June 6, 2012
By Bob Thomas, seminoles.com
DES MOINES, Iowa - Rarely do NCAA Championship Track & Field meets follow the script, and the opening day of the 2012 meet at Drake's Jim Duncan track was no exception for Bob Braman's Florida State team.
The Seminole men failed to capitalize on any of the wildcard scoring opportunities Braman hoped would further bolster his team's championship hopes. At the same time, the `Noles didn't give away any major points, either.
Florida State's sprinters held up their end of the bargain in both the 4x100 and 100-meter semifinal rounds. With four opportunities to move on to the finals, the `Noles capitalized on three.
The men's 4x100 relay team didn't have any trouble with the field in the first heat as Kemar Hyman, Horatio Williams, Maurice Mitchell and Kieran Showler-Davis rolled to victory in 38.81. The fourth-fastest time in school history held up for the No. 3 seed in Saturday's final, behind Auburn (38.53) and LSU (38.77).
"We went out there, got the stick around and had a season-best," Mitchell said. "Kieran finished it off real strong, so I'm proud of him."
"I knew these guys would put me in good shape coming into the last leg," said Showler-Davis, who made his first appearance on FSU's top 4x100 quartet in the anchor spot. "I just needed to stay relaxed."
Mitchell and Hyman came back later in the day to handle their business in the 100-meter dash semifinals, where they were joined in the third heat by Williams. The duo finished 1-2 in season-best times of 10.03 and 10.4, respectively, with Hyman also lowering his Cayman Islands national record. They are seeded third and fourth for Friday's final, behind Auburn's Harry Adams (9.96) and Illinois' Andrew Riley (10.02).
The blazing times of Adams and Riley in the second heat caught the Seminole sprinters a bit by surprise.
"It was pretty shocking, really, but our coach just told us to go out and do what we do," said Mitchell, who was third here last season. "It doesn't really matter what you do in the prelims. ...
"Guys are going to go out there and run fast, but at the end of the day it's about what happens in the finals. We're just going to continue to do what we do and hopefully we can go 1-2 in the finals."
Hyman echoed Mitchell.
"I was kind of disappointed in the times after seeing the heat before, because me and Maurice know we can be up there," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind that we can definitely go under 10 seconds, but 10.04 is a PR for me. I'm real happy."
A pair of FSU women capitalized on being paired in the same heat of the 3000-meter steeplechase. Senior Astrid Leutert (10:06.22) and freshman Colleen Quigley (10:06.90) qualified comfortably by finishing second and fourth in the second heat and move on to Friday's final.
"The main goal is making it to the final," said Leutert. "I'm really looking forward to Friday. ... It's even better that we both made it."
"We were happy when we found out we were in the same heat," Quigley said. "It gives you comfort to have your teammate there."
"We could do everything together and that helps stay calm and relaxed," Leutert added.
Gonzalo Barroilhet will enter the second day of the decathlon in chase mode. As the No. 2 seed entering the meet, Barroilhet labored to match his ACC Championship record pace through the first four events, then blasted his way to a career-best 49.82 in the 400 meter dash. The Chilean national record-holder and Olympian finished the day with 3,895 points and sits back in 13th place.
"Gonzalo had a tough day, but he also finished with a big PR in the 400 to give him a little momentum," Braman said. "It's possible that he can win it, but he just needs to keep fighting and get as many spots as he can. He still has a very good chance of getting a top-three (finish) based on his second day. If he does that he keeps us in the hunt."
Fortunately, the second day of the decathlon also includes his strongest events - the 110 hurdles, discus and pole vault - leaving the door open for a big move. Though he trails the lead by 292 points, he's just 78 points out of eighth place.
Sophomore Chelsea Whalen, making her NCAA debut in the javelin, came into the meet seeded 21st out of 24 and left with a new personal-best (47.44m/155-7), which was 12th overall.
"The ladies were strong and did a great job," Braman said. "A PR for Chelsea and the steeplers were fantastic."
Several other `Noles were not as fortunate. Freshman Stefan Brits cramped up on his first attempt in the long jump and didn't make it to the finals.
It was even more gut-wrenching for junior Darrin Gibson, who was running in third place with 200 meters remaining in his heat of the 800 when he was tripped up and went crashing to the ground.
"Coach [Braman] wanted me to wait until the last 100," Gibson explained. "Everybody started to move with 200 and someone tripped me from behind. I'm OK. I really wanted this experience. Now I've got some unfinished business next year."
Junior Mike Fout closed out the night with a strong start, leading the first third of the 10,000-meter run, before fading to 15th place (29:47.25), one spot better than last season's championship place.
The Seminoles' title hopes hardly suffered. Not only did they advance those they anticipated would get through, they didn't lose any ground to projected top contenders Florida and Texas A&M. The Gators were shut out in the long jump, while the Aggies managed just one point in the discus, despite coming in with the third-seeded thrower.
"A&M had some tough luck," Braman said. "Florida had some tough luck, so it was a typical NCAA track & field meet."
Beyond Barroilhet in the second day of the decathlon, the Seminoles will send Mitchell and Williams on to the 200-meter semifinals, while Phillip Young will compete in the triple jump. On the women's side, Amy Harris will compete in the long jump, while the 1500-meter trio of Hannah Brooks, Amanda Winslow and Violah Lagat will try and advance to the finals.