April 16, 2014
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.- Just six weeks since authoring their sweep of the Atlantic Coast Conference indoor track & field titles, the Florida State men's and women's teams are back in championship mode as the 2014 ACC Outdoor Championships open Thursday at Belk Track and Fetzer Field on the North Carolina campus.
The Seminoles begin the three-day meet with some potential milestones within reach. If Bob Braman's squads can duplicate their indoor sweep of team titles, FSU would become just the third program in ACC history to claim all four crowns - men and women indoor and outdoor titles - in the same year.
Furthermore, the Seminole women have their sights set on the third and final leg of the ACC Triple Crown - cross country, indoor and outdoor - to become just the fourth program to complete that quest in the same school year. The `Noles did just that on the women's side in 2009.
"The women, all of sudden have this incredible depth," Braman said. "We had to agonize over which 30 athletes we were going to bring. We had some people ranked in the top 15 (in an event) that we didn't bring. I like our women's depth. I like the way we competed last week. We have to compete with that same focus of last week and get the Thursday and Friday qualifiers done.
"We're not thinking that by any chance it's time to go make the rings. We've got a lot of work to do. We've got great people and we've got people getting healthy at the right time."
The Florida State women - who enter the meet ranked No. 15 in this week's USTFCCCA national computer rankings - will be pushed by host North Carolina and first-year ACC rival Notre Dame, with Duke and Miami also factoring in the outcome.
FSU will be leaning heavily on the women's distance and throws groups, which are well-represented by defending champions, including Colleen Quigley (3000-meter steeplechase), Chelsea Whalen (shot put) and Kellion Knibb (discus). Linden Hall is the top seed in the 1500 and women's distance coach Karen Harvey will have event challengers in the 5000 and 10,000 as well.
An added boost should come from the sprinters and hurdlers.
Anne Zagre is the top seed in the 100-meter hurdles and 200-meter dash, as is Marecia Pemberton in the 100-meter dash. FSU also has the top-seeded 4x100 relay. A year ago, the `Noles came up five points shy of Clemson and the title, in large part because the Tigers dominated the sprints the hurdles.
"With Kali Davis-White, Marecia Pemberton and Anne Zagre, now all of a sudden your sprint-hurdle presence and your relay presence steps up," Braman said. "You can't win this meet without those points. You've got to have sprint-hurdle-relay points. I really like the way that group is emerging now."
On the men's side, many of the same programs figure to stand in the way of the Seminoles, who have carried the outdoor championship trophy back to Tallahassee 10 times in the last 12 years. Like the women, the Florida State men enter the meet as the ACC's top-ranked team nationally, checking in at No. 5.
"It's going to be a challenge," Braman said, "but I don't think it's going to be a lot more difficult than perhaps it was last year, when we somewhat improbably won it, and indoors this year when we found ourselves chasing North Carolina and Notre Dame for the better part of three days and we were able to take charge late in the meet."
North Carolina, guided by long-time FSU associate head coach Harlis Meaders, has been pointing to this moment since coming up seven points shy of the Seminoles at the 2014 Indoor Championships. Notre Dame, which was third - 12 points behind FSU - is also a formidable challenger.
The greatest difference in the men's title chase is the number of programs who send potential event champions or challengers into the fray, which makes projecting a team champion far more difficult than ever before.
"The encouraging thing to this challenge is it's so balanced," Braman said. "You've got 15 teams that 10 or 12 of them have strong pockets of power. The score to win this meet will be, without a doubt, the lowest number ever. Your (James) Harris' and (Dentarius) Locke's - people that can win championships - your victories here are going to be huge. You need as many 10s as you can get."
Locke, who was the 2013 Championship Meet MVP on the track, is the defending champion in the 100-meter dash, the runner-up in the 200 and a member of FSU's winning 4x100 relay team. The senior from Tampa, Fla., who won the NCAA Indoor 60-meter dash title, will have the same work load and potentially add a 4x400 relay leg to his duties.
Harris won the 400-meter title last year and anchored the winning 4x100 relay team. This year he will focus on the high jump - he is the reigning NCAA Indoor champion - and will compete in the 200 instead of the 400, while picking up relay duties as required.
The `Noles also return defending 3000-meter steeplechase champion Zak Seddon, who is set to make his season debut after battling injury during the indoor season. With defending long jump champion Stefan Brits battling injury, the `Noles will turn to indoor champion Paul Madzivire, who won ACC indoor and outdoor titles in 2012, but was not in school last season.
A likely season-ending injury to ACC Indoor triple jump champion and All-American Jonathan Reid will also require the Seminole men to make up points in as many areas as possible.
"It's that kind of meet," Braman said. "All you can do is really have great qualifying, so that collectively you can pick up (points) in several areas. You're going to have to pick up those scrappy points. Making finals is extraordinarily difficult. It's not, `get through and save it for the final' any more. Strategy becomes a limited factor. You just have to go all out. That's good news. Our league is becoming a lot more like the NCAA. Virtually no one backs off."
Markindey Sineus will get the `Noles started Thursday morning in the men's hammer (10 a.m.), while Grete Sadeiko and Alejandra Martinez begin heptathlon competition at 11:30. Other first day finals include the women's hammer, the long jump (men and women) and the 10,000 meters (men and women).
Qualifying rounds will be contested in the 400-meter hurdles, 200-meter dash and 1500-meter run.
You can also follow the action via Twitter @FSU_Track using the tags #Noles and #ACCOTF. A complete recap at the conclusion of each day will posted at www.Seminoles.com with photo galleries and stories also posted to the official Florida State Track and Field facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FSUTrack.