April 21, 2012
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - A determined effort by the Florida State men's track & field team, highlighted by some brilliant individual performances, turned the improbable into a possibility as the ACC Outdoor Championships wound to a close Saturday at Virginia's Lannigan Field.
Ultimately, it wasn't enough for the Seminoles to bring home an eighth consecutive team title.
Facing a 30-point deficit entering the final day - which grew to 40.5 points at one point on Saturday - the Seminoles came within 200 meters on the final leg of the final event - the 4x400 relay - of overhauling Virginia Tech for the championship.
The Seminoles were trailing the Hokies by 6.5 points when FSU freshman Stephen Newbold carried the baton and the `Noles from third to first place on the final leg, while Virginia Tech's anchor leg was in sixth place entering the final 200 meters.
If those positions held, the Seminoles would retain their crown. They didn't.
Host Virginia spoiled the party, rallying to the victory off the final curve and pulling North Carolina along for a second-place finish. Newbold was third, which became irrelevant when the Hokies overhauled Miami for the clinching fifth-place finish.
"I thought we had a good meet, I really do," FSU coach Bob Braman said. "We had some great performances."
Florida State won three events and posted three second-place finishes on the final day as Kemar Hyman captured the 100-meter dash in 10.07 - the third-fastest time in the world - and Maurice Mitchell won his second consecutive 200 title in 20.65. Those two were joined by Horatio Williams and David Ambler on the 4x100 relay winning team that blistered the field in 39.08 to open the day.
Phillip Young's lifetime-best of 16.30 meters in the triple jump was good for second place, while Darrin Gibson followed suit with his 1:48.08 in the 800-meter run. Then there was the duo of Mike Fout and Breandan O Neill, who kept the Seminoles mathematically alive by finishing second and fifth in the 5000-meter run - the penultimate event.
"Fout's race was incredible," Braman said. "The only way we could win the meet was on his and Breandan [O Neill's] shoulders. I'm sure there were some skipped heart-beats in the Virginia Tech with a lap to go and we were first and fourth with a chance to win the event."
In the end, the `Noles didn't have enough to pull it off as the Hokies made off with their first outdoor with 153.5 points to FSU's 149.
"It's definitely tough," said Mitchell, who earned his ACC record third Most Valuable Track Performer Award. "We came out here without some of the big guys and really fought hard and that's all you can really ask for. I'm proud of the guys and really had we had the opportunity to compete the best we can. We fell short, but nationals is definitely a goal. We want to win a national championship outdoors.
"It took everybody's effort and all the little points that counted. We just fell short and sometimes that happens."
Mitchell added a runner-up finish in the 100 and legs to the winning 4x100 and third-place 4x400 relay teams to outscore every other athlete in the field.
"Maurice Mitchell was incredible," Braman said. "How does he come back and run 46-second leadoff leg after he ran the 100, 200 and 4x100.
"Virginia Tech, that's a very, very good conference team and really came up huge."
While the team drama on the men's side was most closely watched, the Florida State women finished third overall behind a few outstanding performances as well.
Seniors Hannah Brooks and Michelle Jenije delivered Saturday victories for the Seminoles in the 5000-meter run and triple jump, respectively. Brooks took control over the final 500 meters to pull away from Virginia's Morgan Gay for the triumph in 16:35.30.
"She [Gay] beat me indoors so it was definitely nice to come back and have a solid race today," said Brooks. "It was a hot day out there and for us Floridians I guess it was a bit of an advantage. Overall was I was just happy with the race and come home strong and run through the line. ...
"I basically decided to go at 500, then I went again with 400 to go and my final kick with 200 to go. I just didn't look back."
Jenije claimed her first-ever ACC championship with a best effort of 13.37 meters.
"There were some great things on the women's side: Hannah Brooks' big win in the 5000. Michelle Jenije finally got her win in the triple jump," Braman said. "Aubree Worden, a freshman gutting it out to make All-ACC in the 1500, and Violah Lagat had a huge PR in the 800. Both of them got on the podium."