TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Kellion Knibb and Shauna Helps, who sealed Florida State’s fourth Atlantic Coast Conference Outdoor Track & Field title with final day victories, have been recognized by the conference for their stellar seasons which culminated at the NCAA Championships.
In a vote of ACC coaches, Knibb and Helps have been named Women’s Field Performer and Freshman of the Year, respectively.
The selection of Florida State head coach Bob Braman as the ACC Women’s Coach of the Year gives the Seminoles three of the four major awards at the conclusion of the season.
“Kellion is just phenomenal,” Braman said of FSU’s redshirt junior discus thrower. “She’s been good for a while. She has done amazing things quietly. That’s who she is. She doesn’t pound her chest, jump up and down or do cartwheels. She just casually walks away after throwing some unbelievable and unprecedented marks.”
After sitting out the entire 2015 outdoor season due to injury, the St. Catherine, Jamaica native was a virtually unstoppable force in her return to the discus circle. With a lifetime-best mark of 61.44 meters (201-7), she capped her collegiate season by securing an Olympic qualifying standard and ACC record, while extending her own Jamaican national record. The net result of those feats was a silver medal at last week’s NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Wisconsin’s Kelsey Card delivered Knibb her lone defeat at the hands of a collegian in 2016, a season where she claimed her third ACC title, broke a 20-year-old Penn Relays meet record – and was named outstanding women’s performer – and smashed a 30-year-old Mike Long Track record, which she later improved upon.
For good measure, Knibb contributed a fifth-place shot put finish to the Seminoles’ ACC Championship cause in her first outdoor competition of the year in that event.
“Kellion is getting into some really rarified air and putting herself close to some of the all-time greats in her event, the discus in the NCAA – a Jamaican record, an ACC record and Olympic A-standard; a mark that she threw that would have probably would have won all but two or three of the last 20 years of championships,” Braman said. “She kept fighting and competing, even though Kelsey Card put that gigantic throw out there.”
Braman’s summation was spot-in. Knibb’s runner-up throw at Historic Hayward Field would have been long enough to have claimed 29 of the previous 34 NCAA discus titles.
“She has been really special and she graduates in four years and will have a fifth-year next year in graduate school,” Braman said of Knibb. “She’s a very, very focused young lady who is seemingly never satisfied, which is what the great ones are; they’re never satisfied. There’s always that longest throw and that better technique that can push them to the next level.”
Knibb is the only Seminole to win ACC Women’s Field Performer of the Year since Kim Williams claimed back-to-back honors in 2008-09.
Like Knibb, Helps hails from sprint-rich Jamaica. A member of FSU’s ballyhooed freshman class, she overcame some struggles indoors and an injury which sidelined her for several weeks outdoors before coming up huge in the postseason.
“Shauna is a perfectionist and she beat herself up for three months after the [ACC] indoor meet,” said Braman. “She really agonized over her [60-meter dash] final indoors, and comes in under much greater pressure, because we needed her to win. In fact she’s the one who put it out of reach on the third day with all the crowd and cameras on her. She comes through and runs a season best, beating people with better lifetime bests and beats them head-to-head when we needed her most.”
Helps’ 11.68 winning time in the ACC final wasn’t as impressive as how she did it; pumping her arms and lifting her knees over the final 40 meters to win in come-from-behind fashion. It was a far cry from her eighth-place finish at the ACC Indoor Championships in the 60-meter dash final, after she qualified with the third-fastest time.
Her 10-point haul was just enough to turn back a Sunday challenge from favorite and 17th-ranked Miami and defending champion Clemson as the unranked Noles collected their second title in three years and third in the last eight years, all under Braman’s watch.
“That was a really big step forward for Shauna and she also did a great job on our national 4×100 relay,” Braman said, pointing to Helps’ season-long efforts on the second leg of the sprint relay. “Quite frankly, she saved us at the region meet. She corrected on both the incoming and our outgoing handoffs or our women’s 4×100 relay would not have made it to nationals.”
The Seminoles turned in a season-best time of 44.65 at the NCAA East Preliminary to secure a spot in Eugene, where they placed 17th overall, just one-hundredth of a second off their qualifying time.
Helps is the fifth Seminole to claim Freshman of the Year honors, joining Sage Watson (2013), Kim Williams (2008), Lydia Willemse (2006) and Laura Bowerman (2005).
By claiming his third ACC Women’s Outdoor Coach of the Year honor, Braman now has 20 career ACC Coach of the Year honors between cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field for men and women. That collection, in just 16 seasons at Florida State, ranks third all-time among cumulative coach of the year honors in the ACC behind NC State’s Rollie Geiger (34) and Dennis Craddock (32), who piloted both North Carolina and Virginia.
Braman passed former Clemson coach Bob Pollock (19) on the ACC all-time list with his most recent honor.