FORT MYERS, Fla. - On Saturday morning, the Florida Gulf Coast University men's and women's cross country teams will run in the Walt Disney World Cross Country Classic at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. The men's team will begin the 8K race at 7:45 am with the women following with the 5K event at 8:55 am.
This popular annual event attracts numerous colleges, high schools and middle schools from around the country. In 2005, 73 college teams and 256 high school teams from 20 states were represented. The fast 3K, 5K, and 8K courses provide athletes a variety of terrain and a unique view of Disney's sports complex. The Eagles will have a chance to see where they stack up against major Division I foes as well as some of the top D-II schools in the region.
At last year's Disney Classic, junior Mike Harney (North Fort Myers, Fla.) had the best finish on the men's side. He finished in 85th overall with a time of 28:06.19. FGCU finished 21st out of 38 teams. Harney's 8K time was good for 8th place on the Eagles' all-time list. This weekend, he will look to improve on his previous finish while freshman standout Kyle Brunette (Venice, Fla.) will try to better his Eagles' freshman 8K record time of 27:48.2.
The FGCU women's squad also finished the race No. 21 of 38 in last year's race. The Eagles' had solid finishes by senior Katy Steffan (Naples, Fla.) and junior Cadie Sly (Loxahatchee, Fla.). In 2004, Steffan set a school 5K record at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex with a time of 19:40. Freshman Abbie Zaspel (Burlington, Wisconsin) shaved nearly 19 seconds off of Steffan's time to take over the top spot on the Eagles all-time list with an excellent finish earlier this season at the 2006 Gator Invitational.
Last week, the men's team competed at the 2006 Division II Pre-National Invitational. This race gave the men a chance to run an organized 10K event before heading off to the NCAA Regional Championships in November. The Eagles had two Top 50 finishers in Harney and Brunette. Harney, who has emerged as FGCU's leader, eclipsed his own personal best time in the 10K with a 36:07 finish.
The women's cross country team finished fourth in the flrunners.com Invitational in Tampa, Fla. last Saturday. Zaspel, Sly, and freshman Casey Hasten (Fort Myers, Fla.) all crossed the finish line in the Top 20. As a team, the Eagles defeated three Division I schools in Stetson, South Florida, and Bethune-Cookman.
After this weekend's event, the Eagles only have two races left for the season. Next Friday, both teams will head to Deland, Fla. to compete in the Stetson Hatter Invitational. The women will begin the 5K race at 4:30 in the afternoon and the men will start the 8K run at 5:10 pm.