CLEMSON, S.C. – It’s been quite a journey back to the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference mountain, but that’s where the Florida State men and women reside, after delivering spectacular Saturday performances to claim the ACC Indoor Track & Field Championship team titles.
The Noles were the class of the field on the final day at the Clemson Track & Field Complex, replicating their 2014 sweep at the same venue for their last indoor titles. It’s the 11th ACC indoor title for the men and the third for the women.
They are also the first ACC titles for Florida State athletics during the 2017-18 school year.
“It’s always special to come out of here with a title, but it’s an exceptional and rare occurrence when we can double up and come out of here with both trophies,” said FSU redshirt-senior Austin Droogsma, who is the only member of either squad who competed when the Noles brought home both titles from Clemson four years ago.
Droogsma’s late-in-the-day shot put victory – the first ACC title of his career – which provided the sixth-ranked Noles with their title-sealing, final points as the men unseated defending champion Virginia Tech by a 111-107 final margin.
FSU’s women, a decided underdog entering the meet, built an insurmountable lead behind dominant work across virtually every event area. The blazing 1-2 finish in the 200-meter dash by freshman Ka’Tia Seymour – the meet’s Most Valuable Track Performer – and junior Shauna Helps, coupled with Militsa Mircheva’s fifth-place finish in the 3000-meter run, pushed the Noles’ final total to 91 points. Virginia Tech was second, again, this time with 81.
“It was amazing to actually win the way we did,” said Helps, who also finished fourth in the 60-meter dash on Saturday. “I realized in the fall that we’ve always moved in unison. Even though the men and women are scored separately, we’ve always moved together as a unit and a family. That bond is what helped carry us through.”
Florida State has now accounted for the last three title sweeps in ACC, of which there have only been six since 1992.
“Gosh, sweeps are hard to do,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “This has been a three-year rebuild since the end of 2015, when we had huge staff changes with two historically great coaches. How are you going to come back from that and rebuild the Florida State brand? That’s hard to do.”
The Noles weren’t stingy stacking up style points either. FSU athletes secured six more NCAA Indoor Championship qualification standards and a host of personal-bests on the way to their team titles.
Beyond the record-setters and national qualifiers, there were no shortage of surprising and inspiring developments throughout the day, perhaps highlighted by junior Edward Clarke’s 60-meter dash victory in a lifetime-best 6.64. He edged Ewers by six-thousandths of a second for his first major victory since 2016. Freshman Darryl Gay was fifth in the personal-best 6.72.
“Words can’t explain how I feel in terms of my team depending on me and I was there to pull through,” Clarke said. “When [the starter] said set, my mind was clear. It was time to go, go, go. At the end, I said, ‘That was quick.’
“I started celebrating because I had a good race. I didn’t know if I had won or not. I was just happy.”
Braman and the Noles were celebrating that finish, one of the meet’s turning points, as well.
“I was hoping for 1-4-6 finish,” Braman said “Eddie had blinders on. He just blew up the start and Andre had to go and get him and couldn’t quite pull him back. When you get 22 points and you’re thinking 17 or so, that’s five points that could take you two hours to get and it happened in six seconds. That was huge.
“And our two freshmen in the hurdles finishing 1-5 and we came into the meet [seeded] 2-11, and came into the final 2-8. And oh, by the way, they took the No. 4 or 5 seed from Virginia Tech and smashed him down to seventh place. So that was a seven-point swing.”
The FSU women’s middle-distance and distance groups chipped in some heady contributions as well, beginning with the 5-7 finish by freshmen Maudie Skyring and Jodie Judd in the mile. Mircheva finished off an 11-point personal haul over the weekend for the Noles, placing fifth in the 3000 (9:23.87). Madison Harris was also eighth in her first ACC 800 final.
“Those are big points,” Braman said of the women’s contributions on the distance side.
Gleneve Grange and Ieva Zarankaite dropped 14 points on the field of 15 teams by finishing 2-3, in the women’s shot put. Grange was second (17.19 meters) and Zarankaite capped her breakout series with a personal-best 15.97 mark which moved her to No. 5 all-time for the Noles.
“The women really, really maximized,” Braman said.
That so many first-year Noles – freshmen and transfers alike – stepped up on the biggest stage to date was clearly instrumental in the sweep. And it helped that they had their teammates at their side.
“It just makes the atmosphere 10 times better than a normal track meet,” Cunningham said. “All the track meets we’ve been to have been kind of cutthroat with the competition. This one means something because we actually get a team title if we all do our part.”
Kirkland echoed similar sentiments.
“The atmosphere was amazing,” said the 60-meter dash champ. “I’ve never in my life been to a track meet like this where the atmosphere felt like this, even the World Championships. It was so different, with the team coming together and supporting each other. It was just an amazing feeling.”
And it produced amazing results across the board.