Raleigh, NC - The Florida State track & field teams enter the three-day Atlantic Coast Conference Outdoor Championships a little short on personnel, but not at all out of the title chase on the men’s and women’s sides.
The three-day meet opens Thursday at NC State’s Paul H. Derr Track with the fifth-ranked Florida State men eyeing a 10th conference title in 12 years and the women trying to bring an end to Clemson’s three-year reign.
“The women’s race is really hard to figure because Clemson’s points are not as head-to-head with us,” FSU head coach Bob Braman said. “We’ve got a lot of head-to-head between Clemson and Virginia Tech on the men’s side. … That will truly make for some big swings, because whoever is supposed to win (an event) is an uneasy favorite.”
“It’s a really good track & field meet on the men’s side. On the women’s side, our points are really strong, but there are some points out there to get. If our women are going to win to they’re going to need some good fortune and big performances.”
The Seminole men come into the meet favored to win six events based on performances to date. One of those is junior Dentarius Locke, who has the ACC’s fastest time in the 200, but will also make his season debut in the 100 where he figures to be a formidable contender. Locke is also slated for duty on FSU’s top-rated 4x400 relay team as well as the 4x100 relay team, which is ranked second.
Should the former Tennessee star fulfill his scoring potential, he could succeed three-time ACC Championship MVP Maurice Mitchell, who moved on after last season.
Senior Breandan O Neill is FSU’s lone returning defending champion and will get a crack Thursday night to put the Seminoles on the scoreboard in the 10,000-meter run. Freshman Zak Seddon has the league’s top time in the 3000-meter steeplechase, while indoor high jump champion James Harris has the top outdoor mark. Another senior, Andrew LaHaye, brings the best pole vault mark into the competition.
The potential to post a winning total is there, with FSU men ranked among the top three in 14 of 21 events. Morne Moolman (javelin), Stefan Brits (long jump) and Jeff Pelage (discus) are all capable of claiming top honors in their specialities.
On the women’s side, the ‘Noles will try and counter Clemson’s sprint dominance with their own distance prowess. Colleen Quigley is the favorite in the 3000-meter steeplechase, as is senior Amanda Winslow in the 5000. Kayleigh Tyerman (10,000), Georgia Peel (800) and Linden Hall (1500) all figure to be in the thick of individual title shots.
The Seminoles also bring a formidable throws contingent into the competition. Freshman Kellion Knibb is the No. 1 seed in the discus as is junior Elizabeth Ichite in the 400-meter dash. Junior Chelsea Whalen is riding a hot streak in the shot put and is also capable of contending for honors in the javelin.
As is always the case in large meets, the performances by other teams could also factor heavily in the outcome. Strong individual performers from NC State, North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech and Miami could spread the points out, opening the door for the Seminoles.
“There’s no question that the other good teams, who may be really, really, really long longshots to win, are going to play a factor in this because they’ve got good athletes,” Braman said. “There’s no pecking order on the women’s side (after Clemson and FSU). You could have a team that’s contending to win, like us, and we could be fifth if we don’t get the job done.
“On the men’s side it just lays out to be a three-team meet. The talent of a Virginia Tech team, coming off a really good indoor championship performance; don’t think they’re not done yet. … Clemson, their points where they’ve got them, are strong.”
The FSU men are without the services of sprint standouts Marvin Bracy and Stephen Newbold.
“I would feel a lot better if we were healthy and we were at full strength,” Braman said. “If we had all of our guys here and healthy, we’d be in a pretty good spot.”
Still, the Seminole men have been either first or second since the 2000 championship meet, and the expectations have not changed.
Fans can follow the Seminoles in action via Twitter @FSU_Track and the recaps of each day at www.seminoles.com
The Atlantic Coast Conference will provide live coverage via the web from 6-9 p.m on Thursday, 5-8:30 p.m. on Friday and 4-8 p.m. on Saturday. Viewers can access the webcasts directly at: http://theacc.co/OTFWatchLive