June 14, 2008
Des Moines, Iowa - With the team's third national championship on the line, there was no one else the Florida State men's track & field team would have wanted in the blocks than senior All-American Walter Dix.
Ten points shy of a guaranteed tie and 11 points out of their third-consecutive national victory, the Seminoles needed two things to happen in the men's 200m dash: sophomore Charles Clark needed to finish the race, and Dix needed to win it all.
They got both.
Dix flew around the north bend of the track at Drake Stadium and crossed the line in 20.40, four-hundredths of a second ahead of his nearest competition, giving him his third consecutive outdoor victory in the 200m. The win also gave Dix, the most decorated runner in Florida State history, his 18th All-American honor and his eighth national championship.
Clark, still trying to recover from an injury in the 200m semifinals on Thursday night, may actually have had the more difficult task of the two. But the sophomore wasn't about to let his team down, and so he came drifting across the finish line to earn the one point Florida State needed to seal their triple crown.
"It never gets old," said head coach Bob Braman. "The first one maybe a little bit more sweeter because you don't know if you're ever going to do it. We had gotten relatively close a couple of times. They're agonizing because the standard is so high, but at the end we're so proud; we come back home, it's such a big thing for Florida State and Tallahassee."
While Dix and Clark were still in the cool down area inside the stadium, senior All-American Drew Brunson tacked on an extra four points with a fifth place finish in the men's 110m hurdles, bringing the team's final total to 52 points--well ahead of the two second-place finishers LSU and Arizona State who had 44 apiece.
Senior All-America Ray Taylor, also contributed to the Seminoles win on the final day of competition as he got things started on the right foot for Florida State with the best leap of his career--a 15.93m/ mark that placed him in second entering the final round of the triple jump. Taylor, a transfer from Cornell who struggled with a hamstring injury most of the year, finished competition in fourth-place. Along with his fourth All-America honor the Jamaican-native also picked up five big points for the Seminoles to keep them in first place by six points over LSU.
On the women's side, sophomore Hannah England decided her name belonged in the history books as well. England blasted her competition in the 1500m to cross the line in 4:06.19. Not only was it her personal best, it was the best in Drake Stadium history, the best in collegiate races this year and most importantly, the best the NCAA Championships had ever seen.
"Unbelievable," said Braman of England's accomplishment. "She was undefeated the whole outdoor season, which is just amazing. She had an amazing race and to be able to pull away from Sally Kipyego was unbelievable."
Fellow distance runner Kim Williams topped off an incredible rookie season with a fourth-place finish in the triple jump. Williams' top leap hit 13.78m/45'02.50" to earn the Seminoles another five points.
The trio of All-Americas managed to put together 16 points, enough to finish 12th overall, putting the women inside the top 15 for the third year in a row.
In all, the men picked up nine All-American awards and two individual national titles en route to their third national title in as many years.
And just as it was fitting the men's team to finish their season with the 200m race, no one could have scripted a better way for Dix to finish his career. With an incredible 18 All-American honors and eight national championships, Dix walks away today with one of the best sprinting careers in collegiate history.
His long list of accolades also includes the 2007 USTFCCCA NCAA Division I Track Athlete of the Year Award, the 2005 & 2007 USTFCCCA NCAA East Region Athlete of the Year honor, two ACC Rookie of the Year awards (indoor and outdoor 2005) and the 2007 ACC Outdoor Track Performer of the Year title.
"It's not complete--it's right if Walt doesn't win," said Braman. "When the guy gives up the opportunity (to go pro), you don't want him to have that bad misfortune to not win a championship. I knew he could, not too many people can, and even if it didn't matter for the team title it was big for what he represents. If he makes the Olympic team it really vindicates people staying in school."
Dix and the six other seniors on the men's squad--Taylor, Brunson, Elliot Wood, Hubert Mitchell, Luke Gunn and Mark Buckingham--have certainly laid down a challenge to the underclassmen they leave in their wake. With the passing of the baton, it is now up to a new generation of Florida State men's track and field athletes to keep the tradition alive.
"It's so fulfilling because if they don't do it, they can't get another shot," Braman said of the seniors. "The motivation is there, but the stress is there. It's a shame Gunny didn't win, but he had to do what he had to do to preserve the team points. Ray gets the best jump of his life to put us in a great position to win. Brunson's not healthy, but what a whale of meet with two PRs...And then there was Walt."
The quest for a fourth-consecutive outdoor national championship starts next March in Tallahassee.