With record books on its mind, the Florida A&M men’s cross country team set three goals for the regional championship’s outcome on Saturday. It was delighted to have accomplished two of them.
FAMU walked away from the 2011 NCAA South Regional Cross Country Championship at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa with 417 points and 17th place overall.Shuaib Winters garnered 17th place and All-South Regional honors while leading the team to a top-20 finish.
The Rattlers’ 17th-place finishwas the highest regional finish of all Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference teams during the 2011 season. Winters also became the first MEAC runner to earn All-South Regional honors.
Winters (31:45.05) finished the 10-kilometer race about three seconds shy of earning a trip to the 2011 NCAA National Cross Country Championship. He said he is disappointed about his near miss, butplans to use it as a learning tool.
“I am a little disappointed that I was so close to nationals, but I am going to learn from it and hopefully make it next year,” Winters said. “Next year, I will know what level of intensity is needed to qualify.”
Five schools from the state of Florida competed in the regional. FAMU finished ahead of both North Florida (19th, 429) and South Florida (22nd, 570), while falling short of No.16 Florida State (1st, 40) and the University of Florida (2nd, 68).
Winters has a different attitude about the team’s overall performance.
“We did great. We are now the third-fasted team in Florida. That alone says enough,” he said.
The team anticipated the championship’s competitive atmosphere for two weeks. Because of this, head coach Wayne Angel said it was nervous about how well it would perform. Overall, Angel said he was satisfied with its performance, despite its anxiety.
“As a team, I’m very pleased,”Angel said. “I knew going into it, a lot of these guys were kind of scared to compete at this level. But with the way that they competed, I was very pleased. They didn’t give up, they did the best that they could.
“I think FAMU represented itself very well. We had an individual who received All-Regional honors. That’s never happened in school history, let alone a top-20 ranking,” he added.
Angel said the team’s performance during the championship indicates that the men are in a position to make an impact early on during the upcoming indoor track and field season.
“This is going to help them have a stronger base,” Angel said. “They’re going to be fit. When we start doing faster intervals and repetitions, they are going to be able to run the type of races that are needed to win at MEAC (Indoor Championship) and qualify for nationals (NCAA National Championship).”
The Indoor Track and Field season will begin in December.