Feb. 23, 2013
BLACKSBURG, Va.- Regardless the year, there are two missions on the first full day of Atlantic Coast Conference Indoor Track & Field Championship meet competition: Pile up as many points as possible and nail down as many qualifying spots for Saturday's finals.
The Florida State men's and women's teams did just enough to both to maintain their championship aspirations Friday inside Rector Fieldhouse on the Virginia Tech campus, shattering on ACC Championship record and matching another along the way.
Bob Braman's 12th-ranked Seminoles, in pursuit of their 10th conference indoor title in 11 years, enter the final day trailing the host Hokies by 22 points. FSU's women, who are unranked but have finished first or second for five consecutive seasons, are five points off the lead in third place. That's three spots - but just 2.50 points - in front of fourth-ranked Clemson. The Tigers are three-time defending champions.
"I don't know who had the better day, the men or the women," Braman said at the end of Friday's competition. "If you had written all of the performances down and said, `Will you accept this for the first day?' I would have said, yes, absolutely!"
Junior James Harris, a transfer from Mississippi State, made his Seminole debut a memorable one, winning the high jump in an ACC Championship record-tying leap of 2.23 meters (7-3.75) in the first final of the day. Harris dethroned defending champ Kris Kornegay-Gober, who set the meet record in 2012, and moved into a tie for 12th on this year's NCAA list. He also earned a share of the Florida State school indoor mark, held alone by Shawn Brown since 2001.
The Florida State women's distance medley relay provided the perfect bookend to Friday's full slate, shattering its own ACC Championship record with one of the fastest times in NCAA history. Amanda Winslow led from the opening gun in the 1200 meter leg and the Seminoles never looked back as Sage Watson (400), Georgia Peel (800) and Colleen Quigley (1600) brought home the baton in 10:57.41.
Not only did the quartet eradicate the meet record set a year ago by the `Noles (11:08.17), they also secured an NCAA Championship appearance with the nation's second-fastest time this season, and the 12th-fastest of all time.
"We're in (the NCAA meet)," ecstatic FSU women's distance coach Karen Harvey said. "Now we can train. We can relax. We don't have to travel. With two freshmen, a sophomore, led by a senior - that was incredible."
Though the `Noles controlled the race from Winslow's opening leg, they very nearly suffered a catastrophe when Quigley collided with a stationary NC State runner on the track.
"Colleen had to run really hard," Harvey said. "With the collision and having to pass a lot of the field, she really ran hard for this team. But you can't really pick one person. They all ran as hard as they could, for 4000 meters, together."
FSU's women scored 18 of their 34 first-day points in Friday's final two events. Senior Kayleigh Tyerman out-dueled NC State's Andie Cozzarelli in a final lap sprint to place second in the 5000 meters, crossing in 16:18.69. The rest of the points from the Seminole women came from a cast of newcomers and youngsters.
Freshmen Maryke Brits (6.10m/20-0.25) and Der'Renae Freeman (6.94/19-6) each registered season-best marks in the long jump to place fifth and seventh, respectively, while classmate Hannah Actontied for fifth in the pole vault, matching her season-best mark (3.87m/12-8.25).
Equally important, the `Noles advanced two runners to Saturday's finals of the 60-meter dash (Marecia Pemberton and Anne Zagre), two to the 60-meter hurdles (Zagre and Brits) and two more in the 400 (Watson and Elizabeth Ichite).
"I'm blown away ," Braman said of the women's performance. "They (Clemson) are still the team to beat. They've got the giant sprint points like we do on the men's side, but we're in the shouting. We've got the 3000, which we're obviously going to get some key points in. We've got some (finals) qualifiers. We're going to need a few breaks."
Many of the biggest breaks went the way of the Hokies on the men's side Friday. Virginia Tech maximized its scoring opportunities with wins in the distance medley, 5000 meters, long jump and a 1-2-3 sweep of the weight throw. Still, the `Noles are within striking distance, thanks to some banner efforts of their own.
FSU received a huge lift from senior Michael Fout, who came within less than one second of winning the 5000 meters out of the slow heat. Fout and Breandan O Neill plowed their way to a 1-2 finish in the opening heat in 14:02.26 and 14:10.96, respectively, then waited out the fast heat results to find out that were good enough to place second and fifth, overall. That 12-point haul offset Virginia Tech's win in the event.
Sophomore Stefan Brits and junior Phillip Young dialed up impressive efforts in the long jump, which were good enough to bring in 14 points for the Seminoles. Brits was the runner-up with a brilliant series of leaps, highlighted by his best of 7.69 (25-2.75), while Young placed third on the strength of his season-best of 7.41 (24-3.75).
One of the brightest surprises was provided by sophomore Markindey Sineus who, in his second meet of the season, smashed his career-best mark in the weight throw by nearly a full meter. Sineus finished sixth on the strength of his throw of 18.36 (60-3); nearly three feet further than his previous best set just two weeks ago.
Equally important to FSU's championship hopes, the Seminole sprinters are well-positioned to lead a big Saturday scoring charge. Marvin Bracy, Dentarius Locke and David Ambler advanced to the finals of the 60-meter dash, while Locke also earned the top qualifying mark in the 200 finals, where he will be joined by Stephen Newbold.
Newbold was the No. 2 qualifier overall for the 400-meter finals and leads a Seminole posse which includes James Harris and Alonzo Russell. Darrin Gibson qualified third and freshman Jacob Burton fifth in the 800. Tremaine Grant also grabbed the final qualifying spot in the 60-meter hurdles. Whether it will be enough to overhaul Virginia Tech's 22-point advantage is anyone's guess, but the `Noles did rally from 29.50 points on the final day to beat the Hokies for the 2012 title.
"It's a familiar position, chasing the home team," Braman said. "They (Virginia Tech) really had as good a day as I've seen a team have on Friday. ... We had a better day than I imagined. We did a lot of things as good as we could do.
"Markindey (Sineus), with the stuff he's had to overcome, PR's and gets sixth place (in the weight throw). Mike (Fout) gets out here and sets and indoor PR and challenges for the ACC Championship record. It's kind of hard to be upset. The 200 and 400 qualifiers were impressive. And in the high jump, James Harris ties the ACC Championship record.
"Good gosh, what could we ask for and still be 22 points down. All we can do is keep putting the pressure on them and hope they blink or have some fortune go the other way."