BOSTON, Mass. – Michael Hall was breathing rarified air Saturday and it has never tasted sweeter.
After closing with a furious final lap, Hall now owns just the third sub-four-minute mile in Florida State history, finishing in 3:59.17 for fifth-place finish in the fast section at the David Hemery Valentine Invitational.
Only former Noles Tom Lancashire (3:58.52, 2006) and David Forrester (3:59.13, 2012) have run faster than the redshirt junior from Cincinnati, Ohio, who has been dreaming of this moment since his senior year at St. Xavier High School.
That it happened Saturday at the Boston University Track & Tennis Center, in the featured heat led by budding Nike Oregon Project star Craig Engels (3:53.93), was no accident.
“I decided, and Coach Braman has said this for quite some time, there’s no better opportunity than now,” Hall said, explaining his frame of mind entering the race. “You never know whether you’re going to feel good or bad, have a lot of bounce in your legs and you’re sluggish. So why waste an opportunity? If you’re healthy and in shape, go for gold every single time you step on the track.”
Hall did just that, finding his spot in the middle of the single-file train circling the 200-meter track.
“I knew there were going to be a lot of fast guys and things were going to go,” Hall said. “I was thinking, ‘Let’s just get after it and go. They were going to pull me through. I’ve just got to get on the train and fight through the pain.’”
After losing contact with Engels and the leaders with just three laps remaining, Hall maintained his composure.
“My main goal was to stay mentally focused and mentally sharp the entire race,” he said. “I think this was one the most complete races I’ve ever had…At 1200 I saw the clock and it was close to 3-flat. I told myself before the race, ‘If I can get close to 3-flat I can bring it home hard. Historically I finished strong.
“I started moving a little bit. At about 250 meters, when I saw the clock and it was, ‘This is it. Let’s close hard.’”
FSU coach Bob Braman was the first to congratulate Hall, who came into the meet with a lifetime-best of 4:03.00, and returns home in elite company.
“I’m ecstatic about Mike’s race,” Braman said. “He’s in an exclusive club as an American sub-four miler. Mike executed his race perfectly. He made no mistakes, maximized his fitness and got that magic mark.
“This has been a four-year process but I never doubted he could do it. Now it’s time to qualify for Nationals and earn All-American honors.”
Hall was already thinking along those lines, just hours after fulfilling the dream he first shared in his high school coaches’ office with Ohio State coach Brice Allen on July 1 before the start of his senior year at St. Xavier.
“The feeling is indescribable,” Hall said. “When I crossed the line and I looked at the clock I was in absolute shock. When it said 3:59 and whatever the decimal was, there was just a big sigh of relief and a big smile came across my face. Coach Braman ran and gave me a big hug. I was thinking, ‘Thank you, God for allowing me to get to this point in my running career.’
“I think I can take another second-and-half off between now and hopefully ACCs and get an indoor spot at nationals.”
Hall wasn’t the only Nole to excel in Boston on Saturday, a four others posted lifetime-bests in the mile, including Istvan Szogi (4:05.84), Toby Hardwick (4:07.85) and freshman Tyler Dau (4:08.54). Hardwick, a junior transfer from Iowa State, and Dau earned ACC qualifying marks for their efforts.
Earlier in the day, Bert Freire battled to a fifth-place finish in the fast section of the 800 (1:50.81), while three of four Noles competing in the 5000-meter nightcap also came home with lifetime-bests, led by freshman Caleb Pottorff (14:25.05).
“The whole middle distance crew ran tough as nails,” Braman said. “Apart from a few tactical errors it was as good as I could hope for.
“Caleb did a great job. I threw he and Steven [Cross] in with the pros and the big boys and Caleb held his own. That’s a really good freshman 5k time, especially for indoors.”
Seymour, Wallace post top Tyson performances
Freshman Ka’Tia Seymour lowered her already-impressive 200-meter personal-best to 23.66 and Armani Wallace was the top collegian in the invitational triple jump with a leap of 16.06 meters (52-8.25), leading the Noles competing Saturday at the Tyson Invitational.
Seymour finished sixth in the open section of the 200 and moved to up two spots to No. 5 on FSU’s all-time top 10 list. Wallace was fourth overall behind a trio of professionals, managing to squeeze off his third 16-meter leap of the season between a slew of fouled bigger jumps.
One day after the Noles turned the Randal Tyson Track Center into their personal playground, the performances were a little more understated, in part due to a late disqualification of Andre Ewers’ personal-best 20.92 200-meter dash for stepping out of his lane coming off the curve. Ewers’ time would have ranked among the top 16 nationally and No. 9 in FSU history.
The Noles did get an ACC qualifying mark from Trey Cunningham in the 200-meter dash (21.68) and fellow freshman Qayyim Ali in the high jump (2.02 meters/6-7.5).
FSU closed out the day with both the men’s and women’s 4×400 relay teams posting significantly improved season-bests. The men’s team of Calvin Golson, D’Mitry Charlton, Kenny Lane and Kyle Fearrington finished second in their heat in 3:14.74, while the women’s quartet of Seymour, Shaquania Dorsett, Kimmie Cunningham and Janae Caldwell ran 3:42.06.