June 9, 2012
By Bob Thomas, seminoles.com
DES MOINES, Iowa - When Maurice Mitchell and Horatio Williams raced across the finish line at Drake University's Jim Duncan Track for a 1-3 finish in Saturday's 200-meter dash final, the Florida State men's team soared to the top of the NCAA Championship scoring list.
Successfully defending his 200 meter NCAA title, Mitchell - the sixth Seminole national champion in the last seven years in the event - and Williams teamed for 16 points, which gave FSU a 38-37 lead over LSU with two events remaining.
"It's one of the many times with one or two events that we were first on the board," veteran FSU coach Bob Braman said.
With its 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championship scoring opportunities exhausted, the Seminoles watched Florida, LSU and Texas A&M zoom past them on the scoreboard after the 110 hurdles and 4x400 relay.
Despite a strong Saturday closing performance - the `Noles scored 24 points after opening the day tied for 12th in the team standings - settled for a fourth-place team finish; the seventh time in the last eight years they have finished fourth or better.
"I walk off quite pleased from where we entered today," Braman said. "We entered today and it was like, `Come on, we're better than this. Let's get some points.' And we did. It was a great job.
"It's such a tough meet. Four teams separate from everybody else and it's hard. You've got to get most of it if not all of it. We were really great today. ... There was no lack of effort. Just a few breaks here and there."
For the most part, the Seminoles stars handled their business over the course of the four-day meet. Those breaks, or wildcard scoring opportunities Braman knew his team would need to claim another national championship, never materialized.
Michelle Jenije finished fifth in the triple jump, while Amanda Winslow and Violah Lagat closed out the scoring for the FSU women, nabbing seventh- and eighth-place in Saturday's 1500-meter final. That pushed the Seminoles' four-day total to 16 points, good for a share of 14th-place - their best finish since placing fourth in 2009. The women have now authored seven consecutive top 20 finishes, including five top 15 showings.
"The women did a great job," Braman said. "They're coming on and I think they'll be in position to contend for a podium finish next year."
Saturday's closing schedule provided the final punctuation on a number of Florida State careers, and it began with a bang when the men's 4x100 relay - with seniors Kemar Hyman, Williams and Mitchell, joined by freshman anchor Stephen Newbold - smashed the school record with a runner-up finish to LSU in 38.57.
"We came in and really did what we had to do," said Hyman, who handled the leadoff duties. "We got a PR; it's a school record. That's a good accomplishment. I'm happy."
Newbold tried valiantly to pull out the win, but couldn't run down LSU's Shermund Allsop, who anchored the Tigers' 38.38 effort.
"It was a good race," Newbold said. "The pass [from Mitchell] was pretty good, but LSU might have had a little edge on us. I saw the yellow [uniforms] on the outside of me. I tried to catch him at the line, but I didn't get him."
It took four days for the Seminole men to score their first win of the meet, but Mitchell left no doubt that he was ready for a successful title defense. Despite running into a wicked 4.2 headwind off the curve, the Kansas City, Mo. native and U.S. Olympic hopeful, rocketed out of the curve and down the stretch to win in 20.40.
"Our race is pretty simple - just run hard," Mitchell said, who joined former Dix as a multiple-time 200 champion. "That's what I did. I executed. I ran the turn pretty hard, shot off of the turn and ran really hard down the homestretch into that strong headwind. I'm really happy.
"I trusted in my coaches and in my training and I went out there and did what I could and I just thank God."
Williams, who was third running for LSU last season, had no regrets about his performance out of lane eight.
"I wanted to be out in front of everybody [off the curve] and run my own race," he said. "That's what I did. I can't be too mad."
Jenjie didn't waste any time establishing herself as a contender, knocking out a 13.56 meter (44-6) triple jump on her first attempt, which secured a spot in the finals. The senior from Tallahassee, however, was unable to improve on that standard over her final attempts, but still managed her first outdoor podium finish.
"From that perspective it's a silver lining to come out here, go to finals and place, but I guess once you get on the roll you want to keep going," said Jenije, who has closed her career by earning first-team All-American honors indoors and outdoors. "It's meant so much, having the season I've had, and especially being my senior year. It means so much, but I'm not going to settle."
Winslow also set the tone early in the 1500-meter final, leading the race against a stacked field for nearly 1400 meters in her NCAA Outdoor debut.
"It was such a great field I was assuming would be a fast race," said the junior from Lawrenceville, Ga. "After the first 150 I said, `Oh, maybe not.' I didn't want to slow up. There are so many good girls here. It's an Olympic year and people are running really fast. I just wanted to see what I could do.
"With a lap to go I tried to crank it all the way, like coach told me, to squeeze everything out of me like a toothpaste tube. ... I just wanted to use everything I had in my body and that's what I did."
Winslow held on for seventh place in 4:14.96 - just .01 seconds out of fifth and less than one second from second place - while Lagat worked her way through traffic to snare eighth in 4:15.77.
"I am happy. I really don't have any regrets," Winslow said. "It just felt great being up there and pushing it. Just getting out and going for it."
Anticipating a faster race, Lagat found herself pinned on the inside rail with 200 meters remaining.
"It really didn't [speed up] until the last 400 and I was blocked in again," Lagat said. "I tried to get out and it was too late to catch everybody. [Coming off the turn], I said, `I cannot let anyone pass me, because I want to be an All-American. I wanted to prove that I'm an All-American.'"
Four of women's distance coach Karen Harvey's six NCAA qualifiers earned first-team All-American honors, accounting for 12 of FSU's team points.
"Jenije did a great job and ran into a buzzsaw competition; one of the best ever 1-5," Braman said. "I thought the 1500 meter girls did well in a great field; statistically one of the best fields ever. They finished seventh and eighth and were in position to finish higher."
Senior Michael Putman, in just his fourth competition since returning from spring thumb surgery, came up short in his bid to get back on the podium in the shot put. Junior Kayleigh Tyerman set the early pace in the 5000-meter final before finishing 18th under sweltering conditions on the closing day in her NCAA debut.