CLEMSON, S.C. – The last time the Florida State track & field teams competed at the ACC Indoor Championships at Clemson, the Seminole men and women brought a pair of trophies back to Tallahassee.
Four years after sweeping the 2014 team titles, the Noles are back and hopeful of repeating the feat.
The ACC Indoor Championships open Thursday, with Seminoles Dante Newberg and Hunter Napier tackling the first four of seven heptathlon events. The men’s and women’s distance medley relay team close of the first of three days of what is expected to be tightly-contested competition.
FSU’s men are ranked sixth in this week’s USTFCCCA Computer rankings. It’s the highest ranking for coach Bob Braman’s men since 2014. Still, those rankings are based on projected NCAA Championship scorers, which is why both No. 9 Syracuse and No. 17 Virginia Tech, the defending champions, pose substantial threats in the 15-team meet.
The Seminole women are unranked – Virginia Tech at No. 15 is the lone top 25 ACC team – from a field which actually appears wide open.
“The women are probably easiest to talk about because nobody knows what’s going to happen,” Braman said. “It’s a complete free-for-all, because you’ve got so many teams, at least on paper coming into the meet, that are all bunched.”
According to Braman’s calculations, four to five teams project to score upwards of 50 teams points, and there is little if any separation based on the seedings. Two-time defending champion Miami, NC State, host Clemson and the Hokies all have title aspirations.
“If you get some 10-point wins you’re in the mix,” Braman said.
The Noles women have two favorites in Shauna Helps (200-meter dash) and Gleneve Grange (shot put), defending high jump champion Eleonora Omoregie, and some potentially high-scoring freshmen sprinters in Ka’Tia Seymour and Jayla Kirkland. The distance team also figures to contribute to the cause, led by Militsa Mircheva and a fleet milers, who make up most of what should be a solid distance medley relay.
Conversely, FSU’s men boast four top seeds and some substantial scoring depth in the jumps and sprints. Austin Droogsma (shot put), Andre Ewers (60-meter dash), Corion Knight (long jump) and Armani Wallace (triple jump) have all posted the top marks among ACC competition in their respective events.
FSU will need all the points that quartet can muster and then some to turn back a Virginia Tech team which has won three of the last five ACC indoor titles.
“The men’s race is entirely different than the women,” Braman said. “It’s going to take 110 points if you’re going to want to win.”
“Virginia Tech is the beast. There’s no question about that. They’ve always been good indoors. Even when we’ve been top-two or three in the country we’ve had battles with those guys. I would easily predict Virginia Tech as the favorite and us chasing it.”
While the Noles men have balance across most all event areas, the Hokies historically inflict most of their damage in the middle distance races and the pole vault.
“We have to be as dominant in our events as they are in theirs,” Braman said. “We have to find points that we’re not supposed to get and not have major things happen; injury, false start and disqualification. Those things happen in a track meet.”
Tremendous depth in the long jump and triple jump, behind Knight and Wallace, will be essential. So will contributions from redshirt junior Michael Hall in the mile, freshman Trey Cunningham in the 60-meter hurdles, Brandon Tirado in the weight throw and Bert Freire in the 800.
Fast starts by Newberg, the No. 3 seed in the heptathlon, and Napier on Thursday, and a point-productive effort by the distance medley will help set the tone.
“If you avoid the big disaster, with the roster we have, we’re in a position to win, but we’ll also have to probably do what Virginia Tech seems to do and that’s pull points out of nowhere,” Braman said. “Those points might come from our relays, the multi events, the 400.”
“We’ve got the guys to do it. We probably have more bullets than they do, but theirs are grenades. These are guys who won the ACC before. I don’t see anything interrupts the 1-2-3 in the pole vault for them.”
While Ewers leads the way in the 60, the Noles are less than full strength behind him. Still, it’s not inconceivable that FSU advances as many as four to the finals. Where they could gain additional ground is the 200, where Ewers does not have a legal mark this season – he was disqualified at the Tyson Invitational – but owns a personal-best (20.93) which is faster than anyone in the field.
There are multiple ways of keeping abreast of the Noles’ title pursuits throughout the meet, including timely updates via Twitter @FSU_Track and by monitoring live stats at: http://flashresults.com/2018_Meets/Indoor/02-22_ACC/
ACC Network Extra will stream Friday and Saturday’s track action through the completion of both days.
Friday, Feb. 23 – 4:30-8:30 pm http://theacc.co/itf18champ0223
Saturday, Feb. 24 – 12-4:30 pm http://theacc.co/itf18champ0224
A complete recap, including a story and video highlights, will be posted nightly at Seminoles.com.