One week ago, during the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship, the Florida A&M men’s cross-country team proved it was a power in the conference. This week, it plans to prove itself to the southern region.
Saturday, FAMU will travel to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to participate in the 2011 NCAA Regional Cross Country Championship.
Head coach Wayne Angel said the team’s objective during the competition is to rewrite history books. They want to be the first team in school history to secure a top-20 finish at the regional meet, and to be the first to have a runner qualify for the NCAA National Cross Country Championship, which will be held in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 21.
“The spirits are high,” Angel said. “Our focus going into the meet is on doing something that has never been done before at FAMU – we want to create history.”
The regional championship will include 45 teams; many of them are established. A sample of the lineup includes the South-Eastern Conference schools Florida, Alabama and Georgia. The Athletic Coast Conference’s Florida State – No. 16 in the nation – will also compete.
To prepare for the championship, the team has increased the intensity of its workouts. The championship’s course is 10 kilometers, which is two kilometers longer than what the team is familiar with. In order to accommodate the longer distance, the team has increased running mileages during practice.
“We have raised our mileages since the MEAC championship to prepare us for this 10K,” junior Lamere Buchanan said. “I believe we have always been ready physically. But now we have to be ready mentally.”
Angel said he is optimistic about the team’s chances of making an impact. He also said the team’s outcome would rely heavily on its big three – Shuaib Winters, Elias Chesire and Buchanan. Each finished within the top-15 during the MEAC championship and received All-MEAC honors in the process.
“Winters, Chesire and Buchanan are going to have to run the race of their lives – tactically and physically,” he said. “They are going to have to be on their A-game.”
Winters said the key to success is to run with intelligence. Doing so could also produce the national-qualifying runner the team is seeking, he added.
“I have to go out there and run a smart race. If I can score low, I can help the team and also make it to nationals,” he said. “The plan is to start at a conservative pace and pick it up later in the race.”
The regional championship will begin at 10 a.m. on the Harry Pritchett Running Course.