March 10, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The Florida State track & field teams took down two school records on the final night of the NCAA Indoor Championships, which coach Bob Braman hopes will help set the tone for a more prosperous outdoor season.
The Seminole men's 4x400 relay team pulled the curtain on Saturday night's competition at the Randal Tyson Track Complex, racing to a bronze medal finish in 3:05.13. The team of Alonzo Russell, James Harris, Dentarius Locke and Stephen Newbold broke the previous record set in 2009 (3:05.48) by a team which included 2012 Olympic 400-meter finalists Jonathan and Kevin Borlee, along with Kevin Williams and Brandon O'Connor.
"We ended on a high note," FSU associate head coach Ken Harnden said. "We talked about it before we went out there: `Let's start the outdoor season on a good note and wash away all the stuff that happened yesterday. `
"Those four did an amazing job. They put forth the most amazing effort and did it when the chips were down and we could have folded out tent. I couldn't be more proud. And to break a record of a relay that had two Olympians and two other guys who were pretty good, that's special."
A day earlier, Harnden watched helplessly as FSU's bid for a top 10 finish vanished with false starts by favorites Marvin Bracy and Locke in the 60-meter qualifying heats.
With its third-place finish in the 4x400 relay - and junior Phillip Young's seventh-place showing in the triple jump - the sixth-ranked men finished with 11 points and locked in a three-way tie for 18th place in the team standings with Georgia and Purdue. It's the lowest finish for the Seminoles since they tied for 44th in 2004. Host Arkansas claimed the men's championship with a whopping 74 points.
While the men came up short of performing to their ranking, the Seminole women exceeded expectations, thanks to the distance crew led by assistant Karen Harvey.
Senior Amanda Winslow provided the `Noles with their only points of the day, and did so in dramatic fashion. In her fourth consecutive and final NCAA Indoor appearance, Winslow matched 2012 Olympian Emma Coburn of Colorado stride-for-stride until the final 100 meters.
Winslow crossed the finish line in 4:31.08 and in second place, lopping more than two seconds off her own school record (4:33.22), established earlier in the season.
"I don't know that I would have expected more than they did," Florida State head coach Bob Braman said, after the 18th-ranked women earned a share of 15th place and finished with 13 points. "They did an unbelievable job.
"Coach Harvey, her ladies always perform. She's raised the bar for the rest of us, and all of the other events, and we'll get there."
FSU's women finished tied with Michigan and UCLA, well behind Oregon, which successfully defended it national title title with 56 points.
Following Friday's fourth-place finish by the distance medley relay, Winslow devised a race plan with Harvey that would put her in the hunt for a title.
"I sat down this morning and talked about a race plan and it went almost exactly how we predicted it," Winslow said. "I just stuck to the plan. I wish I had a little bit more left in the end, but I'm extremely satisfied with it - a PR, a school record and I qualified for USA's."
Harvey was elated with the performance of her most recent All-American miler, who was hoping to etch her name alongside Hannah England, who won the 2008 national championship in the event.
"She made Emma Coburn run hard," Harvey said. "We knew that coming in, Amanda was not the favorite, but she's in the conversation to win and she went for it. She had one move and she made the move, a little earlier than I wanted. I was talking 100 to go.
"Winslow felt so good, she went early. How can you fault her, when she goes on her heart? Her heart said, `I feel too good, I want to lay it out.'"
Instead, Winslow settled for a lifetime-best, which earned her a spot in the field for this summer's U.S. National Championship meet. In the process, she was able to exceed the preseason goals she had established for herself and were hung on the wall of her apartment as a daily reminder.
"It's definitely been written on my wall," Winslow confessed. "At the beginning of each season I write down on a piece of paper my goals. I wrote them real big so I could see them every day. I wanted to run 4:32, or break that, so I got that goal."
"She didn't win a national championship, but she's the fastest we've ever had."
Winslow extended the Harvey-coached Seminoles' streak of consecutive All-American milers to six years.
The Seminole men came into the final day of the meet with three scoring opportunities and cashed in on two of them. Harris, who had the sixth-best high jump mark in the country, was one of 10 athletes to clear 2.23 meters (7-3.75). A year ago, that was the winning mark at the NCAA Indoor Championships. On Saturday, it did not guarantee a spot in the top eight.
"The guys competed well, with the exception the anomaly of the 60-meter dash," Braman said, referencing Friday's disastrous false starts by Bracy and Locke.
Young, who came into the meet as the No. 16 seed in the triple jump, broke out an opening attempt of 15.87m (52-1) - just off his all-time best of 16.00m - that got him into the finals. He strung together his most impressive series of the season, but could not improve on his opening effort.
Improvement, or more accurately, redemption, was on the mind of the men's 4x400 relay team.
"I was very determined," said Locke, who contributed a 46.69 third leg split in his first race of the meet. "It took me almost all the way to race came up to have yesterday out of mind. I talked to coach [Harnden] and he just told me to forget about it, move on and kill it in the 4x4. ... I definitely didn't want to let me team down; didn't want to let my school down."
The Seminoles came into the final event as the No. 4 seed but proved it belonged with powerhouses Arkansas and Florida, who were also competing in the third heat. Russell opened up with a 47.34 split. Harris, eager to make amends for his high jump showing, followed with a blistering 45.79 second leg, which put the `Noles in the thick of the race.
Locke faded a bit late in his third leg, but Newbold grabbed the stick and began stalking the front-runners.
"It meant everything to me," Newbold said. "It probably wasn't our A-team, but it doesn't really matter because all of my teammates put their heart into it.
"We really were (motivated). .. My teammates were ready; they were hungry and I was ready and hungry with them."
Newbold closed with a 45.37 leg that came up short of the Razorbacks and rival Gators, but also produced the seventh new indoor school record of the season.
Now the focus goes to the outdoor season, where the Seminoles will have a chance to apply and build on what they learned indoors.
"We've got to be better and it falls on distance, it falls on throwers, it falls on sprints and it falls on jumps," Braman said. "We've got to be better. Just because it looks like we will be isn't good enough. You've still got to be top 10, maybe top five, and of course, eventually be competing to win. We're not there yet. We've got work to do."