Clemson, SC - Responding with resilience and resolve on the decisive final day of competition, the Florida State men’s and women’s track & field teams ushered in the new era of Atlantic Coast Conference competition with a sweep of the Indoor Championship team titles.
It was a special feat for the Seminoles, who became just the fifth program in ACC history to claim both team titles. That it came against a beefed-up 15-team field made it all the more sweet.
“Today we got most of the points we could get,” FSU head coach Bob Braman said. “I feel like we maximized. There were very few missed opportunities. When it’s a close battle, you can’t miss much. We did what we could do. I felt like we performed really well today and we had to. …
“[Sweeping is] just so hard to do. You can tell when both teams are good that the administration supports track & field. It wants us to be good; gives us what we need to be successful. It also says you’ve got unified team that really does feed off of each other.”
Hunting their second ACC title and first since 2009, the Seminole women didn’t waste any time seizing control of their destiny. Entering the final day with a four-point lead over Duke, FSU bolted from the blocks with juniors Colleen Quigley and Linden Hall delivering a 1-2 finish in the mile and senior Marecia Pemberton claiming her first 60-meter dash title.
Quigley and Hall did not just set the tone, but also a standard, finishing in 4:34.80 and 4:34.93 – the second- and third-fastest times in the nation – to secure spots at the NCAA Indoor Championship meet in two weeks. Quigley also smashed the Clemson Indoor Track & Field Facility record by 13 seconds.
“It felt incredible,” said Quigley, who was equally inspired by the Seminoles’ five-point loss to Clemson at last year’s ACC Outdoor Championship. “Our first priority was to get the points. The second priority was to get Linden to nationals. They were both so important to us. … Why not go for it. When we both crossed the (finish) line, saw the clock and knew we got a two-second conversion, we were crazy happy.”
Pemberton, a fifth-year senior who arrived just after the ‘Noles claimed their first ACC title in 2009, remembers all too well watching Clemson pick up each of the last four indoor and outdoor team titles. That motivation and the camaraderie served her well as she sped through the finish in a season-best winning time of 7.33.
“You always want to go out with a bang your senior year,” Pemberton said. “The chemistry of this team has been a lot different than what I’ve experienced in past years. So giving them these 10 points meant a lot because we were counting on each other and rooting on each other to do our very best. It wasn’t just about Marecia going out and making her goal, it was making sure that I can give them these 10 points so that we can go back on that bus happy tonight.”
By the time Anne Zagre scored a silver medal performance in the 60-meter hurdles, shot putters Chelsea Whalen, Kellion Knibb and Lakitta Johnson combined for 10 points and Karly Jackson picked up 1.5 more in the pole vault, the Seminoles held a whopping 40-point lead they would not relinquish.
The Seminoles cruised to a 13.5-point win over Duke, 96.5-83, followed by Notre Dame (65) and Miami (62).
There was far more drama on the men’s side, where the Seminoles held a tenuous six-point lead over Notre Dame and a nine-point edge over North Carolina entering the final event. FSU needed a fourth-place to seal its 10th ACC team title.
Spurred on by his wildly cheering men’s and women’s teammates from the stands, second relay leg Dentarius Locke overcame leg cramps 200 meters into the race to bring the stick back around the track. Michael Cherry and James Harris handled matters from there, finishing third to seal the deal after Notre Dame dropped the baton and did not finish.
Locke’s cramps were well-earned. His final day began with the narrowest of victories – by .002 – over Tevin Hester in the 60-meter dash final in 6.63, followed by his third-place finish in the 200-meter dash.
When those cramps hit with a lap remaining on the relay, Locke could only remember falling to Virginia Tech at last year’s ACC Indoor Championship meet.
“That was our biggest motivation, even though we came back and won outdoors,” he said. “Losing indoors to Virginia Tech at Virginia Tech stuck in our mind, so we wanted to come out here and win. We pulled it out.”
The fact that it was decided in the final event of the three-day meet made the triumph all the more sweet.
“That made the conference a lot better, that it got to down to the last race,” Locke added. “It shows other conferences that we’re not the second conference or the third conference overall, that we can compete with anybody.”
Every point mattered for the ‘Noles, who opened the day tied for second with North Carolina, four points behind Duke. FSU’s middle distance group provided a much-needed boost when Jakub Zivec placed fourth in the mile and Otniel Teixeira was sixth in the 800.
Harris’ fourth-place finish in a loaded 400-meter dash final kept the ball rolling, before the field events stepped up to answer the call as the Seminoles, Tar Heels and Irish battled to the wire.
Freshmen shot putters Chadrick DaCosta and Austin Droogsma combined for six points, finishing fifth and seventh, but it was the triple jump performance of Jonathan Reid and Owen Cain that sent the ‘Noles into the 4x400 in control of their own destiny.
Reid, a transfer from Alabama, delivered a gold medal performance with a leap of 6.11 meters (52-10.25) and Owen Cain was fourth as the Seminoles outscored Notre Dame 15-2 in the event.
When the final points were tallied the Seminoles’ 96-point total was just enough to hold North Carolina (89) and Notre Dame (84) at bay.
The larger, more balanced conference meet produced the lowest scoring women’s champion in ACC history and the lowest on the men’s side since 1979; a scenario which may very well be repeated moving forward.
“This is a big one,” Braman said of the championship victories. “Indoors is always our Achilles heel. We didn’t get all of the points, but we didn’t have any disasters. … Over three days if you don’t miss, you fight hard, you’ve got a shot.”