May 25, 2012
By Bob Thomas, seminoles.com
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With championship resolve, the Florida State men's track & field team turned the 400-meter Mondo surface at Hodges Stadium into its personal playground Friday, significantly bolstering its mission to deliver another NCAA Championship.
Seven Seminoles - five men and two women - qualified for the NCAA Championship meet, pushing the two-day team total to 11. Of the 12 Florida State athletes who competed Friday, 10 either advanced to the next round or the June 6-9 championship at Drake University.
"We had a really good day," FSU coach Bob Braman said. "If you can promise me that every week, we're going to be pretty good."
Led by its deep and talented sprint contingent, five more Seminole men secured national berths at the NCAA East Preliminary Round on the University of North Florida campus.
Finishing side-by-side in the third heat, Kemar Hyman (10.11) and Maurice Mitchell (10.15) posted the two fastest 100-meter times in the quarterfinal round, moving on the NCAA Championship. Horatio Williams (10.32) grabbed the 12th and final qualifying position on time, after finishing fourth in the first heat.
Hyman, who still holds the nation's fastest legal time in the 100 this year, added his name to a lengthy list of those establishing new Hodges Stadium track records.
"The 100 was great," Mitchell said. "I'm really glad Kemar and Horatio were able to get in there. We knew we all needed to get in there and I'm glad we got it right."
As an added bonus to FSU's national championship aspirations, Florida star and top seed Jeff Demps did not get out of the starting blocks in the 100-meter dash final, significantly damaging the Gators' championship hopes.
Mitchell and Williams weren't through. They won the second and fifth heats, respectively, in the first round of the 200-meter dash. Williams, who finished third at the NCAA Championship as a junior at LSU, rolled to a comfortable win in the second heat in 20.51. It was his fastest time of the season.
Mitchell, the defending NCAA champion in the 200, came into the meet with the nation's fastest all-conditions time and departed with the fastest legal time. The senior took command through the curve and finished up in 20.22, establishing yet another track record.
Freshman Stephen Newbold will join the duo in Saturday's quarterfinal round, qualifying 22nd on time in a season-best 20.99.
"We're just coming together as a team, counting on each other to make it to nationals," Williams said. "Our goal was to get everybody through and we're doing a good job."
FSU director of sprints, hurdles and relays Ken Harnden was clearly pleased with how the day unfolded.
"I feel like we're starting to get some things together," Harnden said. "We're not executing like it's the NCAA meet, but with guys like Kemar, Horatio and Maurice, this truly is just the prelims and they've done a really good job. They look really good. They've handled their business."
Not to be overlooked was the brilliant performance by senior Astrid Leutert in the evening-ending 3000-meter steeplechase. Leutert raced ACC champion Alyssa Kulik stride-for-stride before running away to victory in the first heat on the final lap. Her winning time of 9:53.15 was the fastest of the 48 entrants, the second-fastest in Florida State history and also a Hodges Stadium record.
One heat later, freshman Colleen Quigley secured herself a trip to Des Moines, Iowa for the national championship, finishing second in her heat in 10:03.86. That was the eighth-fastest time of the night against a stout field.
"We had some huge breakthroughs," Braman said. "[Darrin] Gibson earning his first trip to nationals, all three 100 guys getting through and then the girls steeple."
Gibson refused to let the Seminole sprinters carry the spear alone. The junior earned his first NCAA Championship appearance in the 800 meters with a gritty push over the final few meters to finish third in the second heat in 1:48.84.
While the sprinters were carrying the spear, junior Darrin Gibson scored an NCAA Championship qualifying spot - the first of his career - in the 800-meter run. Gibson punched his ticket with a gritty push over the final 100 meters, placing third in the second heat in 1:48.84.
Phillip Young rounded out the qualifying `Noles, but not without a little drama. After scratching his first two triple jump events, the sophomore busted out a leap of 15.61 meters (51-2.75) on his third attempt to reach the finals. That stood up as the ninth-best jump of the day and a championship appearance.
The meet winds to a close Saturday with more Seminoles spying trips to Des Moines. Beyond the 200-meter trio, senior shot putter Michael Putman will try and earn his third consecutive NCAA appearance in just his third meet of the season since undergoing thumb surgery in March.
"Putman is a big one because he's a guy that could pop a 19-meter throw and get you a piece of some," Braman said. "He's a senior and the kind of dog you want in the fight."
FSU's 4x100 relay team will try and put an exclamation on its banner meet, while Breandan O Neill will go at it in the 5000 meters and Jakub Zivec will attempt to move on in the 1500.
"We've got to come out here tomorrow with the mindset just to get the stick around and win our heat and get to nationals," said Williams, who will run the second leg. "Later on the day we've got to get as many people as we can in the 200."
On the women's side, the 1500-meter trio of Amanda Winslow, Violah Lagat and Hannah Brooks will compete for one of the top 12 spots in the quarterfinals, while Kayleigh Tyerman gets her chance in the 5000.