Feb. 20, 2013
BLACKSBURG, Va. - Bob Braman has never placed an undue amount emphasis on the indoor track & field season, preferring instead, to use it as a foundation for the outdoor campaign. That mindset, however, has not prevented the Florida State men's and women's teams from excelling.
The Seminole men are taking aim at their 10th Atlantic Coast Conference Indoor Championship trophy hoist in 11 years when the action gets going Thursday at Rector Fieldhouse on the Virginia Tech campus. Meanwhile, the Seminole women will try and extend their own modest streak of top-two ACC finishes to six consecutive years.
Freshman Ewa Marcinkiewicz will lead off the three-day meet for the Seminoles, competing in the women's pentathlon on Thursday. Marcinkiewicz is one of 13 Florida State freshmen - seven women and six men - who will be competing in their first conference track & field championship meet.
"If you combine both sides, that's definitely the youngest (FSU) team since I've been here," said Braman, who took over as head coach in 2004. "We don't take anybody to the conference meet who we don't think can score. If we've got that many freshmen chasing points, or wins, or whatever, it bodes, really, really well for the future."
A full slate of action will begin Friday, with the competition winding down Saturday. The 12th-ranked Seminole men are hoping to defend their 2012 title, while the women chase fourth-ranked and three-time defending champion Clemson.
"This looks like the last three or four ACC Indoor meets on both sides," Braman said, sizing up the competition. "Clemson is a huge favorite on the women's side with us trying to sneak up and get as close as we can, and maybe get ready for the outdoor pounce. ...
"On the men's side, Virginia Tech - with their indoor facility, running five (home) meets - is a little more prepared than we are with a very deep team, versus our national level team. ... Virginia Tech is the clear favorite, but everyone is gunning for us."
Though unranked, the Hokies certainly have revenge in mind, after blowing a 29.5-point lead to the Seminoles on the final day of last year's meet at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, Mass. Virginia Tech is also the only team to break the Florida State stranglehold on the team title, when they upset FSU - inside Rector Fieldhouse - for the 2011 team title.
Florida State has plenty of front-end firepower to make another title run, with five individuals entering the meet as the favorites in their respective events. Freshman Marvin Bracy holds the nation's fastest time in the 60-meter dash, while junior transfer Dentarius Locke - who is ranked second nationally in the 60 - is the top seed in the 200. Junior transfer Alonzo Russell is the top seed in the 400, while sophomore Stefan Brits (long jump) and junior Phillip Young (triple jump) have the top marks in their respective events as well.
The Seminoles are two-to-three deep with likely scorers in the 60, 200 and 400, but those points won't be registered until Saturday. The men are also positioned to post multiple scorers in the 800, 3000 and 5000 on the track, as well as the long jump, triple jump and pole vault. They should also get a boost from junior Mississippi State transfer James Harris, who will compete for the first time this season in both the high jump and 400, as well as on a relay or two.
That's why Braman won't be surprised if the `Noles mount another Saturday rally, like they did a year ago, and also back in 2007 at North Carolina, when Andrew Lemoncello and Tom Lancashire combined for 15 points in the 3000 as Florida State overhauled Clemson.
"You are never done," Braman said. "We go from a sure loss in the second-to-last event to, `Oh, all we have to do is get the baton around the track (in the 4x400 relay). We've learned that lesson not to give up on it. We've been down quite a few and come back, but we're going to be down again this year."
FSU's women will try and offset Clemson's dominance in the sprints and hurdles with their powerhouse distance lineup and some across-the-board scoring potential from its 22-athlete roster.
"It's a real good run," Braman said of the women's program over the past five years. "I think our women have traditionally equaled or out-performed the men, whether they went from a fourth-best team to pull off a second, or third-best to second. That is remarkable."
Senior Jessica Parry is the Seminoles' lone top seed, but is also one of six Karen Harvey-coached athletes in the 3000-meter run. That group includes defending 3000-meter champion, senior Amanda Winslow, as well as Colleen Quigley. Senior Kayleigh Tyerman should get on the podium as the No. 2 seed in the 5000-meter run.
Harvey will deploy a Distance Medley Relay team in Friday's final event that is capable of not only breaking the ACC Championship record set by the `Noles last year, but which could also post an NCAA Championship qualifying time. Winslow and Quigley will be joined by freshmen Georgia Peel and Sage Watson in the lineup.
Watson is positioned to provide the `Noles a big lift as the No. 2 seed in the 400, as well as an integral member of the second-seeded 4x400 relay team as well, which will include junior Elizabeth Ichite - the No. 5 seed in the 400 - Sarah Chandler and Marsha Ariol.
The `Noles hope to break up Clemson's dominance in both the 60-meter dash and 60-meter hurdles with senior Marecia Pemberton and junior transfer Anne Zagre, respectively. Zagre, who represented Belgium in the 2012 London Olympics, will be competing in just her second indoor meet for the `Noles.
In the field events, junior Chelsea Whalen will try and improve on her third-place, All-ACC shot put finish from a year ago. Sophomore Briana Cherry-Bronson is the No. 3 seed in the weight throw. Freshmen Maryke Brits (long jump) and Hannah Acton (pole vault) are also seeded as potential scorers, as is sophomore Lakitta Johnson in both the shot put and weight throw.
Live streaming coverage of the three-day event will be available on theACC.com on Friday beginning at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 12 p.m. Live stats will also be available throughout the meet through the ACC's dedicated championship page: http://theacc.co/ITFChamps
You can follow the action via Twitter @FSU_Track or @ACCTrackField, tagged #ACCITF. End of day recaps will be posted at www.seminoles.com and also on the Florida State Track and Field facebook page, which will include photo galleries: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Florida-State-Track-and-Field/119863268038673?ref=ts&fref=ts