FSU Invitational/Pre-State Preview


Cross country teams from all parts of the state will head to the Appalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee this weekend for a taste of the state meet course and competition. The FSU Invitational/Pre-State kicks off Friday with the college women's 5k and college men's 8k. Saturday the high school festivities will get underway with the Gold Boys & Girls Elite races starting at 7:40 and 8:05 a.m. We will be on-site with complete coverage of the event by Todd Grasley (race videos/interviews), Jeffrey Surran (race video), Joe Mizereck (photos), Doug Covert (photos), and Robert Brown (photos/recap).

Gold Boys Preview

Twenty-three teams from Florida will be joined by Norcross High School and Milton High School out of Georgia in this loaded race. On the individual side, a lot of running faithful were hoping to see flrunners.com ROC champion Carlos Miranda battling it out with Colonial star Andres Arroyo. Miranda will not be running in pre-state so that match up will have to wait for the postseason possibly Foot Locker South.  Arroyo who won the Pre-State meet last year at Little Everglades and finished 23rd at Great American should face his biggest test against Avery Lopez of Belen Jesuit. Lopez finished second behind Miranda at flrunners in a new personal best time of 15:13.20. Also running near the front should be the a pair of dynamic duos, Nick Morken and Thomas Howell of Niceville, and Tyler Bennett and Ace Brown of Fort Myers. Howell was second in this race last year while Morken was fourth in a less competitive field. Kurt Convey of Coral Reef, Garrett Westlake of P.K. Yonge, and Kenneth Pineiro of Deland all had great performances at flrunners.com Invitational and will be competing this week as individuals. Freshman standout Brandon Marquez of Timber Creek is my dark horse in this race. I don't think he will win, but all he has done since his win at Winter Springs is drop time. Look for that to continue on the state meet course and give the youngster some valuable experience he can use in November.

On the team side, you have the reigning 1A (Holy Trinity), 3A (Belen Jesuit), and 4A (Colonial) state champions. Last year, Belen Jesuit dismantled the field at Little Everglades and I don't think the change of venue will result in a change of outcome. Coach Ruiz squad always splatters the course with hints of blue and gold at the front.  The Wolverines are nationally ranked and for good reason led by Avery Lopez and Fabian Thomas. They won flrunners.com Race of Champions easily for the third year in a row. Colonial and Holy Trinity traveled to North Carolina for Great American last weekend and got a taste of what national competition is like. Both teams didn't perform up to their expectations and should be out with a vengeance this weekend. Holy Trinity won the FSU Invitational in 2011. Fort Myers had a strong showing at FLR13 finishing second in the Boys Race of Champions and should be in the mix for the top three. Fort Walton Beach has a strong pack and should also finish in the top group of teams.

Gold Girls Preview

Just like the boys race, the girls gold race will be stacked with top talent from across the state of Florida and some great competition from the state of Georgia as well. Before last weekend, there are a number of names you could have thrown as possible winners, but after her win at the flrunners.com Race of Champions, and Warrior of the Week performance, Fort Myers junior Emily Edwards has to be at the top of that list. Edwards beat an incredible field in a state leading time of 17:43.80. Another Emily, Emily Headley of Olympia had one of the best races of her sophomore season finishing in the top 25 at Great American. Holy Trinity's Julie Wollrath also finished in the top 25 in North Carolina and has won every other race she entered in 2012.  Wollrath was second at the FSU Invitational last year. Many of the top 20 runners at the flrunners.com Race of Champions will also be in the mix including Nikita Shah (2nd), Julia Montomery of Pine Crest (3rd)  Bryce Seymour of Hagerty (4th), Estero's Kacy Smith(5th) and Katy G. Solis. Sarah Candiano, Sarah Day, and Britney Olinger are all entered as individuals and should be factors in the race. Katherine Yost of Norcross, Georgia was 20th at the  Foot Locker South Regional last year and has run 18:29.01 this year. This one is so tough to pick a winner. The boys race 2-3 guys stick out, but on the girls side it could literally be anyone's day. Edwards, is at the top of the class, Shah nearly beat her last week. Montgomery is opening everyone's eyes as a freshman. Seymour finished fourth at flrunners, but hadn't lost a race before that. Katherine Yost of Norcross GA could also challenge. One thing that is guaranteed is that it will be a heck of a race on a true cross country course in Tallahassee.

On the team side, Estero is nationally ranked and has looked very strong this season. Coach Summer was pleased with his team's performance last week finishing flrunners.com Race of Champions for the second straight year. They are the clear favorite in 3A once again, and look to be the favorite at Pre-State. However, also look out for Plant. They have been a little under the radar thus far, but were only three points back of Estero at North Port and are honorable mention in this week's MileSplit national rankings. They are out to prove they are no slouch and hope to challenge for the big trophy. Ferguson, St. Thomas Aquinas, Olympia and Hagerty are some of the top teams in 4A. Bishop Kenny and Bolles are always strong in 2A, and Providence, Oak Hall, and Holy Trinity are the best of the best in 1A. Some of the state's bests in each of their classes, it looks to be a battle between these teams for third place. Watch out for Milton, led by Annie Kelly. I don't know too much about the Georgia teams, but according to meet director Chris Sumner, they are a legitimate contender and should give Estero a test this weekend.

