TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As soon as the race is over, likely a little after 9 p.m., on Saturday, Zak Seddon and Edwin Kibichiy can be friends again.
But until then, the two runners – Seddon for Florida State and Kibichiy for Louisville – will focus all their efforts on finally gaining an upper hand over the other while helping his team advance toward a conference championship.
FSU will host the ACC Outdoor Track & Field Championships Friday through Sunday at Mike Long Track, and another round of Seddon vs. Kibichiy in the 3,000-meter steeplechase figures to be one of the weekend’s main events.
Seddon and Kibichiy, nationally ranked No. 2 and No. 4, respectively, have met three times in the last year. Most notably, Kibichiy outdueled Seddon on his way to the ACC steeplechase title in Tallahassee last season. Seddon then returned the favor, edging Kibichiy for eighth place and a spot on the podium at NCAA championships.
“It’s going to be a great race and I definitely want to get revenge for last year,” Seddon said. “That’s for sure.”
His words may sound tough, but Seddon’s smile takes out all the bite.
He wants to win, but, more than that, Seddon said he’s looking forward to one more lap of the friendly rivalry that he says pushes him to his highest level.
“I love to race him. I love to race my friends,” Seddon said. “When someone brings out your best race, you respect that.”
For four years, Seddon’s best has been awfully good.
A London native who only first considered attending college after meeting an FSU assistant in France, Seddon has been one of the Seminoles’ steadiest performers.
He’s claimed one ACC steeplechase title, one runner-up finish and earned All-America honors by finishing eighth at last year’s NCAA championships.
That’s more than a career’s worth of accolades for most athletes, but that second-place finish still sticks out – because it came on Seddon’s home track.
Seddon recalls his first meeting with his Kibichiy, when the Kenya native walked up to him, offered a smile and said, ‘Good luck, Zak.’”
Seddon might have wished he had said anything else.
“I said, ‘Oh (no), I don’t like when my competitors are nice to me,’” Seddon said with a laugh. “Now I have to be nice to him. I want to be aggressive and attack.”
Seddon didn’t hold back his effort that day, but, as is likely to be the case this weekend, temperatures in Tallahassee made for grueling conditions on that track.
“It was like running on the equator in the jungle,” FSU coach Bob Braman said.
The race came down to the final 150 meters before Kibichiy held Seddon off to clinch the ACC title.
Seddon didn’t exactly leave empty-handed, either: His runner-up finish helped the FSU men win a third consecutive team championship.
While the Seminoles face an uphill climb to make it four straight, Seddon still has a chance to leave Mike Long Track on a high note.
“That’s been one of my goals all year – well, since winning (the steeplechase) the first year,” Seddon said. “I wanted to keep doing that, but there’s great competition. But I think I have what it takes. It would mean a lot.”
Seddon and Kibichy have kept in touch since that first meeting, and Seddon is quick to call Kibichy a friend.
He said the two speak from time to time and often exchange text messages before races. Seddon naturally expects that line to go quiet this week, but the silent treatment won’t last long.
“We’re going to laugh about it afterwards,” he said. “For sure.”