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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Championship season has arrived for the Florida State track & field teams.
Largely an individual sport throughout the regular season, but the onset of the postseason creates a team dynamic, when athletes from 21 different events pool their energies and talents in pursuit of titles…and rings.
The three-day ACC Outdoor Track & Field Championships begin Thursday at Virginia’s Lannigan Field, where the Noles women and men are once again expected to challenge for team titles. And why wouldn’t they?
FSU’s women, ranked No. 11 nationally – tops among ACC teams – are vying for their third title in six years and doubly motivated after coming up just shy of team titles at the 2018 outdoor and 2019 indoor championships.
The Seminole men are the defending champions and gunning for their 14th ACC outdoor title. Eleven of those have come since 2005 under the direction of coach Bob Braman, who heads both squads.
“Everybody has to do their part,” said FSU junior Shanice Love, the defending discus champion. “Once everybody does their part we can eventually win. We just need to work as a team, root for each other and be positive throughout the championships, no matter what happens.”
Love is the prohibitive favorite to repeat, with a season-best throw six meters clear of her closest competitor. And she isn’t alone. FSU’s women own the top seeds six events, including Ka’Tia Seymour (100- and 200-meter dashes), Cortney Jones (100 hurdles) and fellow throwers Veronika Kanuchova (hammer) and Lauri Paredes (javelin).
Sophomore Trey Cunningham is the No. 1 seed in the 110-meter hurdles for the FSU men, who also own the fastest time in the 4×100 relay.
Additionally, the men are expecting big things from their deep sprint corps, led by 2018 ACC Championships Track MVP and Performer of the Year, Andre Ewers. Ewers is the defending champion in both the 100 and 200 and is vying to become the first Nole to sweep both events in consecutive years.
Perhaps surprisingly, given the individual nature of the competition, history has shown that momentum is very real. Early success often inspires teammates, even crossing gender boundaries.
“Once we go out there and start the trend – Veronika and Lauri start it off on Thursday – it will give our vibe to the team and we will eventually do what we need do,” Love said.
That is one reason the track & field postseason is so special. Team scores are rarely calculated outside the conference and NCAA Championship meets.
“I look at ACCs as a chance for the entire team to actually show off and prove that we really train hard,” said senior Militsa Mircheva, who hopes to punctuate her record-setting season with a 5000-meter title on Saturday. “And to achieve something as a team we have to accomplish our mission individually.”
So while Mircheva would like to add the outdoor 5000-meter school record to the one she owns indoors, along with her 10,000-meter record, placing higher is far more important than running a fast time.
“I’m not running for time,” she said. “It’s more for position because ACC is all about the points.”
There’s plenty motivation to go around for both the men and the women, but let’s just say the ladies have a little more fuel to burn off in pursuit of the program’s first outdoor team title since 2016.
A year ago the Noles finished third behind Miami and Virginia Tech, just 13.5 points shy of a title, after suffering some qualifying round mishaps and going scoreless in the horizontal jumps and distance events. Then, at the ACC Indoor Championships in February, a disqualification in the 4×400 relay prevented them from sharing the title with Miami.
“We’re definitely hungrier,” said Seymour, a two-time ACC Indoor Championships Track MVP. “We fell short last year and it sucks that we fell short indoors. Everyone is motivated and hungry to go out there and do what we need to do. We have people in every event that are capable of putting points on the board.”
Thursday’s competition with FSU entries begins with the men’s decathlon at 12:30 p.m. and includes prelims in the 200-meter dash and 1500-meter run. Finals will be contested in the women’s hammer, men’s and women’s javelin, men’s and women’s long jump and the women’s 10,000-meter run.
You can follow the action via Twitter @FSU_Track and on Instragram @fsu_track. A daily recap will be posted nightly at Seminoles.com.