Press Release from FSU

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – What began with a vision and a couple of men armed with a machete has evolved into one of the finest cross country courses in the land. The Apalachee Regional Park championship cross country course has been in use for nearly four years, but will get its first major test this weekend as the host site of the Florida State Invitational.
More than 2,600 collegiate, open and high school runners will compete in the two-day event, which marks the 40th anniversary of the first Florida State Invitational.
The action begins Friday with the College Women/Open 6-kilometer race at 6:15 p.m., followed by the College Men/Open 8-kilometer event at 6:45 p.m. It will culminate with 10 high school races on Saturday, which will bring together most of the top boys and girls teams in Florida,
who will use the meet as a preview for the FHSAA State Championship on the same 5-kilometer course on Nov. 17.
“It’s huge,” Florida State men’s coach Bob Braman said. “It will be one of the biggest meets ever in Florida. I think we can put on the best cross country meet ever in Florida with the things we’re doing and bringing in, from the chip mats to the giant GoTron (live results board), to the Nike presentation with all the interactive things, and the filming of the races from the media. It will be just a fantastic event and we’re excited about it.”
Florida State will send teams to the starting line in both races Friday, though many of their top runners will be sitting out to prepare for next week’s Pre-National Meet in Louisville, Ky. Still, with the course serving as the host site for the Nov. 9 NCAA South Regional, the collegiate competition figures to be the largest ever.
In all, 22 women’s teams and 20 men’s teams, including a host of ranked NCAA Division II squads, will compete in what figures to be one of the largest college meets held in Tallahassee in many years.
“It becomes the de facto NCAA South Regional meet and the de facto FHSAA State Championship; a precursor for two really, really big meets coming up here as well,” said Braman, who was at ground level when the plans for the course were put into motion.
Saturday's action for the high school divisions begins with the first race set for 7:40 a.m. and the final one going off at 11:45.
The ARP, as it is known locally, is a collaborative project between Leon County, Florida State University athletics and Gulf Winds Track Club. This will be the fourth year the FSU Invitational has been held at the course, after a lengthy run at Miccosukee Greenway, and prior to that, Seminole Golf Course.
“It all started with Brian Corbin of Gulf Winds Track Club and I going out there, with the OK for designing the course, along with several entities from Leon County,” Braman said. “It has just really come together.
“It’s in really good shape right now and the county really deserves credit for that. We’re getting closer and closer to a viable bid to host the NCAA National Championship. That will be Phase 2, to which in my mind is more like Phase 10 over five year, which we will get started once the cross country season is over. The work has been incredible from all those folks and organizations and probably too many volunteers to count. It has been truly a work-together-project.”
Many have donated time, labor and money to bring the project along to this point.
“The center of everything to this point has been putting the course together and getting everything developed,” Braman said. “Dean Richards, who is the park manager out there, he and his crew have just been incredible, bringing in materials and rolling the course – stuff that’s incredible for cross country.”
A large majority of the course improvements, giving the course a distinctively different feel that it had a year ago, have been made over the past six months. Wooden fences surround the racing area, a permanent awards stage has been built and the course has been widened significantly to help meet the minimum requirements to put in a bid to host the NCAA Championship.
Braman has added some additional touches by hiring Delta Timing, which has chip mats placed along the course, that will allow for instantaneous team scoring. That information will be projected onto a giant screen – the GoTron – that will enable race fans and coaches to monitor the progress of their teams throughout the race.
Nike has joined in and will have a 40x40 tent with interactive events and merchandise, and is also supplying flagging, streamer and signage throughout the course. A giant Seminole head – similar to the one at midfield inside Doak Campbell Stadium – is perfectly framed by two giant Live Oak trees near the finish chute.
It will truly be a one-of-a-kind cross country event; the largest ever held in North Florida.
Admission and parking are free.

Race Schedule


6:15 PM Collegiate Women/Open 6k
6:45 PM Collegiate Men/Open 8K


7:40 AM High School (Elite) – Boys 
8:05 AM High School (Elite) – Girls 
8:35 AM High School (Invite) – Boys 
9:00 AM High School (Invite) – Girls 
9:30 AM High School (Large Schools) - Boys 
9:55 AM High School (Large Schools) - Girls 
10:25 AM High School (Small Schools) - Boys 
10:50 AM High School (Small Schools) - Girls 
11:20 AM High School Warrior Boys - (JV)
11:45 AM High School Warrior Girls - (JV)

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