RALEIGH, N.C. – The Florida State men’s track & field team is returning to Tallahassee with the Atlantic Coast Conference Outdoor Championship trophy for the 10th time in 12 years.
Winning championships never gets old, but Seminoles’ coach Bob Braman and staff may not have celebrated a sweeter conference title triumph than the one that played out Saturday at NC State’s Paul H. Derr Track.
This one the Seminoles earned without the help of six All-American athletes back at home for a variety of reasons by dispatching defending champion Virginia Tech 149-138.
“That’s what is most gratifying,” Braman said. “They competed like they expected to win, and probably on paper coming in we should have been second. They got it done. We did feed off the momentum of the first two days. … I really felt like we did as good as we possibly could have done. We had some big performances, which makes it gratifying because we would have not won this meet without a bunch of huge step-ups.”
The only thing that could have made the sun-splashed day better was a matching trophy for the Florida State women. Thanks to a 1-2-3 sweep of the 5000-meter run, the Seminoles were deadlocked with three-time defending champion Clemson entering the final event. A fourth-place finish in the 4x400 relay prevented the ‘Noles from duplicating their 2009 sweep, as they came up by a 151-146 count to the Tigers.
The outcome did not diminish the program’s measurable progress. A year ago the Seminoles finished third, 110 points behind the Tigers. When Saturday’s dust settled, FSU had made up 105 of those points with a squad that will return virtually everyone in 2014.
“For the women to rally and get that many points was just fantastic,” Braman said. “We got beat by a ton last year. To come back and tie it up and have a chance to win in the 4x400…Can you imagine what was in the mind of the Clemson coaches?”
There was no shortage of highlights and major contributions from either team.
James Harris won the 400-meter dash in the nation’s second-fastest time (45.25) and anchored the Seminoles’ winning 4x100 relay. ACC Championship Track MVP won the 100 (10.12), finished second in the 200 (20.73) and also contributed to the winning 4x100 relay.
Those three victories were complemented by Darrin Gibson’s momentum-swinging, runner-up finish in the 800 meters (1:49.11) and bronze medal performances from Andrew LaHaye (pole vault), Owen Cain (triple jump), Markindey Sineus (hammer) and Alonzo Russell (400).
In all, the Seminole men claimed seven titles and 15 All-ACC honors to lead all teams in both categories, which doesn’t account for some pretty significant scoring performances on Saturday from the likes of: Zak Seddon (fourth, 1500), David Ambler (sixth, 100), Tremaine Grant (fourth, 110 hurdles), Harris and Cristobal Hurtado (fifth and seventh, high jump).
Fittingly, senior Mike Fout’s sixth-place finish in the 5000 meters, on a cranky foot which had limited his training, secured the Seminoles’ championship and allowed associate head coach Ken Harnden, who spent the day tabulating the team’s title pursuit, to pull his 4x400 relay from the track.
“It’s exciting to win and, dare I say, more exciting going forward,” Braman said, after watching the men pile up a dozen or more NCAA East Preliminary marks over the three-day meet.
The Florida States women managed only one victory on the final day, but Amanda Winslow’s 5000-meter triumph in 15:54.66 - and the silver and bronze performances of Colleen Quigley (15:58.90) and Kayleigh Tyerman (16:00.64) – spoke volumes about the team’s resolve to win a title.
“The girls going 1-2-3 in the 5000 – because our women have been so dominant and so good – people took that a little bit for granted,” Braman said. “It might have looked easy to the people in crowd when they pulled away with three laps to go, but that’s 16 [minutes] flat for three athletes. That’s a monster effort with two of them doubling back.”
Quigley won the 3000-meter steeplechase on Friday, while Tyerman was third in Thursday’s 10,000-meter final.
There was no shortage of podium performances from the Seminole women. Junior Elizabeth Ichite turned in a lifetime best run of 53.07 to place second in the 400, while freshman Sage Watson grabbed the silver in the 400-meter hurdles (58.50). Anne Zagre was third in the 100-meter hurdles (13.33) and Marecia Pemberton was third in the 100-meter dash (11.72). Der’Renae Freeman joined Pemberton, Zagre and Ichite on FSU’s second-place 4x100 relay team (45.60).
The ‘Noles also picked up points key points from Linden Hall, who was fourth in the 1500 meters (4:23.41) and just .01 from the bronze medal. Zagre was fifth in the 100, while Sarah Chandler and Marsha Ariol finished fifth and sixth in the 400 hurdles. Briana Cherry-Bronson placed seventh in the hammer.
That collective effort, cheered on wildly by their raucous teammates, forced Clemson to stack its 4x400 relay team – which came into the meet with the nation’s ninth-fastest time – to secure the title.
“That’s amazing to make up that much ground [on Clemson] in one year, and look at all the young kids that are coming back,” Braman said. “It’s exciting where we’re going to be in a year and hopefully they can become a national team.
“Next year we want it the other way around. We want to pull the women’s team off the track in the 4x4.”