Sept. 1, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It was a silver and sterling day for the Garnet and Gold Thursday at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea, as former Seminoles Hannah England and Ciaran O’Lionaird emerged as rising world stars with the 2012 Olympic Games on the horizon.
England, representing Great Britain, surged to the front of the pack over the final 300 meters in Thursday’s 1,500 meter final. Racing off the turn with US star Jenny Barringer Simpson, England crossed the stripe in second place at 4:05.68.
Florida State women’s cross country and distance coach Karen Harvey was in a van driving her team to Boone, N.C. as the race was unfolding and receiving stride-by-stride updates from her husband Kevin O’Sullivan.
“We’re all in the van and Kevin is texting us the play-by-play,” Harvey said. “It sounds like she was blistering fast over the last 200 meters. … We are so happy!”
Harvey had predicted great things from England, who won 2008 NCAA championships in the indoor mile and outdoor 1,500 for the Seminoles. When she failed to make the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Harvey knew her former pupil’s best days were still ahead.
“I promise you that this girl will be the darling of 2012,” Harvey said. “She’ll be the British athlete on all of the posters, because she’s the darling of their team.”
Carrying a silver medal into the London Olympic Games next year nearly assures Harvey’s prophecy, especially with Great Britain striking out on the men’s side in an event they revere.
O’Lionaird continued his remarkable summer rebound from the crushing disappointment he endured three months earlier at the NCAA Championship meet; his final appearance in an FSU singlet.
Representing Ireland in Thursday’s 1,500 meter semifinals, O’Lionaird positioned himself well from the start in the second heat and advanced to the finals with a sixth-place finish, qualifying on time in 3:36.96. In addition to posting his second-fastest time, the former FSU cross country All-American edged out his idol, New Zealand’s Nick Willis.
“What a summer,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “I’m so excited for him. This is an unbelievable kickoff to his professional career. It’s painful to watch him this good and not score at the national meet, but this is great for him. He felt like he let the team down.
“He’s a rookie on the pro circuit. This is exciting. He’s running like a veteran and he put himself in position the whole race where he didn’t have to kick it in.
“It’s great for Florida State. Ciaran can be a great attraction to the next round of recruits.”
Braman also weighed in on England’s silver medal performance and the role Harvey played in her development.
“The great thing about Hannah is when she came to Florida State she was really good, but not yet great,” Braman said. “One year after being with Karen Harvey, she was an NCAA record-holder and beat Sally Kipyego, who won a (10k) silver medal at Worlds.”
Thursday’s early session was especially good to the competing Seminoles.
Ngoni Makusha bounced back from his disappointment in the 100-meter semifinals to secure a spot in the long jump finals by posting the best leap of the second flight. The Zimbabwe native’s leap of 8.11 meters (26-6 3/4) on his third and final qualifying effort was the fourth-best jump of the day. It should position Makusha well for the medal round, which is set for Friday.
“I’m very pleased with the outcome,” said FSU jumps coach Dennis Nobles, who continues to work with Makusha. “The goal for any qualifying round is to be in the top 12 and advance to the preliminary round and hopefully the final after that. He accomplished that in good order.
“Today we took a conservative approach to the competition, keeping the run controlled and pushed back to the point that fouling was out of the equation (on the 8.11 jump he took off 25 cm from the foul line). Tomorrow will be a much more aggressive effort. I like his chances tomorrow. Obviously we’re talking about 12 of the best long jumpers in the world, but I feel like he’s as good as anyone in the field. I think he’ll challenge for a medal.”
With twins Jonathan and Kevin Borlee leading the way, Belgium’s 4×400 relay team advanced to Friday’s finals with a victory in the second heat. Jonathan Borlee ran the second leg and Kevin Borlee brought home the baton from the anchor position as Belgium posted a season-best time of 3:00.71.
“The Borlee brothers ran amazing legs,” said FSU sprints coach Ken Harnden, who has been on hand at Daegu. “They have a shot at a medal in the final.”
“It’s been another great day for FSU over there,” Harvey said, with her cross country team to the opening meet of the season. “How cool is it for these kids on this team to watch that? It makes them realize that dreams can come true. It’s a great motivator.”
Friday’s action will also include the 200-meter qualifying and semifinal rounds. Walter Dix will be heavily favored in the first heat of the morning qualifying round, where he will be racing out of lane 5, with the top three automatically advancing to the evening semifinals.
FSU senior Maurice Mitchell, who is part of the USA sprint contingent, will not get a chance to compete in the 200 as originally thought. Mitchell, however, remains in the pool of candidates for the 4×100 relay.