A Win & A Fourth (Florida State)

Top-ranked FSU XC women claim Pre-Nationals title; men a solid fourth

By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The opportunity to get an early look at the NCAA Championship Cross Country course more than paid dividends for the nationally ranked Florida State cross country teams Saturday at the NCAA Pre-Nationals Meet.

Facing quality fields over a fast track at the E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park, the Seminoles performed at a level equal to, or better than, their rankings while learning a bit about the course where they plan to conclude the season on Nov. 17.

Violah Lagat and Colleen Quigleyfinished fourth and sixth, respectively, leading the top-ranked Florida State women to victory over a field of 38 teams, including six other nationally ranked squads. The Seminoles edged fourth-ranked Oregon, 72-87 for the team title, with No. 8 Michigan (141 points) and No. 6 Georgetown (163) finishing third and fourth.

“That was close,” FSU women’s coach Karen Harveysaid. “I was nervous there for a while. We learned a lot and saw some of the things we’re going to have to get better. … We just wrote our mid-term and did pretty well on it, but there’s a lot more work to do before NCAA’s yet.”

The FSU men came to the meet ranked 14th – behind four others – and brought home a fourth-place finish. Jakub Zivec was 10th overall in 23:29.3 over the 8-kilometer course, followed by Breandan O Neill, who was 17th in 23:45.0. Seventh-ranked Colorado claimed the team title with 72 points, followed by No. 3 BYU (127) and No. 15 Oregon (153). The `Noles finished with 275 points.

Along the way the Seminoles edged ACC contenders Duke and Virginia Tech, which finished fifth and sixth, respectively. They also picked up some quality NCAA Championship-qualifying points by defeating four nationally-ranked teams: No. 9 Tulsa, No. 12 Villanova, No. 20 Georgetown and No. 23 William & Mary.

“I thought we competed very well,” FSU men’s coach Bob Bramansaid. “For us, mission accomplished, if it was just to learn the course and get some points. There’s no question we learned a lot. Now we’ve got to get ready for the final five weeks of the championship season.”

Beyond the team performances, there were some especially impressive individual efforts by the Seminoles, who competed in the biggest, longest and most competitively deep meet of the early season.

Lagat became the third different runner to finish as FSU’s top runner this season, a testimony to the Seminoles’ quality depth. The senior co-captain was fourth overall in a personal-best time of 20:00.6 over the 6-kilometer course. More importantly for the team, she split up Oregon’s touted 1-2 punch of Alexi Pappas and Jordan Hasay to set the stage for FSU’s victory.

“It was very exciting to be with all the girls that were in the top 10 in NCAA Championship last year,” Lagat said. “Coach just wanted us to run in the front with the leading group. … I think it helped me because the entire race I could see them.”

“I was definitely happy,” Harvey said of the performance.” Violah, just like outdoor track, is realizing she can be one of the best in the country and she definitely showed that today. … I think there’s more in the tank and I’m really excited about her going into ACC’s and Nationals.”

Quigley, coming off her victory at the Notre Dame Invitational two weeks ago, was equally impressive. She also established a personal-best time of 20:06.4 and her sixth-place finish on the heels of Hasay, the 2011 NCAA runner-up, bodes well for FSU’s long-range plans this season.

Lagat, Quigley and senior co-captain Amanda Winslow ran together most of the way as the Seminoles waged war with the Ducks, who opened the season ranked No. 1 nationally and were clearly intent on reclaiming that spot. Winslow and fellow senior Kayleigh Tyermanplayed no small role in denying the Ducks, finishing 14th and 16th, respectively, in 20:15.9 and 20:22.3. Those spots, ahead of Oregon’s No. 3 runner, helped the Seminoles secure the team title.

Senior Jessica Parrysealed the deal for the `Noles with her 31st-place finish – three spots in front of Oregon’s fifth and final scoring runner – in 20:45.9.

Zivec was pleased with his performance, but came away from the meet with a great appreciation of what the Seminole men need to do over the final five weeks of the season.

“As a team, we did OK, but we still need to step up if we want to win ACC’s, which we do,” the junior said. “It will be a challenge [during practice] the next two weeks. We have the talent and the potential. Now it’s all got to come together.”

Still, he is quickly proving to be one of the elite runners not only in the ACC, but also nationally. Coming off a fourth-place finish at Notre Dame, Zivec was anxious to see where he fit in among an even stronger field. He started conservatively, then men a huge surge, propelling himself to a 10th-place showing with a performance that could portend All-American honors in a few weeks.

“When we started, the first mile was probably as fast as the first mile at Notre Dame,” Zivec said. “The whole team, we were much more ready. I felt much better; much fresher.”

That showed when he made his move midway through the race.

“I was in the second group, chasing the first group, and I felt I could go faster and make it a great effort,” he added. “I caught up with the back of the first group.”

“It was impressive,” Braman said of Zivec’s big move, which thrust him into the thick of the lead pack.

On the men’s side, senior Seth Proctor’s first 8k race of the season produced a solid 55th-place finish in 24:05.0; third among all `Noles. Paul Lagno (77th, 24:17.6) and Wes Rickman(116th, 24:37.0) rounded out the Seminole scorers.

Rickman best demonstrated the competitiveness of the Seminoles’ effort, when he ran down Virginia Tech’s Kevin Dowd – the Hokies’ No. 5 runner – in the late stages, which allowed FSU to hold their ACC rivals at bay.

While Duke, which finished fifth with 287 points, packed four runners together between 39th and 52nd, the Seminoles were seemingly in a head-to-head battle with Virginia Tech all day. The Hokies finished sixth with 288 points.

“Duke did a nice job and we were able to beat a couple of really good ACC teams who had very good days,” said Braman, who was pleased, but not satisfied with the overall performance of the men.

The Seminoles will spend the next two weeks preparing for the Oct. 27 ACC Championship meet in Blacksburg, Va., and will host the NCAA South Region meet at Apalachee Regional Park on Nov. 9. The NCAA Championship meet is set for Nov. 17 back in Louisville.

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