SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Battered by rain, wind and blasts of cold air, the Florida State cross country teams delivered strong Notre Dame Invitational performances Friday – a day made for the postman.
Karen Harvey’s women routed the field in blustery conditions, with junior Amanda Winslow delivering a fourth-place finish to lead a trio of top 10 Seminoles. The seventh-ranked Seminoles totaled 54 points and were 62 clear of 18th-ranked runner-up Arkansas. They made a strong case for a major leap in the polls by blasting No. 2 New Mexico (164). In all, FSU dispatched five nationally-ranked teams from a field of 28, which included 26 with regional rankings.
Not to be outdone, FSU senior Mike Fout once again flourished on his home soil, placing third overall as the Seminole men posted a runner-up finish to BYU. Fout flourished, despite losing a shoe which required him to stop at one point, covering the five-mile course in 24:01. A mere two seconds separated the All-American from nearby La Porte, Ind. from race winner Miles Batty of BYU (23:59). Princeton’s Donn Cabral was second in 24:00.
“It was a good day and a great start to our season,” said Harvey, whose `Noles grabbed five of the top 18 spots. “I felt so bad for the kids. The course wasn’t fast at all.”
Harvey said a “sheet or rain and wind” buffeted the Seminoles over the final mile of the 5-kilometer race at the Notre Dame Golf Course.
Winslow seemed undeterred from the start.
“Big, big props to Amanda Winslow,” Harvey said. “She got off the (starting) line perfectly.”
Winslow splashed her way through the soaked course in 17:06 as the temperature dropped to 50 degrees, which felt much colder given the rain and 20 mph winds. Close on her heels were fellow junior co-captain Jessica Parry, who was sixth in 17:11, and grad student Hannah Brooks (10th, 17:16).
The Seminole women got a big lift from a pair of newcomers – junior transfer Violah Lagat and freshman Colleen Quigley – who paired up and raced across the line in 16th and 18th place, respectively. In their Division I debuts, Lagat crossed the line in 17:22, while Quigley was right behind at 17:24. Quigley was the first freshman to finish in the field of 225 runners.
In all, six of nine FSU women were making their competitive Division I debuts against a quality field.
“I think this really is a good start,” said Harvey. “Our top five spread (18 seconds, 14 places) was a little more than I wanted. … We’ve got a lot of building to do.”
FSU men’s coach Bob Braman brought a considerably more experienced team to Notre Dame than the women, but was nonetheless pleased with the fight the `Noles brought to the table. With Fout leading the charge, the Seminoles stuck all five scorers in the top 29 and dispatched seven nationally ranked teams.
“We went into it knowing it was going to be a challenge and from a coaching standpoint I was hoping it was going to be a challenge,” Braman said. “You can’t run fast this time of year, but you can compete hard. We did that today. …
“The bonus is we beat some teams and got some (national at-large) points. The big bonus was we had weather we had to deal with. We got rain, we got cold, we got wind. I thought we handled it well.”
Junior David Forrester was the second FSU finisher, placing 18th (24:33), right in front of redshirt senior Seth Proctor (20th, 24:34) and junior co-captain Wes Rickman (23rd, 24:39). Sophomore Jakub Zivec was 29th in 24:47.
A year ago, Proctor was the alternate on FSU’s NCAA runner-up team. Riding a strong track season, he has become a formidable cog in the Seminoles’ lineup.
“He’s going to be pretty darn good,” Braman said of Proctor. “He runs really under control and passes people along the way.”
Zivec, the ACC Freshman of the Year in 2010, turned in what Braman described as, “one of his better races; right up there with ACC’s last year.” The Czech-born Zivec finished three spots in front of Clemson’s Ty McCormack, another sophomore, who won the Clemson Invitational two weeks ago.
“Knock on wood, we’re going to get better,” Braman said.
Of course the individual story of the day was Fout, who held his own against Batty, who in April ran the fifth-fastest 1,500-meter time (3:36.25) in NCAA history. Batty began his collegiate career in 2005 – it was deterred by a two-year mission – and finished 15th at last year’s NCAA Cross Country Championships. Fout was 28th.
To keep Batty and Cabral – a five-time All-American – within striking distance was no small feat.
“To stop and put a shoe back on – that’s hard to run people down,” said Braman, who said Fout drew from a strong supporting contingent of friends and family from his hometown. “I’m really excited for Mike.”