BLACKSBURG, Va. – The preliminary meets are very nearly over for the nationally ranked Florida State cross country teams, but Friday’s Virginia Tech Invitational/Pre-ACC meet plays an instrumental role in the Seminoles’ 2012 preparation schedule.
Don’t expect blistering times, or even outright team, wins from the 10th-ranked FSU men or the third-ranked women. Getting the opportunity to test out the course that will host the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships in late October and build onto their training bases is far more important.
“The fact that you’ve got four ACC teams competing at an odd time in the schedule is very exciting for us,” Braman said. “Every time we’ve got on the conference course, it has always paid dividends.”
In addition to the Seminoles and host Hokies of Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech are also expected to compete when the gun goes off. The 6-kilometer women’s race is set for 6 p.m., followed by an 8-kilometer men’s race at 6:40 p.m.
“This is a new course to most everybody,” Braman said, who doesn’t mind that expected ACC challengers North Carolina and NC State will not be on hand. “It think it’s really important for us to get out there and run the course. It is valuable because it is a loopy course.”
“We’ll race it, but it serves a lot of purposes. We’re excited about it.”
Braman plans to suit up what he expects to be his full roster for the ACC Championship, led by senior captains David Forrester, Wes Rickman and Breandan O Neill. He will also get a first-hand look at heralded freshman signee and Great Britain native Zak Seddon, a talented steeplechase competitor at the world junior level.
Newcomers Paul Lagno, who was FSU’s top finisher at the season-opening Covered Bridge Invitational, rising junior standout Jakub Zivec, Oklahoma transfer Josh Gracia, Sean Quinn and redshirt freshman Will Bridges round out the FSU men’s lineup.
“It’s a debut for Zak Seddon, who is certainly a candidate for ACC Freshman of the Year,” Braman said. “He’s looked really good. He’s as good as advertised.”
Braman said he hopes to keep his pack of nine together through at least the first half of the race before cutting them loose to push through to the finish line.
“There are some challenges in there,” he said of the rolling terrain. “We want to feel the challenge.”
Harvey will employ a very similar strategy with her veteran women’s team, who, like the men’s squad, have never raced competitively on the Virginia Tech course. Even more so than Braman, she won’t be caught up in the results as much as she is interested in seeing how her team responds in the midst of a demanding training cycle.
“We’re training much harder now than we were a year,” said Harvey, who will have five seniors in the lineup “It’s going to be interesting to see how we run with tired legs and achieve a hard effort.”
Seniors Amanda Winslow, Violah Lagat, Kayleigh Tyerman, Jessica Parry and Jennifer Dunn lead a group that is expected to compete for a national championship. They will be joined in Friday’s lineup by sophomore Linden Hall, who won the Covered Bridge Invitational and graduate student transfer Jess Butler, who was the runner-up in the season-opener. Sophomores Colleen Quigley and Aubree Worden, scorers at last year’s NCAA Championship meet, are back a year stronger. Freshman Carly Thomas will also get her first competitive race at 6-kilometers, rounding out the squad.
A year ago at the Pre-ACC meet, Harvey held her troops back in a controlled effort before letting them race to the finish over the final kilometers.
“I think I’m going to have a couple of girls go earlier than with a [kilometer] to go, but most will test late,” Harvey said. “We just want to run hard enough that the girls can tell me – especially the veterans – can tell me, ‘Yes coach, we’re running the workouts we need,’ or, ‘No, we need to do more of this,’ … Their feedback after this race is huge.
“It’s more about us getting another hard effort in this week, checking it out and mentally having a picture for preparation, so they can go back to that course for the ACC.”
A year ago, Harvey did not know what to expect from half her roster entering the Pre-ACC meet. The team went on to bring home its fifth consecutive ACC Championship trophy and finished fourth at the NCAA Championship meet.
This year, Harvey has as a much better gauge and is especially anxious to see how much improvement they’ve made, especially Hall, Tyerman, Quigley and Worden, who were all first-year Seminoles in 2011.
“I already know going into this meet, watching workouts, they’re a completely different monster,” Harvey said of her squad. “Everybody seems better and more mature physically. The biggest challenge will be how much better mentally will we be this year.”