How quickly things can change. Before this year, most people probably viewed Florida State as a sprints/jumps program with a few flashes of distance brilliance exhibited every once in awhile. The distance squad and cross country teams have constantly searched for the kind of depth that allow consistent performance through the post-season, whilst our sprint coaches have simply looked for distance to compliment at least a little the terrific efforts of our dash-runners and field event specialists. There have been some amazing individual athletes come under Coach Braman's tutelage in the past couple of years, and those runners have a place in FSU history that simply cannot be ignored. They are mentioned quite often still, by Coach ("that's a Joep or Lemon session right there!) or by current athletes who still recognize the tremendous leadership qualities of Gunny and Bucky.
Yet when one takes a look at the distance outfit currently donning the FSU singlet, one cannot help but marvel not at the individual performances at the top-end which have been the mantra of our program traditionally but at the depth throughout that group that has led to some amazing performances by some unheralded athletes in the past few weeks.
No meet illustrated this depth better than Saturday's UNC Last Chance meet, which saw two walk-ons, Seth Proctor and Nick Maedel (coming off a Thursday 30:30 10k) earn marks of 14:07 and 14:13 respectively. Before this year these times would have solidified the two as the best American 5k runners Coach Braman has had during his tenure at Florida State. However, these times have come off the back of outstanding runs from Mike Fout (13:47/28:34) and Wes Rickman (13:59 and a conference bronze) as well as some decent outings for David and myself at the conference too. Coming to practice and taking a look around, it may be difficult to tell that this program has taken a step forward. The demeanor remains the same. Yet the credentials have changed and that's a testament to the work of our coaches and those of the support staff and of course the athletes themselves. In particular one can look at a guy like Nick, outside 16mins for 5k in high school and a guy with numerous injury issues in his time here as someone who truly illustrates the characteristics of an Unconquered Seminole, one who has taken adversity in his stride (pardon the pun) and embraced those odds that have been so stacked against him in a way that has led to such an amazing breakthrough.
As I look at the two years I have spent in Tallahassee, I won't be so thrilled with my individual performances in the uniform as I will be of the state of my team in general. One in which any guy, regardless of background can emerge and validate themselves as a top-class runner. The success of our group on the top end has made it that in order to be in that top-5, one must look at a being a 14minute-type guy. That realization and expectation I believe is something that will take this team to a new level. In many ways it already has. 2nd place at NCAA XC was viewed by many as a surprise and a fluke. For us, it served as the starting point. Step one. I am done with XC eligibility but I am as eager as anybody to see our group atop this program. The expectation mentioned earlier is the adds to the hunger. One place higher should satiate it for our guys, and I have no doubt that it is attainable.
That you have three separate groups of 14:10 or under guys working out together on a trail suggests not division but unity in strength. The individualization of our training and specificity of workouts conveys the truth that FSU no longer has 13:40 guys but different kinds of 13:40 guys. Groups that feed off pure aerobic basework, and others that do the same off speed work. The journey may take us separate ways, but the final destination remains constant. Distance is ready to step up in this post season, and it's a fantastic thing to be a part of.
Til next time, GO NOLES