June 10, 2008
Des Moines, Iowa – A season’s worth of sweat and hard work for the Florida State men’s track and field squad will culminate this week in Des Moines, Iowa, as the No. 2-ranked team fights for its third-consecutive national title. The No. 25-ranked Seminole women are also at Drake University looking to continue their streak of finishes inside the Top 15 at the NCAA Championships which starts on Wednesday, June 11.
“This is my first time here to Drake,” said head coach Bob Braman at the Tuesday morning press conference. “This is an unbelievable facility and an unbelievable venue. If we get a little break in the weather you might see some really, really great performances on this kind of track, in this kind of facility with these kind of athletes.”
Although Des Moines is scheduled to receive another heavy dose of rain in the next few days, little else is expected to slow down the men’s team on the road to their third-straight victory.
“I think we’re an older team,” said Braman. “We’ve got some seniors that need to lead us. We’ve got six athletes who have been national champions before–four individuals and two that run the relays–so I hope that those folks that have been on the top podium will really feel the hunger to get up there again.”
For six seniors on the men’s side, this meet will mark their final go-around with the Garnet & Gold. Among those seniors is 15-time All-American and seven-time national champion Walter Dix, whose career will go on the books Saturday night as one of the best in collegiate history. Dix is scheduled to compete in his first race, the first round of the 100m, Wednesday afternoon. The Coral Springs, Fla. native will also compete in the 200m dash starting Thursday.
Of the other five seniors, All-American Ray Taylor is looking to defend his crown in the outdoor triple jump while teammate Drew Brunson hopes to add an outdoor title to his indoor 60m hurdle championship earlier this year. All-American Luke Gunn will aim to best his eighth-place performance in the 3000m steeplechase last year with fellow Seminole Mark Buckingham on his heels, and Hubert Mitchell will try to put Florida State’s 4x400m relay on the scoreboard.
All six seniors along with the rest of Florida State’s 16-member, all-star cast of talent will need to put up their best performances this weekend for the Seminoles to take home their third NCAA Championship.
“We learned a lesson at the NCAA Indoor meet where champions Arizona State had a perfect meet,” said Braman. “That could happen again. If you get fifty points in this meet, you really have a shot to win this thing, so we don’t want to count anybody out.”
On the women’s side, Florida State is looking to remain inside the Top 15 for the third year in a row. Back-to-back 14th place finishes in the last two seasons have left the Seminoles hungry for a chance to move even further up the national ladder.
“We’re proud of the job the ladies have done,” said Braman. “They’ve become a national contending team as well. We were sixth in the indoor championships with two individual national champions and an individual runner up. Now we’ve got those same three competitors back as well as some other folks that could score. I think we’re probably going to be a top ten team.”
Florida State will retire just two seniors from its national competitors on the women’s side this year as Kim Williams.
Kuijken, an All-America junior, took the 3000m indoor crown while sophomore Hannah England brought home gold in the mile. But perhaps one of the Seminoles’ surprise stars this season has been Williams, the rookie of the group. The Jamaican-native finished second in the triple jump at indoor nationals but blew away the competition in the triple and long jump at the conference outdoor championships. With just one season under her belt, the newcomer already holds the ACC Outdoor and Indoor Freshman of the Year awards as well as this year’s ACC Field Performer of the Year title.
Kuijken and England, who finished second and first respectively at the NCAA Regional meet, will begin in the semi-finals of the 1500m Thursday night at Drake Field while the East Regional Champion Williams will try to qualify in the triple jump starting Friday morning.
Competition at Drake Field is scheduled to get under way at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday morning with the decathlon. Portions of Friday and Saturday’s events will be televised nationally. Friday the meet will be carried on CSTV while Saturday’s final round from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. EST will be on CBS.