's men set a new standard with the program's best finish in history.

From an incredibly deep field, the FSU women came within 34 points of denying Villanova a successful national championship defense. Seniors Pilar McShine (ninth, 20:25) and Pasca Cheruiyot (17th, 20:31) led the charge for the Seminoles, who posted their fourth consecutive podium finish. In a repeat of last season's finishing order, Villanova nudged past FSU 120-154 to reclaim the title.

Sophomore Jessica Parry (22nd, 20:39) earned All-American honors, along with McShine and Cheruiyot. Junior Jennifer Dunn missed making it four All-Americans, finishing 41st (20:54), just .10 from the line of distinction. It was her second consecutive near-miss, despite a gutty effort through a stiff finishing head-wind over the 6-kilometer course.

"You want to come and have good showing and I think we did," said Harvey. "We almost had that magical day I was looking for."

Braman's team captured some magic over the 10-kilometer course. The FSU men came into the meet eyeing a top 10 finish and shocked the field with a tightly-packed top five, led by senior Ciaran O'Lionaird (18th, 30:14) and junior Michael Fout (28th, 30:21). Only 42 seconds separated the top five Seminoles, who shattered the program's previous best finish of eighth, set back in 1981.

FSU finished with 193 points - well behind champion Oklahoma State - but in front of perennial powers Wisconsin (223), Stanford (237), Oklahoma (281), Oregon (289) and Indiana (298).

The Seminoles were in third place at the midway point in the race; a pleasant surprise, considering Braman had asked his team to take a somewhat conservative approach in the early stages of the 6.2 race. But just before he sent his team to the starting line, he challenged them as well:

"Don't be afraid to chase the podium the second half of the race," he said.

FSU's men heeded the call and authored an improbable finish, with David Forrester (53rd, 30:14), Wes Rickman (59th, 30:41) and Alex Smyth (76th, 30:56) rounding out the scorers.

"What they did was just incredible," Braman said of his 11th-ranked team. "We thought on a perfect day we could get fourth, and even then we knew we had to just hit it right. To get that far off the charts - that's the first time that's happened in my career. To me that is right up there with winning a (track & field) national championship; it's that much gratifying as a coach."

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