BOSTON, Mass. – For the ninth time in 10 years, the ACC Indoor Track & Field Championship trophy left the building in the hands of the Florida State men’s team.
The Seminoles used a furious rush midway through Saturday’s schedule at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, erasing a 29.5-point deficit, to claim the 2012 title by a whopping 27.5 points over defending champion Virginia Tech. Bob Braman’s club had rattled off eight consecutive ACC indoor titles before the Hokies snapped their streak in 2011.
That setback was not lost on Florida State’s most veteran runners, who were front and center behind the comeback.
“It was tough losing last year,” said FSU senior Maurice Mitchell, who became the first three-time ACC Track Performer of the Year. “We definitely came here very hungry, which is a good thing, and we were all motivated. We came here and executed and ran well. I’m very excited we’re bringing the title back to FSU.”
Graduate student Gonzalo Barriolhet matched a career-best (5.35m/17-6.50) as his jump-off victory in the pole vault gave the ‘Noles their first lead since the opening event of the meet. Moments after Barriolhet celebrated with a giant tomahawk chop as he bounded from the pole vault pit victoriously, the Seminoles’ 200-meter contingent essentially sealed the deal.
“There’s a point in the meet where you’ve got to step up and realize that you’re part of the team,” Barriolhet said. “Luckily, in an hour we got all those points. It was all teamwork and momentum that just kept going.”
Mitchell led a 1-2-3 sweep of the 200, winning in a time of 20.93, which virtually assures him a spot at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Senior Horatio Williams (21.17) and freshman Stephen Newbold (21.38) grabbed silver and bronze as the ‘Noles outscored the Hokies 24-5 in the event, building a virtually insurmountable lead with two events remaining.
David Forrester, yet another senior, iced the title with his impressive runner-up finish in the 3000 meters to NC State’s Ryan Hill. One of three men in the race to break the old ACC Championship meet record, Forrester crossed in 8:02.64, just two seconds behind Hill, who has posted the nation’s fastest time this season.
Senior Michael Putman got the Seminoles’ day going with an all-time best in the shot put – indoor and out – of 19.20m (63-0), to successfully defend his title. Putman entered the meet with the second-best throw, but had favorite, Virginia freshman Nick Vena, and the rest of the field chasing from the start.
Kemar Hyman, yet another Seminole senior, rolled to victory in the 60-meter dash (6.58) as FSU piled up 24 points in an event that got them back in the thick of the championship competition. Mitchell (6.67), Williams (6.71) and David Ambler (6.92) finished second, fourth and eight, respectively.
Newbold kept the pressure on the Hokies with his victory in the 400-meter dash (47.78) as did Darrin Gibson’s runner-up finish in the 800 (1:49.42).
“It was a little bit nerve-wracking because we were 30 points down after the triple jump,” Braman said. “There were a lot of iffy moments there. The pole vault was definitely the turning point. Virginia Tech’s Joe Davis had the highest mark in the conference, is a veteran and had a tough meet. He finished tied for sixth with our Andrew LaHaye. Gonzalo, in just his second vaulting competition of the year, comes in and clears his personal-best.
“Nick Vena came in as the high national champion in the shot put and Michael Putman said, ‘No, no. This is my show,’ and threw a lifetime best. Newbold did the unthinkable to come in and compete the way he did in a 200-400 double. That doesn’t happen much as a freshman.
“It was our podium guys that won the meet. We didn’t have a lot of sixths, sevenths and eights.”
The Seminoles finished with 123 points to Virginia Tech’s 95.5.
While the men hoisted the championship trophy, the Florida State women made an impressive push to a runner-up finish behind three-time champion Clemson. The Seminoles scored 58 points on the final day, climbing from fifth place after Friday’s events.
Junior Amanda Winslow, who anchored Friday’s ACC Championship record-setting distance medley relay, came back to provide the ‘Noles with their lone individual win on Saturday. Winslow pushed her way to the front of a tight pack in the 3000 meters with 2 ½ laps to go, extending her lead en route to a win in 9:27.96.
“It was definitely exciting to be a part of the DMR,” Winslow said. “Something coach [Karen Harvey] wanted us to focus on this season was having fun and getting that team race in. … Going for the record was a big deal, because there were some big names that had the record before us.
“Coming back today was a bit of a different race. It was much more strategic. Last night’s race was running for time. This was running for place. It was exciting to get to do both.”
Winslow was equally excited to be a part of a runner-up finish that was made possible by a multitude of contributions from veterans and underclassmen, alike.
“Finishing second this year as a team, it’s exciting to know we have so many people coming back; a lot of freshmen scoring this year in multiple events,” Winslow said. “It’s definitely pleasing to be second, knowing we’re a young team and we’re still in transition.”
Senior Michelle Jenije was forced to settle for silver in the triple jump, despite equaling the best mark of the day (13.19m/43-3.25). Clemson’s Jasmine Brunson prevailed on the strength of a next-best mark. FSU classmate Amy Harris, competing in the triple jump for the first time in two years, provided a valuable fourth-place finish to the cause. Harris won the long jump on Friday.
“We went into the meet to do what was right for our kids nationally,” Braman said. “Conversely to our men’s team, we got those fifths, sixths and sevenths. … We got a lot of nice contributions.
“The women’s team will have a chance to be top-10 at nationals based upon those jumpers and distance runners.”
The Seminole women prevailed for second on the strength of their depth. Their freshmen trio of Colleen Quigley (4:45.40), Linden Hall (4:48.24) and Aubree Worden (4:48.91) finished 4-6-7 in the mile. Hannah Brooks (2:11.19) and Jessica Parry (2:11.57) finished 5-6 in the 800 meters, continuing the outstanding meet by Harvey’s distance crew.
Sophomore Chelsea Whalen used a personal-best shot put effort of 15.04m (49-4.25) – on her final attempt – to secure a third-place, podium finish and All-ACC honors. Junior Marecia Pemberton was fifth in the 60 with a season-best 7.33, while freshman Jande Pierce scored a fifth-place finish in the 200 (24.10). Senior Lauren Giffin matched her season-best in the pole vault (3.91m/12-10) to earn a share of sixth.
Entering the final event of the day – the 4x400 relay – the ‘Noles held a six-point lead over North Carolina, needing to finish no worse than fifth to retain second place. The Seminole quartet of Elizabeth Ichite, Pierce, Sarah Chandler and Marsha Ariol – two sophomores and two freshmen - met the challenge with a season-best time of 3:46.29 to get the job done.