Nov. 22, 2013
TERRE HAUTE, Ind.- The Florida State women's cross country team, ranked No. 4 in the final USTFCCCA coaches' poll, will chase a sixth consecutive top-four finish at Saturday's NCAA Championships meet on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
Fresh off an 81-point win over Vanderbilt for the NCAA South Region title, the Seminoles are figure to be pushed by a strong field, which includes top-ranked Providence, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgetown, Villanova, Colorado, Stanford and Washington. The competition won't be the only factor during the 6,000-meter race.
Rain throughout the last week, coupled with a race on the course last weekend, has turned a challenging course even more difficult. Officials closed the puddled and muddy course to runners for practice on Thursday and limited access Friday. A hard freeze was expected Friday night and race time temperatures are not expected to climb past the mid-30s with winds gusting to 15 mph.
Individually qualifier junior Bryant Blahnik will represent the Florida State men in the 10,000-meter race, set for 12 noon. The Seminole women will follow at 1:15 p.m.
Live Results: http://branchsportstech.com/2013_Meets/xc/11-23-NCAA/
"It takes a village to get our athletes here healthy," FSU coach Karen Harvey said. "For us to be here healthy and ready to go, it's a complete blessing. I'd like to see my girls take full advantage of being 100-percent and peaking at the right time."
The Seminole women have finished in the top four each of the past five years at the NCAA Championship meet and returning to the podium - placing in the top four - remains the goal. Many expect this will be one of the most competitive championships in years.
Junior All-American Colleen Quigley, who placed 12th at last year's championship and won the NCAA South Regional individual title last week, is excited about the challenge ahead.
"I know the course pretty well," said Quigley, a St. Louis, Mo. native who has run three collegiate races on the course, including the 2011 NCAA Championships. "We did jog on it this morning and saw the puddles and the mud. It's the same for everybody. I'm from the Midwest, so I'm not scared of that. It's going to be a goody muddy time out there tomorrow.
"I think it's going to be fun for us. A lot of us are strong runners anyway. ... We lift weights and I think that's really prepared us well. We've got a couple girls on the team from England, who this is not even close to what they're used to running. This is the kind of stuff they're used to at home, so they're not scared. "
Harvey believes her 2013 team, which includes five first-year NCAA Championship runners, has put in the necessary work to flourish under any conditions.
"I'm really grateful that we worked really hard in the weight room and I think that's going to be very key," Harvey said. "I said to my strength coach [Dan Schaefer] before we left, `Thank you so much.' It's going to take a beast to run that course, if you're going to do it focused. You can be physically prepared all you want but are you going to be able to block out all of the distractions, because there are so many. "Physically, I'm excited about this team."
In addition to Quigley, juniors Hannah Walker and Linden Hall, and sophomores Pippa Woolven and Carly Thomas, have made up FSU's top five in their recent ACC and NCAA South Championship runs. Sophomore Georgia Peel and freshman Anna Holdiman - another Midwesterner - round out the seven Harvey expects to put on the starting line to chase a podium finish and perhaps a team title. Walker, Woolven and Peel all hail from Great Britain.
Unlike the last two years, the Seminoles are not the favorites.
"Everybody hopes for first," Quigley said. "It's definitely different. We were ranked No. 1 the last two years coming into this meet. ... It is a lot of pressure and a lot to think about, especially when you're ranked No. 1 the whole year long.
"We're just going to get out there and see what we can do. Nobody expects us to win."
You can follow the action at the links above and also via Twitter @FSU_XCountry. A full recap of the meet will be posted at Seminoles.com and also on the official Florida State Seminoles Cross Country page.