LAKELAND – For the first time since 2010, the Florida Southern cross country program will host an invitational meet. The FSC Invitational will take place this Friday at Lakeland's Holloway Park and Nature Preserve off of Lakeland Highlands Road, north of the Polk Parkway. (Map)
Joining the Florida Southern men's and women's teams will be Embry-Riddle, Florida Tech, Johnson & Wales (FL), Johnson (FL) Univ. (men only), Lynn (women only), Nova Southeastern, Saint Leo, Tampa, Valdosta State, and Warner (men only).
Saint Leo is ranked second in the latest USTFCCCA South Region Men's poll followed by FSC (#5), Tampa (#6), Nova Southeastern (#7), Florida Tech (#9), and Valdosta State (#10). Women's teams ranked in the South Region include Tampa (#1), Saint Leo (#2), Florida Tech (#5), and Florida Southern (#10).
When Florida Southern last hosted a meet in 2010, current head coach Ben Martucci won the 8K men's race as a senior with an invitational record of 20:29 at Lakeland's San Lan Ranch. Martucci led the Moccasins to a perfect score of 15 points—the first time in the 21-year history that a team placed runners 1 through 5 at the Moccasin Invitational. The best score to that point had been the University of South Florida, which won the 1981 meet on Lake Hollingsworth with 17 points.
Florida Southern has taken men's team honors five times (all coming in the last six meets) while Martucci is one of three Moccasins to win their own meet, joining Hennie Schoeman in 1997 and FSC Hall of Famer Gary Crossan in 1999.
The women's program last won the Moccasin Invitational in 2001 with a team score of 22 points in a meet held on the George Jenkins High School campus. FSC also won in 1997 and 2000, totaling 19 points in each—one off the invitational record of 18 set by Rollins in 1999 at San Lan Ranch. Barry's Diane Daley set the Invitational record time of 17:23 in 1992 around Lake Hollingsworth.
The last individual win for a women's runner from FSC came in 2001 on the GJHS campus when Julie Tubei came across the finish line first with a 19:12.2 time. It was the fourth straight win by a Moccasin and the fifth overall. Other individual winners from Florida Southern include Paige Dempsey (1986), Kristy Vignali (1997), Alli Tatangelo in 1999 and 2000.
The Moccasin Invitational was held around Lake Hollingsworth, the southern boundary of the Florida Southern campus from 1981-93. In 1997, the meet moved to the San Lan Ranch for four seasons. After one year on the George Jenkins High School campus in 2001, FSC took a year off from hosting and returned in 2003 at the Circle B Bar Ranch. The program did not host a meet from 2004-09 before the eventful 2010 meet.
The women's 5K race will get underway at 5:15 pm with the men's 8K race to follow at 5:50 pm. Parking is $5. (Women's 5K map | Men's 8K map). Holloway Park will also be the home course for the 2015 SSC Championships on Saturday, Oct. 24.