April 14, 2012
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A nation-leading best time and a host of all-time bests made Saturday a productive finale for Florida State track & field athletes participating in the Seminole Invitational at Mike Long Track.
Junior Amanda Winslow hooked up with former Seminole and Great Britain Olympic hopeful Barbara Parker in a spirited 1500-meter battle. With a trail of eight FSU women's distance runners in tow, Parker and Winslow hammered away to a 1-2 finish in 4:13.31 and 4:13.75.
Winslow's time put her at the top of the NCAA Division I list, eclipsing Oklahoma State's Natalia Piliusina, who ran 4:13.35 last week at the Stanford Invitational.
"I'm definitely excited," said Winslow. "It is still early, though, and I don't want this to be it. I've got to continue into the championship races do well. ... It definitely gave me a lot of confidence.
"It felt good. It was nice to be on the home track, having the home crowd and having Barbara and us, kind of work together. It worked out pretty well."
Parker and Winslow were followed across the finish line by a train of Seminole women - Hannah Brooks, Astrid Leutert, Jackie Drouin, Aubree Worden, Colleen Quigley, Linden Hall and Chelsi Woodruff. Most everyone checked in with a new personal-best - between 4:21 and 4:36.
That's a positive sign for FSU's women's distance contingent as they move forward in the season, beginning with next week's ACC Championship meet at the University of Virginia.
"Two years ago we had a whole group of girls under 4:35 and this year Chelsi (Woodruff) was 4:36, so we kind of have the same thing this year," Winslow said. "This year we have a good group of 1500 girls, but we've got a lot more; 10k, 5k, steeple, 800. I think this is one of those special years where we could have someone up there scoring in each event, which is definitely exciting for ACC's."
Not to be outdone, senior Violah Lagat left her mark on the day, winning the 800-meter run is 2:06.32, which is the second-fastest time of her career.
The final event of the two-day meet - the men's pole vault - produced a pair of strong performances, none bigger than junior Andrew Lahaye's all-time best effort of 5.31 meters (17-5) for the victory. On a day when teammate Drew Marcello also posted a new personal-best of 5.11 (16-9.25), LaHaye's clearance on his first attempt marked a huge breakthrough.
"Consistency is good and bad," LaHaye said. "As a pole vaulter you want consistency, but you're always reaching for new PR's. Old heights, they get old quick. I definitely enjoyed getting this today."
LaHaye had been stuck with an all-time best of 5.20m for some time, but came into the meet more than ready for the breakthrough.
"I had height all year and I was waiting for my moment," he said. "In indoor I had my chances and was so close. I had a couple a transition weeks in here and it took me a while to get used to. In the back of my head I was saying, `If you get this rhythm down and get comfortable with it, something big will happen.' [Clearing] 5.31 was a long time coming."
Several other Seminoles used the tune-up for the ACC Championship as an opportunity to make strides.
The men's 4x100-meter relay team of Kemar Hyman, Horatio Williams, Maurice Mitchell and David Ambler finally got the baton all the way around the track. Despite running uncontested, they posted an NCAA East Region-worthy time of 39.26.
Marsha Ariol (1:01.83) posted the second-fastest time of her career in the 400-meter hurdles, while teammates Alejandra Martinez and Sarah Chandler also registered all-time bests. Elizabeth Ichite, coming off a sluggish effort at the Florida Relays, responded with her second-fastest 400-meter dash (54.82) all-time. Desmonae Gray checked in with her collegiate-best (14.28) in the 100-meter hurdles.
Jakub Zivec finished second in the 1500 meters (3:50.32) in his outdoor debut as he returned from offseason knee surgery with just five weeks of running under his belt.
In all, FSU head coach Bob Braman came away from the meet feeling a bit better about his men's and women's teams moving forward.
"Amanda Winslow - No. 1 in the country - speaks for itself," Braman said. "Violah Lagat made a nice return to the 800, with a 2:06, which is close to her PR, and you've got to feel like she'll run faster running people down. ... The distance girls looked like they're ready to do something at the conference meet.
Still, there's room for improvement before the `Noles hit the track Thursday in Charlottesville, where the men will try and extend their string of seven consecutive ACC Outdoor titles, while the women will attempt to make a run at powerhouse Clemson.
"We've got a lot of work to do by Thursday-Friday-Saturday next week, and we're going to all have to do it," Braman said. "It's not going to be one person's job."