BLACKSBURG, Va. – Dramatic, if not improbable, rallies on the final day of the ACC Indoor Track & Field Championships at Rector Field House delivered the Florida State men a share of the team title, their 12th all-time, while the women were left in tears as heart-broken runner-ups to rival Miami.
Saturday began with the Noles women tied for fifth with Miami, but without the services of sprint star Jayla Kirkland, who was forced to withdraw from the competition due to injury. Kirkland was penciled in to produce 18 points on the final day.
The Seminole men were sixth as the day began and without their sprint star, Andre Ewers, who was unable to go in Friday’s qualifying rounds of 200; an event he won a year ago.
Performances equal parts brilliant and gritty, led by Women’s Championship Track MVP Ka’Tia Seymour and Men’s Track MVP Kasaun James, left the titles hanging in the balance of the final event – the 4×400 relays.
A post-race disqualification of the FSU women’s 4×400 dashed what at first appeared to be their share of the team title. Minutes later, James’ monster anchor leg, delivered the Noles men their first 4×400 event title since 2005 and a piece of the title which they would share with host Virginia Tech.
“We competed as hard as we possibly can on both sides,” said FSU men’s coach Bob Braman, who saw a cast of underclassmen and underdog performers rise up to put the Noles on the cusp of a historic back-to-back sweep for the men and women.
“It’s just heartbreaking to lose the title on a DQ,” Braman said. “They ran their tails off and had pulled off the upset. The call was correct for us running on the line, but we were so far ahead there was no real advantage gained.”
The men were leaving nothing to chance.
“We knew we had a shot to at least share the title and we had to dig deep to allow us to defend the title,” Braman said. “Kasaun wasn’t going to get beat as long as he was within 10 meters of the lead.
James, who joined a list of FSU greats to win MVP honors, swept the 60- and 200-meter titles and delivered the decisive blow on his anchor leg performance of the 4×400 to forge a 117-117 deadlock with the Hokies.
“This means the world to me,” said James, a junior transfer from Arkansas Baptist. “I wanted to come out here and show that I could be a top competitor in every event. Coming in as the underdog really motivated me. To know that I wasn’t coming in with the fastest time in the 60; to know that I was going to be on the 4×4 with a great team., everything motivated me…This meet is what I’ve been wanting.”
James’ huge day began when he avenged a pair of regular season 60-meter dash title losses to NC State’s Cravont Charleston by blitzing the field. Buoyed by the win and entering the 200 as the favorite, he won his second title going away as well.
“I’m speechless,” James said, after earning the MVP award. “I’m just honored and humbled.
“No guy can win a team title on his own. I was very thankful for Kyle [Fearrington] in the 4×4, when he started making up ground the last 30 meters. Everybody did great today…We knew were going to come out and compete and do well. I was proud of everybody.”
Seymour was equally impressed by her teammates, who expended every bit of energy in their bid for a fourth ACC Indoor title.
“I’m very proud of our team,” who earned her second consecutive Indoor MVP trophy after duplicating James’ 60- and 200-meter title sweep. “We did everything we needed to do to get points on the board and it all came down to the 4×4, like we all knew, and we went out there and competed with our hearts.
“Some things just happen for a reason, but we all have next year; we’ll all be back.”
There was no shortage of other stars. Freshmen Karimah Davis grabbed a pair of silver medals, while classmates DaeQwan Butler and Bryand Rincher added silvers of their own.
“They sure didn’t compete like freshmen,” Braman said.
Trey Cunningham successfully defended his 60-meter hurdle title and Rougui Sow’s Friday long jump win gave the Noles men and women a combined seven first-place finishes.
Here’s an event-by-event scoring recap of Saturday’s action:
Women’s Mile Run
Sophomore Maudie Skyring’s furious closing kick locked down a fourth-place finish in 4:44.75 and teammate Jodie Judd was on her heels, placing sixth in 4:45.04 as the Noles began their climb from fifth place to start the day. They each earned second-team All-ACC honors.
Men’s Mile Run
Senior Michael Hall’s third consecutive trip to the finals produced a sixth-place finish in 4:06.65, contributing the first three points as the Noles began their rally from sixth place to the top, for second-team All-ACC honors.
Women’s 60-Meter Hurdles
Junior Cortney Jones scored her third podium finish in as many seasons with the Noles, racing to a third-place finish in 8.13.
