June 17, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In one of the most unpredictable seasons in program history, the Florida State track and field teams were faced with several adversities throughout the year. The Seminoles navigated a difficult path and capped the season by collecting nine All-American honors at the NCAA championship meet in Eugene, Ore.
“If you look at the totality of the season it was definitely a challenging year,” FSU head coach Bob Braman said. “There is no doubt about it. We lose Charles Clark for the season and he was also injured at the indoor championship. We lost Ngoni Makusha both indoor and outdoor. He tried to make a go each time to overcome it, but was unable to do so. We lost Gonzalo Barroilhet who is also a national champion in the heptathlon. We had the defending 4x400m national championship relay group with three of the legs coming back, but they were all unavailable to return this season. We also lost two or three key women, who weren’t national champions, but people who would have been on our 4x400m relay; people who would have qualified and people who would have had a chance to score at nationals. This is not unusual to have an athlete or two go down, but to have that many was quite a challenge.”
Without their key figures, the FSU men leaned on sprinters Maurice Mitchell and Brandon Byram to lead the team and they both responded. They dominated the ACC Championship by garnering a combined five medals (three from Mitchell in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m and two from Byram in the 200m and 4x100m) as the Seminoles won their sixth consecutive title. For his impressive performances that broke two records, Mitchell was named the ACC Outdoor Most Valuable Performer of the meet. Not only nationally renowned, Mitchell’s 200m time of 20.24 from the regional meet is the world’s 10th fastest time this year.
At the national meet, it would be Byram who would guide the squad by posting two All-American times in the 200m (third place) and 4x100m (second place), while Mitchell was recognized as an All-American in the 4x100m (second place), 100m and 200m, by virtue of being one of the first eight true American finishers. Byram joined Mitchell in the world rankings as his 200m time of 20.40 set at the Seminole Twilight ranks in the top 20 in the world this season.
“We had breakthrough years for a lot of our athletes,” Braman said. “Maurice Mitchell was the ACC tournament athlete of the year by getting three gold medals on one day. He was a promising high school sprinter, promising young guy last year who had some success but didn’t score at the national championship and then became one of America’s elite sprinters. Brandon Byram finishing second in the indoor national championship and third outdoors – both times from adverse situations – was great to see. He became a real good competitor for us.”
As for the women, the squad was dealing with its own obstacles with key factors out of the mix and injured. Despite her notable performances throughout the season, superstar Kim Williams was fighting an ongoing injury that prevented her from defending her 2009 long jump title at nationals. With Williams’ absence and a few important sprinters not in the mix, Marecia Pemberton stepped up for the team as she governed the track in each meet she competed in entering nationals. Pemberton’s blistering performances ranked among the world’s elite as her 100m time of 11.12 is the 15th fastest time this season. Alongside Pemberton, 4x100m teammates Candyce McGrone and Teona Rodgers also had standout years by running the world’s 10th fastest time this year with 43.13 at the Seminole Twilight. In addition to the 4x100m, McGrone also got recognition in the 200m at regionals by clocking in a time of 22.84, which is currently the world’s 17th fastest performance this season.
“Marecia Pemberton was a freshman that came to us in January and didn’t have an indoor season because we couldn’t get her certified and ready to go,” Braman said. “So we redshirted her and outdoors she came out in gang busters. She had one of the two fastest times in the country, but unfortunately she was one of those young kids from the islands used to hot weather. Being in the cold temperatures in Oregon didn’t do her good. She was very upset about it, but she did have a breakout year as one of the best athletes in the country. Some other people were Candyce McGrone, who I thought took that next step, and Teona Rodgers.”
With all the outstanding Seminoles from this season retuning next year, Braman looks forward to being a national contender again with a full and healthy squad. The coaches are also hoping the difficulties overcome this season will help the squad be that much stronger next year and better equipped to face the challenges in the postseason.
“I think the silver lining of losing someone like Charles Clark – a senior who has a professional career waiting and is a world class runner – has the eligibility to come back,” Braman said. “He is our undisputed leader. Not only do we get a great athlete back and a national champion back, we get a great leader. He is probably one of the best we’ve ever had at Florida State. It’s going to be great getting him back because when you have a situation like we did at nationals and you don’t have someone keeping you calm and leading you through that process, it becomes difficult. We are excited about being a contender for the national championship again, which we knew from March on we weren’t going to do this year. It’s hard because how do you get excited for a top 10 finish when four years in a row you either won or you are really close to winning.
“I think the coaches did everything, but to go through it is different. It’s different (from) being told how to go through it verbally, but actually going through it. We didn’t have many older athletes traveling at all who know how to get through it. All of our key players are back in addition to Brandon O’Conner and Kevin Williams. We are going to have to fight injuries every year, but I am going to ask the coaches and the training staff, who do a marvelous job, to go back and look at everything we did and let’s just go the extra step and maybe that will save one more athlete. High school stars rarely become college stars right away. We are going to have some good people coming in, but it’s the returning people that give you a chance at the national level.”
2010 NCAA Outdoor All-Americans
Kevin Borlee- 400m
Brandon Byram- 200m, 4x100m
Brian Chibudu- Long jump, 4x100m
Maurice Mitchell-100m, 200m, 4x100m
Pasca Cheruiyot- 10000m
Kim Williams-Triple Jump