Nov. 30, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.- After surpassing expectations at the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships just two weeks ago with a national runner-up title, the Florida State women’s cross country team heads into winter break with not only a new trophy from nationals, but also with a sigh of relief that the hard work they put in over five months paid off.
"What an amazing ending to the season,” FSU head coach Karen Harvey said. “We have been up and down all fall. It’s crazy to think we were seventh at the Notre Dame Invite and ended up ACC Champions and NCAA Runner Up. It’s a testimony to the ladies for persevering through it all. They truly had faith in each other and their goals."
Although several of the meets throughout the season seemed to be a breeze for the ‘Noles, the 2009 season brought a lot of adversity for the squad to overcome. The squad opened the season with a first-place finish at the Covered Bridge Open with senior Amanda Quick pacing the ‘Noles alongside sophomore Jennifer Dunn who would turn out to be one of the biggest assets in FSU’s success during the season.
The women continued their domination at the Virginia Tech Invitational with another first-place trophy by posting seven runners in the top 10 to score 26 points. As the team co-captain, Pilar McShine stepped up to lead the Seminoles in second place (16:25.2), while newcomer Pasca Cheruiyot quickly followed in third place (16:25.8). It was then that Coach Harvey realized how important McShine and Cheruiyot were going to be in leading the team back to the podium at nationals.
With two first-place finishes under their belt, FSU then tracked it to the Notre Dame Invitational where the team hit their first bump of the season. Although the Seminoles were looking to finish in the top three again, the squad earned seventh place with two athletes finishing in the top 25. McShine once again stepped up to lead Florida State finishing in 19th (17:10) with freshmen Jessica Parry rounding off the top 25 (17:17).
While a few members of the team turned their attention to the FSU Invitational where the squad broke in the new home course, the other Seminoles continued training for the start of the championship season just a week away. In the absence of the ‘Noles captain at the home meet, Dunn rose to the occasion with a first place finish (17:41.43) to help FSU win second place and continue the momentum into the championship season.
At the pre-national meet, the Seminoles showed their strength with two top 10 finishes that earned the squad second place. In addition, team captain Susan Kuijken opened up her season with a second place individual finish (20:20.8) with Cheruiyot continuing her solid year by taking third place (20:36.6). Kuijken then led the team at the ACC Championship race winning her third-consecutive title with a first-place finish time of 19:39.3 that helped Florida State win the crown for the third straight season. Thanks to five top 14 finishes to post 37 points, FSU dominated the field with Kuijken, McShine in third place (20:06.4) and Cheruiyot’s sixth place finish (20:18.6) to round off the top 10.
In the team’s last stint before the national race, Florida State traveled to regionals where Coach Harvey looked to McShine and Cheruiyot to step up as Kuijken’s chronic injury caused her to sit the meet out. With McShine’s personal-record time of 20:31.15 to earn sixth place and Cheruiyot’s seventh place time of 20:31.28, FSU was able to post a second-place finish and earn another automatic bid to nationals.
It was at the NCAA’s that Florida State showed their strength and true growth of the program with a national runner-up finish that saw three Seminoles earning All-America status. For the third-consecutive season, Florida State earned a spot on the podium, but it was this season that featured FSU earning the highest team finish in school history. Pacing the squad in her last race at FSU was Kuijken as she battled to the finish line for a third place spot (19:58) while Cheruiyot came in 15th (20:23) and freshman Amanda Winslow finishing in 33rd place with a new personal record time of 20:44.
"Looking back on NCAA’s you can say it was heartbreaking to watch Susan come so close to winning again only to be stopped by the same chronic cramp,” Coach Harvey said. “But then you think what about Pasca who stepped up, and true freshman Amanda Winslow who we asked to be top 80 and she finishes 39th earning All-American honors. Jennifer Dunn places 42nd missing All-American honors by only two spots. There were slight disappointments, but then some real shining moments. We went into NCAA’s ranked eighth as a team, and said anything around third or fourth would be incredible, but the ladies wanted more and got the second place finish. What a great season. It’s time to rest now, but if you see us walking around campus grinning you know why."
The Seminoles will take a few weeks off before heading to the track for the 2010 season that opens on July 15th at the Virginia Tech Invitational.