With the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship right around the corner, the Florida A&M men’s cross-country team is determined to prove it is a force to be reckoned with in the conference.
Given its performance at the University of Central Florida Black and Gold Challenge, it is doing exactly that.
The men walked away from Orlando’s challenge Friday evening with their spirits high and a 75-point third-place finish in the invitational.
All season long, the team has hoped to make an impact at the MEAC Championship. Because of its success, this hope has now coalesced with confidence.
“Everyone ran PR’s (personal records), pretty much. It was a plan well-executed,” head coach Wayne Angel said. “These guys really put it together. I think we’re rounding into the type of shape that will enable us to do something special at MEAC. I’m very proud of them.”
Leading the way for the Rattlers was senior Shuaib Winters (24:04.12), who has had consistently strong individual performances all season long, finishing third overall and 12 seconds shy of first place. Winters said he was happy about his performance.
Winters was not the only one making a solid impression. The meet was Kenyan runner Elias Chesire’s season debut. Judging by his performance, his extended lay-off was no limitation. He trailed not too far behind Winters, finishing fourth overall with a time of 25:18.38.
“I think I did pretty good,” Chesire said. “I did my best for my first meet.”
Angel thinks Chesire did pretty well, too.
“I think Elias’ performance was phenomenal,” Angel said. “It just goes to show that he’s a tough competitor. In a few weeks, we’re going to have two guys possibly in the top three at MEAC, which will make a serious impact. I’m really excited.” Entering the meet, the time difference between first and fifth place was a key issue for the Rattlers. Leaving the meet, that problem appeared to be resolved completely.
Junior Lamere Buchanan (26:52.57), who finished 22nd overall, was pleased with this achievement. “We ran excellent as a team. We all executed well,” Buchanan said. “I’m proud of how everyone competed.” Angel was equally satisfied with the team’s ability to close the gap between each other. “That was really a part of the things we wanted to do today,” Angel said. “Compared to last week, we actually focused in what needed to be done this time around.”
FAMU will cap the 2011 season, in Princess Ann, Md., in the MEAC Conference Championship on Oct. 29.