Eugene, OR - With a blistering final 500 meters, sophomore Colleen Quigley provided the Florida State track & field program with a signature moment, grabbing the silver medal in the steeplechase on the final day of the NCAA Championship meet at Oregon’s historic Hayward Field.
On a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon, Quigley broke away from Weber State’s Amber Henry on the penultimate lap of the 3000-meter race, sailing to the eighth-fastest time (9:38.23) in NCAA history. Despite finishing three seconds behind two-time champion and 2012 Olympian Emma Coburn of Colorado, Quigley used an 11-second personal best to earn an IAAF World Championship A-standard.
“There was no doubt about Colleen Quigley,” Florida State coach Bob Braman said, rattling off a list of great Seminole performers she compared favorably with. “That’s special.”
Executing her race plan, Quigley stalked Henry for most of the race before pulling away with a 71-second final lap. In the process, she smashed the Florida State record held by Barbara Parker, another 2012 Olympian, by 10 seconds.
Only former Colorado star Jenny Barringer ran faster as a collegiate sophomore than Quigley, who turned in the No. 22 time in the world; No. 4 in the United States.
“I didn’t expect it to be easy and it was not easy,” Quigley said. “I was hurting. I was just trying to stick on Amber and not let her gap me too much. … I could tell she was hurting too. I was having some definite self-doubt. With 500 to go, that was my spot. I decided with coach [Karen Harvey] that’s where I needed to make my move.
“By the time I got to the barrier after the finish line (with one lap remaining), I went around her and felt like, ‘I’ve got her now. I feel terrible, but she feels worse.’ I had another gear in me.”
Quigley’s performance was far and away the highlight on a day marred by Stefan Brits’ hamstring injury during the 4x100 relay, forcing the Seminole men to settle for eighth place and their lone point of the day.
The Seminole men finished ninth with 23.5 points, while the women tied for 29th with nine points.
Senior Amanda Winslow provided the Seminole women with their only other All-American performance, placing eighth in the 1500-meter final. Winslow led until the final 200 meters, fading against a furious pack of kickers who were stalking her throughout.
“When I found myself in the lead I didn’t want back off,” said Winslow, who finished in 4:16.00. “I wanted to push myself, push the pack and see what happened.
“It was very similar to last year. A lot of races at this level are just like that. No one wants to lead. No one wants to do the work. That’s what I like to do. I’m stubborn. I like to push it and I just didn’t push it hard enough.”
Winslow was followed across the finish line by sophomore Linden Hall (4:16.42) in ninth place; just one spot off the podium in her NCAA Championship finals debut.
“When it was this windy and you’re in a field this good and you’re going to try and run with that much courage, you better have a perfect day,” FSU women’s distance coach Karen Harvey said. “She didn’t have a perfect day. At the same time she’s an All-American and she went for it.”
Harvey went on to praise Winslow for the body of her work over a four-year career that now includes seven All-American honors between cross country and track.
“Amanda Winslow has been incredible for our program,” Harvey said. “I’m really going to miss her. She leads in the classroom, she leads with character and leads on the track.”
“One year ago when I was here and found myself in the lead, I couldn’t believe it was happening,” said Winslow, who was seventh last season. “This year I went into the race thinking it’s OK if it happens. Even though the outcome was pretty much the same thing – I got caught in the end – I feel like I’ve still gained so much experience and had so many accomplishments I’m so proud of.”
Winslow never let on that she was less than full speed entering the finals, despite a tender hamstring and a stomach the laid up her much of Friday at the team hotel.
“I’m thankful I made it here; made it to the finals,” Winslow said. “A week ago I was thinking my season might be over. I’m really blessed to finish on a somewhat high note. You can’t be upset at being an All-American.”
The men’s 4x100 relay team also claimed All-American honors Saturday, but it wasn’t the finish they had hoped for. Leadoff man Alonzo Russell and Dentarius Locke executed a perfect exchange and the ‘Noles were sailing along in first. The flawless baton exchange from Locke to Brits heightened expectations, before the sophomore from South Africa grabbed his hamstring after three strides with the stick.
“We had the lead, had a good handoff and we might have won that relay if not for a hamstring that let go,” Braman said. “That was one of those bad luck things. We competed our butts off.”
They day did not get off to a promising start as freshman Morne Moolman failed to reach the finals in the javelin, placing seventh in the first flight with a top throw of 69.48 meters (227-11). Likewise, junior Chelsea Whalen did not advance from the first flight of the shot put, managing only a top mark of 16.32 meters (53-6.50) which was also seventh.
Moolman and Whalen finished 11th and 13th, respectively, while making their NCAA Championship debuts in their Saturday events. As underclassmen, they will have an opportunity to build on the experience after setting school records this season.
Of the nine Florida State men who competed at the four-day meet, six will return in 2014, including Locke, Harris, Russell, Brits, Zak Seddon and Moolman, four of whom leave Hayward Field with All-American honors.
On the women’s side, six of seven NCAA Championship qualifiers will return. Winslow leaves a significant void as a graduating senior, but Quigley – a rising junior – will be the Seminoles top returning NCAA finisher for a second consecutive year.
“The things that didn’t go well today, some of them were marginal,” Braman said. “Chelsea threw well and didn’t quite make it in. Morne threw pretty well and was 11th…I feel good about the future. We had a real gut-check point about the middle of April, the week before the conference meet. We could have gone two ways. We nearly pulled a [ACC Championship] double. The message right away was, “These are good people. We’re still in it.”