TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Don’t believe for a minute that today’s generation doesn’t have an appreciation for history.
The Florida State women’s track & field team learned a lot about themselves when they saw the ACC Indoor Championships slip away in February and they made it very clear that history would not repeat itself. Not on its home track Sunday, in front of a large and supportive crowd, with the ACC Outdoor Championship title hanging in the balance.
The Seminoles began the final day of competition at Mike Long Track with a 22-point lead over their closest competitor and quickly doubled their cushion before in-state rival Miami, the ACC Indoor champions, and defending champion Clemson began cutting into that lead.
That’s when freshman sprinter Shauna Helps decided to put her foot, or more accurately, her feet down. Fast. In succession.
Helps found herself behind Syracuse’s Shaina Harrison midway through the 100-meter final and refused to be denied.
“In the middle of the race I had a lot of things going through my mind, because at the indoor championships this season I came in eighth in my final,” Helps said of her 60-meter dash finish in Boston. “I saw myself in that position midway in the race and said, ‘There’s no way I’m going to allow history to repeat itself,’ so I dug deep and I searched for the line.”
Helps found the line in 11.68, ahead of Harrison and the rest of the field, and the Seminoles found the footing they needed to secure the program’s fourth ACC Outdoor Championship title in their 25th season of conference membership.
FSU finished with a 106.5 points, 18.5 clear of runner-up Miami. Clemson, which briefly occupied second place, was third with 85.
“We were in a position where if we had a couple big things happen we could put a cap on it and we did [with Kellion] Knibb’s win and Shauna Helps’ huge win,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “It was just a phenomenal weekend. Virtually all of that team, except maybe one or two pieces, is back next year. We’re going to be better.
“The tradition has been reset with this group right here.”
In what many believed would be a transition year after significant staff and personnel changes, the Seminole women helped validate the program’s rich tradition, even though the men’s team saw its streak of three consecutive titles end with a fourth-place finish.
Redshirt junior Kellion Knibb helped see to that when she won her third ACC discus title, setting the conference championship meet and her own Mike Long Track record with a winning mark of 60.62 meters (198-11).
And just when it seemed as if the Hurricanes, led by Most Valuable Track Performer Shakima Wimbley, were ready to strike back, Helps and her teammates delivered the finals blows. Wimbley led off the Hurricanes’ winning 4×100 relay and successfully defended her ACC 400-meter title, as Miami outscored FSU 17-0 in one event. Coupled with Ebony Morrison’s third-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles, ahead of Seminoles Meme Jean, Nicole Setterington and Peta-Gay Williams, who finished 4-5-6, Miami had 41 points on the board after just four running events.
“We knew that the huge lead didn’t really exist,” Braman said. “We were just so perfect, beyond expectation, for two days that you start to think that you’re going to keep doing that. That’s not realistic. Even if you do, you can’t control them.
“Miami is a great team. They won the indoor championship and they were really strong favorites. We were realistically thinking, ‘We’d like to get in and challenge them, but we might lose to Clemson and get third.’ And Clemson is the defending champion.”
Bridget Blake’s huge personal-best of 4:19.26 was good for sixth in the 1500 and Georgia Peel was eighth as the Noles picked up four points. Earlier, senior Kiara Wright grabbed a share of fourth place in the high jump with a collegiate-best effort (1.75m/5-8.75), for 4.5 points.
Those contributions helped ease the sting of the 400, which preceded Helps’ 100 win, which squashed the possibility that someone else would hoist the championship trophy on the Seminoles’ high jump pad.
“I came in here with the notion that I was going to give my team points no matter what, whether it was one or it was 10,” Helps said. “That’s what I came out and did.”
With her 10-point win the Noles pushed their total to 103.5 points, and sophomore Chelsea Jarvis’ sixth-place finish in the 800 – in a season-best 2:06.37 – closed the deal.
No Seminole was happier than senior Der’Renae Freeman, who began the day on the anchor leg of FSU’s fourth-place 4×100 relay team, after she won a third consecutive long jump title on her final attempt with a career-best on Saturday.
“It meant everything to me,” Freeman said through a broad smile from under her cocked ACC Championship ball cap. “This is my last ACC meet, it’s at home. That’s just amazing. The atmosphere here with all of our fan base, it meant so much to me to finally get another ring that I’ve really been wanting. Doing it on home turf made it even that much more special.”
There were a few special performances on the men’s side as well, not the least of which was freshman Armani Wallace’s silver medal finish in the triple jump. The Orlando native recorded new career-best marks on all five of his legal jumps, capped by his monster 16.12-meter (52-10.75) leap – No. 7 in FSU history and currently No. 9 in Division I.