Men’s 60-Meter Hurdles
Sophomore Trey Cunningham delivered the Noles’ first victory of the day, successfully defending his title in 7.64 seconds. Fellow sophomore Tyricke Highman produced his fastest final, running 7.98 to finish fifth as the Noles piled up 14 points in the event.
Women’s 400-Meter Dash
A pair of first-time ACC finalists came up big as redshirt freshman Karimah Davis ran 53.02, the No. 3 time in FSU history, to grab the first of her two silver medals. Coming back from a huge contribution to Thursday’s runner-up DMR and a new personal-best in Friday’s qualifying round, junior Janae Caldwell delivered a seventh-place finish (54.37) as the Noles added 10 point to the cause.
Men’s 400-Meter Dash
Freshman DaeQwan Butler joined an elite group of Noles with his second consecutive personal-best, racing to a silver medal finish in 46.87; the No. 6 all-time mark at FSU and just the seventh man under 47 seconds. Butler’s eight-point production was a huge lift as he entered the meet as the No. 10 seed.
Women’s 60-Meter Dash
Seymour collected the first of her two gold medals, pulling away at the top of the track for victory in 7.23. In the absence of injured teammate Jayla Kirkland, the No. 1 seed who was scratched on Friday, senior Shauna Helps chipped in with a seventh-place finish (7.44).
Men’s 60-Meter Dash
With Noles in the finals for the first time in program history, the sprint group changed the numbers significantly in the title chase. James locked down his first ACC title as the junior avenged a pair of regular season losses to NC State’s Cravont Charleston by winning in 6.61. Bryand Rincher, Darryl Haraway, Michael Timpson, Jhevaughn Matherson and Darryl Gay finished 4-8 as the Noles totaled 25 points.
Men’s Shot Put
Junior Sanjae Lawrence out-performed his seed (seventh) with a season-best throw of 17.55 meters to lock down sixth place; a much-needed lift.
Women’s 200-Meter Dash
Seymour backed up her 60 win with a successful title defense in the 200, edging Davis, her teammate 23.24-23.55 as FSU continued their surge with an 18-point haul that closed the gap on Miami to an 81-79 margin with the 3000-meter run and the 4×400 relay remaining.
Men’s 200-Meter Dash
James put a wrap on his track MVP honors, leading a 1-2-3 sweep, matching his sea-level season-best time of 20.56. Freshmen Rincher (21.07) and Matherson (21.13), while Haraway and Timpson grabbed sixth and seventh. The 29-point gain pulled the Noles within one point of Virginia Tech, 99-98, with three events remaining.
Men’s Triple Jump
Hobbled with a tender leg, senior Armani Wallace managed a gritty third-place finish (15.70m/51-6.25), but it was ninth-seeded sophomore Jacore Irving’s monster personal-best mark of 15.31 meters (50-2.75) for sixth place that put the Noles in front for the first time – temporarily – 107-103. The Hokies would retake the lead, 113-107, when Peter Seufer won the 3000-meter run, setting the stage for the 4×400 finale.
Women’s 3000-Meter Run
Senior Militsa Mircheva’s bold final lap move with 150 meters remaining, moved from sixth to third, a position to refused to relinquish. She charged across the finish line in third (9:24.94) for six points to give the Noles an 85-81 lead heading into the 4×400 relay.
Women’s 4×400 Relay
Saddled with a spot in the penultimate heat, the FSU team of Caldwell, Kimmie Cunningham, Seymour and Davis were racing the clock. With favored Miami expected to win the fast section for 10 points, the Noles would need to post the third-fastest time overall for a share of the title. On the track they delivered with a season-best time of 3:38.18 for the heat win, which would have stood as the third-fastest time and earned a share of the title.
The Noles, however, were disqualified for a lane violation. Miami won the event and their third title in four years, denying FSU a successful title defense.
Men’s 4×400 Relay
FSU came into the race needing to finish six spots ahead of the Hokies to win the title outright. Virginia Tech made that task impossible, winning the penultimate heat in 3:12.77 and a guarantee of no worse than fifth overall.
The Noles team of Butler, Cunningham, Kyle Fearrington and James would need to win outright to claim a share of the crown and a 12th team title. Solid early contributions by Butler and Cunningham kept the Noles in the hunt, but after briefly fading back to fourth on his leg, Fearrington closed with a fury as all four teams handed off simultaneously. James, however, left no doubt with a 46.4 anchor leg for the victory.
As it turned out, Virginia Tech finished fifth, just four one-hundredths of a second out of fourth place – and the outright title – when Clemson crossed fourth in the Noles heat in 3:13.73.