TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The penultimate event in NCAA Division I cross country is coming to Tallahassee for the first time in 2012 as Florida State has been selected as the host for the NCAA South Regional Cross Country Championships.
Apalachee Regional Park, the fourth-year home course of the Florida State program, will serve as the host site for the races, which will be contested Friday, November 9.
Automatic and at-large qualifying teams and individuals advance to the NCAA Championships from nine regional meets across the nation.
“This is a big deal,” Florida State cross country and track coach Bob Braman said. “The cool thing about this is it’s big-time, championship cross country. You’re going to have some of the best runners in the country; elite level teams. This isn’t like an invite where coaches decide whether they’re going to send their best kids, worst kids or are training through it. This is the qualifier for the national championship.
“You’re going to see our stars against elite-level teams in the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida.”
Last year’s NCAA South Regional, at the University of Alabama’s Harry Pritchett Running Course, drew 27 women’s and 24 men’s teams. Florida State swept the team titles. It was the fourth regional crown in five years for FSU women’s coach Karen Harvey’s squad, and the second in six years for the men under Braman’s direction.
Florida State would not have been positioned to host the meet if not for the continued development and improvements to the Apalachee Regional Park (ARP) course, which has been built and maintained through the joint efforts of Leon County, Gulf Winds Track Club and the university. The championship meet will be contested over spectator-friendly courses that cover 10,000 meters for the men and 6,000 meters for the women.
“We’ve got a big-time course that we’re making better every day with the county, Gulf Winds Track Club and Florida State being on board,” Braman said. “I think this is as good a venue as any in the country for regional competition.”
The course already serves as the host site for the annual FSU Cross Country Invitational, a two-day, collegiate, open and high school meet that draws hundreds of competitors and fans each October. This year’s FSU Invitational is set for October 5-6, with the Friday college races significantly impacted by regional site selection.
“I think it [the regional] really amps it up,” Braman said. “We have already secured the NCAA meet referee, Doug Allen, to come down to do our Seminole Invite and Regional. I’ve already been contacted by a number of schools and think you’re going to see teams from all over.”
And it could grow even larger on the high school side. Tallahassee has submitted a bid with the Florida High School Athletics Association to host the 2012 state cross country championships at the ARP on November 17. Traditionally, high schools have traveled to the state meet site each year for a Pre-State Meet.
A successful bid for the state high school meet would lend further credence to the ARP’s self-proclaimed “Cross Country Playground” slogan.
Regardless, the NCAA South Regional Championships will be the most significant cross country event ever hosted by Florida State. The school has previously hosted a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference Championships – in 1997 at Seminole Golf Course and 2005 at Miccosukee Greenway – as well as the 1991 USA Junior Nationals at Seminole Golf Course.
In the meantime, Braman said the course, which is also used by the community, continues to evolve. Plans are in place to further widen portions of the course, build a permanent podium structure as well as make aesthetic upgrades with additional fencing and clearing of spectator areas.