March 9, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - A poised performance by senior Amanda Winslow, an uplifting effort by sophomore Stefan Brits and a gutsy rally by the Florida State women's distance relay team highlighted Friday's opening action at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Winslow opened the night by qualifying for Saturday's mile final with the fastest time (4:36.38) and Brits gave the Seminole men's team their first points of the meet with a sixth-place finish in the long jump (7.80m/25-7.50).
The Seminoles' distance medley team rallied from 11th to a fourth-place finish behind brilliant legs from Sage Watson, Georgia Peel and Colleen Quigley, crossing in 11:00.87 to close out FSU's first day.
Unfortunately, what transpired between the fast start and the strong finish created even more buzz throughout the Randal Tyson Track Complex. Seminoles Marvin Bracy and Dentarius Locke, the top two seeds in the 60-meter dash, were disqualified for false starts - each out of lane two - in the two preliminary heats.
Florida State coach Bob Braman called it, "the most improbable script."
"Part of being a great sprinter is being patient and knowing the cadence of the starter and being on-task," Braman said, after watching Bracy get red-carded from the first heat and Locke from the second. "If you're one-one thousandth off, like in Dentarius' case, you're out.
"In Marvin's case, maybe he was a little too anxious and tried to do something big. I feel for those guys. You may never see those guys do that again, and I hope so."
Those miscues, which will cost the FSU men's team dearly in their bid for a top-five team finish, provide a sharp contrast to the other performances turned in by the Seminoles.
Winslow, who is making her fourth consecutive and final NCAA Indoor Championship appearance, took the lead on the third of eight laps and was never seriously threatened.
"I didn't have an exact plan going in because anything can happen," Winslow said. "I was prepared mentally ... I'd say the biggest thing was telling myself that I was OK and that I was ready to unleash a little bit the last 400, but also save a little bit.
"I knew at the 800 that it was slower than the first race, so I knew I had to pick it up. I didn't want to chance it. I didn't want to risk running 4:40 and getting out-kicked."
FSU's school record-holder in the mile never let that happen, cranking out laps 5-8 in 34.25, 33.61, 32.66 and 33.01 to win her heat by nearly a full second over Georgia's Carly Hamilton. With an eye on improving on her fifth-place finish in the mile at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championship, Winslow will face a formidable challenge from Colorado's Emma Coburn, the top seed coming into the meet, who won the first heat in 4:37.47.
"Amanda Winslow was in command the whole way," Braman said. "She looked like a senior who was on her fourth rodeo."
FSU women's distance coach Karen Harvey was equally impressed with her veteran star. "Winslow ran with confidence," Harvey added. "She is in the shape of her life. Yes, tomorrow will be a challenge, but she is ready for it."
Brits, making his first NCAA Championship appearance, didn't waste the opportunity to leave his mark. The South Africa native, who has labored through years of ups and down related to a hamstring issue, came into the event seeded No. 14. He earned three more jumps by grabbing the last qualifying spot for the finals and made them count.
His fourth jump of the night - a career-best 7.80 meters (25-7.50) - was good enough to nail down sixth place.
"You've got to do it on the day," Brits said. "If you focus on yourself and you picture it and execute, something's going to happen. That's exactly what happened. A PR for the first time in five years? I'll take that as a positive."
As a 16-year-old in 2008, Brits soared to his previous personal best (7.74), on the Junior World stage.
"I've struggled the past five years in South Africa," Brits said. "Just to compete and to be here and jump without any hassle, injuries or setbacks is a huge positive for outdoors, which is our main goal."
"The guy has fought through some horrendous, nagging and long two years of injuries," Braman said. "To come up and hit two big jumps, I can't say enough about Stefan Brits. This is his first national meet and that's pretty special."
The night of special performances wasn't through.
FSU's women's distance medley was the No. 3 seed, based on their ACC performance which included Winslow running the leadoff, 1200-meter leg. Redshirt junior Jessica Parry took Winslow's spot and was running in third with a lap to go before fading.
The Seminoles, however, weren't through. Watson, a freshman, grabbed the stick in 11th place and turned in a blistering 53.10 400-meter split - the second fastest of any woman in the 12-team field - as Stanford and FSU closed quickly on the lead group. The `Noles were still 11th when she passed the baton to classmate Peel, who ripped off a 2:06.17 800-meter leg - also the second-fastest in the field - as the `Noles moved into ninth.
Quigley, a sophomore, took matters into her own hands over the final 1600 meters. The 2012 outdoor and cross country All-American powered the `Noles all the way into fourth place with the fastest final leg of any team - 4:32.28 - to secure All-American honors for the quartet.
"The distance medley relay ran with a lot of heart; having Sage and Georgia run the second-fastest splits, then Quigley came with the big guns with a huge 4:32 split," Harvey said.
Junior Anne Zagre, who was late entry into the 60-meter hurdles field, placed seventh in her qualifying heat in 8.29, but was later disqualified for a technical violation. She would not have advanced.
Beyond Winslow's run at her first NCAA title in her final indoor competition, the Seminoles will be busy Saturday, with James Harris and Phillip Young competing in the high jump and long jump, respectively. Winslow is also scheduled to compete in the 3000, while the fourth-seeded FSU men's 4x400 relay team of Alonzo Russell, Harris, Locke and Stephen Newbold, will bring the meet to a close.
"We've got scoring opportunities in the triple jump, high jump and 4x400," Braman said. "Hopefully we can still fight our way back into the top 10 and start to put things together for outdoors."