The USF cross country team had an opportunity last weekend to compete against some of the best long distance runners in the country at the Furman Invitational in Furman, S.C.
This meet was a preview for the NCAA championships and featured many nationally ranked teams. The meet was divided into four different races to accommodate all of the participating teams. The women’s 6k purple race, which included USF, featured 37 teams, 12 of which are ranked in the top 25 or have received votes in the latest NCAA Division I poll. Participating in the race were teams from Georgetown, Stanford, Colorado, and N.C. State. The Bulls women’s team, ranked No. 1 in the south region, finished 13th in the purple race and 26th overall, with 362 points. Georgetown and Michigan State took top finishes in the women’s purple race.
“They are all outstanding teams in the top 25,” coach Heather Curtiss said. “Their performances show that they deserve their ranking. It was a confidence booster for us to see that we can compete at that level.”
The women’s team was lead by Kristy Fuller, who finished 19th with a time of 21:53. Tara Quinn placed 62nd with a time of 22:32. Christa Benton and Tiffany Quinn also placed in the top 100.
“We feel like we had an off week, but still did well. Many of the girls were not satisfied with their performances,” Curtiss said. “They did not run their best times. It was nice, however, to see that we have national caliber talent.”
The men’s team was led by Jim Vitale, who finished 168th with a time of 27:07 and Doug Brown, who finished 205th with a time of 28:19. The team finished 35th in the black race. “The men’s team only has a couple of athletes that can compete at this level. They gave good effort and ran hard. They are not ready for this,” Curtiss said.
With the Conference USA Championship meet coming up in two weeks, the women’s team will be training hard to repeat as league champions. It will be the biggest meet to date for the Bulls.
“Our performance against the best of the best in the country, gives us a lot of confidence that we are one of the top two teams in our region and that we belong there,” Curtiss said.