Chapel Hill, NC - Withstanding the heat of competition on a dreary, damp and cold day, the Florida State men’s and women’s track & field teams are bringing two more Atlantic Coast Conference Championship trophies back home.
Led by Most Valuable Track Performer Dentarius Locke the Seminole squeezed out a three-point victory over host North Carolina with a title-clinching third-place finish in the 4x400 relay to claim their 11th championship trophy since 2002.
On a day when every point mattered, Locke won the 100 (10.16), helped a patchwork 4x100 relay to another gold medal and added a third-place finish in the 200, before demanding a spot on the 4x400 relay with the meet on the line. He delivered there, too.
“MVP means Most Valuable Player,” Locke said. “I come out here not only to be the best that I can, but the best for my team. So with the last event of the day, a title on the line, we had to go and get it. I cleared my mind, my body and my soul and I was ready.”
So was Otniel Teixeira, whose surprising 800-meter title – and a fourth-place finish by teammate Jake Burton – buoyed the ‘Noles with 15 pivotal points in the later stages of the meet and helped offset the Tar Heels’ 24-point haul in the 400-meter hurdles.
“We just had to keep fighting because it was never over,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “Neither one of us blinked so we had to go out and win the meet.”
While the men were trading body blows with the Tar Heels, the Seminole women were watching a 30-point lead sliced to 13 down the stretch, despite a victory from Kellion Knibb in the discus. Running the 5000 meters on tired legs, Pippa Woolven and Linden Hall delivered the clinching points in the meet’s penultimate event, placing fourth and fifth.
Those nine points not only delivered the Seminoles their first ACC outdoor team title since 2009 – just the third in school history - but also wrapped up the ACC Triple Crown, completing the sweep of cross country, indoor and outdoor titles in the same school year.
“The women winning the Triple Crown was the goal from the start of the year,” Braman said. “Of the three championships, cross country might have been the most comfortable. Indoor, we were dominating every event. Today we had some momentum turns at points and had to rally at the end. The Outdoor championship was the toughest of three.”
As an added feather, the Seminoles became just the third program in the history of the ACC to sweep both the men’s and women’s Indoor and Outdoor titles in the same season, joining the 2009 FSU teams and the 1995 North Carolina squads.
“We’re the only team that has done it twice in the history of the ACC,” Braman added.” I’m going to brag on that a little bit, knowing that we were a little lucky and I’m humbled that we were able to do it. It’s hard to do and it’s just so great, because both teams were able to feed off each other.”
Despite scoring in only seven of 13 events on the final day, with just Knibb’s victory, the Seminole women snapped Clemson’s four-year hold on the title by scoring 111 points; 15 more than runner-up Notre Dame.
Ultimately it was FSU’s depth and resiliency that made the difference. Overcoming a disqualification which wiped out a victory in the 4x100 relay, the ‘Noles needed all the little points they could muster. Anne Zagre and Nicole Setterington combined for nine in the 100-meter hurdles, placing third and sixth. Marecia Pemberton was fourth in the 100-meter dash (five points), while Georgia Peel and Linden Hall combined for five more in the 1500, placing fifth and eighth. Zagre and Kali Davis-White finished 5-8 in the 200-meter final for five more points.
“To the credit of the Linden Hall’s and Pippa Woolven’s of the world, they came back tired – Linden on the same day – and clinched the meet,” Braman said. “I think it’s good because we did hit a few potholes on the women’s side, but were almost trying too hard. They weren’t hiding under the bus.
“We needed them all, and that’s a good lesson for them.”
The story was similar on the men’s side. Beyond the stars stepping to the forefront, contributions came from all corners as the Seminoles scored in nine of 14 events on the final day. FSU football players John Franklin III and Jalen Ramsey were called on to handle the leadoff and third legs of the winning 4x100 relay team. Franklin also chipped in an eighth-place finish in the 100.
Freshman Chad DaCosta offset a surprising seventh-place finish in the pole vault by North Carolina by placing seventh in the discus. Freshman Michael Cherry and senior Alonzo Russell, each on the mend from injuries, added six more points by placing fifth and seventh in the 400. They also came back with strong legs on the bronze medal 4x400, which ran a season-best 3:06.76 at the end of a long day.
Then there was Glen Yarham, who while doubling back from a third-place finish in the 10,000 meters on Friday night, squeezed everything out of his body for three more points with his sixth-place finish in the 5000 meters. Yarham’s performance set the stage for the 4x400 team, which needed to only finish fifth, to seal the title.