LOUISVILLE, Ky.– It’s fitting that the city which hosts one of the most famous races in the world and has produced “The Greatest” champion of all time serves as the backdrop for the single most important event on the Florida State cross country schedule in 2012.
The women’s 6-kilometer championship race is scheduled for a 12 noon start, with the men going in the 10-kilometer at 1:15 p.m. The championships will be streamed live at NCAA.com.
The steeples at Churchill Downs, home to the Kentucky Derby, and boxing legend Muhammad Ali are iconic figures in Louisville, but E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park is venue where the Seminole women and men will slug it out Saturday at the 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
It’s the destination and event coach Karen Harvey’stop-ranked Seminole women have been pointing toward for a year as the push to claim their perch on the top step of the championship podium.
The veteran Seminoles are the favorites in a field of 31 full teams and 38 individual qualifiers who will compete for the national championship, just as they were a year ago when they finished fourth.
Led by senior co-captains Violah Lagat and Amanda Winslow, fellow classmate Kayleigh Tyerman and sophomore Colleen Quigley, the Seminoles will be pushed by second-ranked and perennial power Oregon and third-ranked Iowa State.
“There are two, three other good teams out there that could be feeling and thinking the same things; peaking at the right time and it’s all about peaking,” Harvey said.
“To be honest, the way we performed at ACC’s wasn’t the greatest collective effort that I have seen. It’s really made them come even harder and focus more on nationals.
“That is our final goal. We learned a lot last year and we want to apply it this year and run to the best of our ability. I believe if we run to the best of our ability we can win.”
On the men’s side, the Seminoles enter the meet ranked No. 18 nationally, but like the women are coming off an impressive romp to last week’s NCAA South Region championship. That’s a promising sign for coach Bob Braman’steam, which appears to be rounding into peak condition after a season-long battle to overcome offseason injuries.
“Coming off where we were last Friday … I felt like what we ran was top 10 (worthy),” Braman said. “I felt like we gained our focus. Outside of winning the conference, the season has gone pretty much to plan, where we thought we would be.”
Finishing in the top 10 is the annual target for Braman’s men, who were 12th last season after finishing second in 2010. Junior Jakub Zivec and seniors Breandan O Neill, David Forrester and Wes Rickmanare all capable of claiming All-American honors, which would certainly set up the Seminoles for a big day.
While top-ranked Oklahoma State, defending champion Wisconsin, along with Oklahoma, Stanford and Colorado are expected to battle for the team title, Braman said the Seminoles are, “in that next group.”
“You may have more teams who have a reasonable claim of a top 10 goal than you’ve ever had,” said Braman, who expects his team to mix it up with Arkansas, Iona, Michigan, Virginia and Texas, among others, in pursuit of that goal.
“It’s a big chase group.”