Feb. 7, 2008
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Riding the success of back-to-back NCAA Outdoor Men’s Track and Field National Championships, Florida State appears to be setting itself up for run of several years at the top. The Seminoles started the National Letter of Intent signing period by bringing in three of the most talented runners in the country as announced by head coach Bob Braman.
The newest members of the Seminole family are distance runner Mike Fout (La Porte, Ind.), sprinter Maurice Mitchell (Kansas City, Mo.) and sprinter/jumper Brandon O’Connor (Miami, Fla.).
“To get two number one runners in their event and the best all-around track athlete in Florida on the first day is very encouraging,” Braman said. “Last year our class was ranked third in the country and when we get everyone signed and get all the pieces together, and this is a phenomenal first step, we’re probably going to sign seven or eight elite athletes and it has a chance to be the number one class. I know it’s going to be better than last year’s class.
“We want student-athletes who want to be at Florida State and are excited to be here. You hear it throughout all of our programs, but it’s not a cliché. The kids that are excited to be here and want to be here are the ones that are going to put in the extra effort and make National Championships happen.”
Coming out of La Porte High School, Fout may be the most talented American distance runner to come to Florida State. This season he highlighted a tremendous senior campaign by winning the Foot Locker National High School Boys Cross Country Championship with a personal-best 5k time of 14:50. The 2007-08 Gatorade Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, he captured the state 5k title with a mark of 15:31.90. As a junior he won the 3200m at the state track meet in a personal-best 9:03.49.
“He has the chance to be the Walter Dix of our distance program,” Braman said of Fout. “Like Walter did for us in the sprints, Mike is going to helps us bring in the American superstars in the distance events that are so hard to get. Frequently our distance runners have been international when they’ve been that good or we’ve built them from the ground up so to get the runner that everybody wanted is huge.”
Looking to join the Florida State legacy of great sprinters is Mitchell from Raytown South High School. Track and Field News rates him as the top 200-meter high school runner in the country with a personal-best time of 20.77. The publication also rates him as the third-best 100-meter sprinter with a mark of 10.26. That time set the Kansas state record and he tied the Missouri mark at 10.42. The Missouri state champion in the 100m, 200m and 400m last year, he set the state’s 200m mark at 20.96
“Maurice is the best 100, 200 and 400 sprint athlete in the country,” Braman added. “He’s the one that everyone wanted. He’s very versatile, can run on either relay, very similar to Charles Clark. Charles came in and was an All-American right away and we hope and think he can do those types of things. He’s that special.”
Few athletes in the state of Florida are as well rounded as O’Connor. Last season he placed in the top four of three different events, including a pair of second-place finishes in the 200m (21.20) and 400m (47.63). He also took fourth in the triple jump where his career long is 48-04. O’Conner was named Second-Team All-Dade County by the Miami Herald.
“Brandon O’Connor is another athlete who is incredibly versatile,” Braman added. “He’ll definitely run on the 4×400 relay and in the 400 meter right away and he’ll probably be an elite 200 meter runner. Then you put him in the hands of the best triple jump coach in the country, Dennis Nobles, and he could be a national champion like Rayon Taylor. We have high hopes for Brandon.”
The current crop of freshmen helped Florida State to the No. 3 recruiting in the country according to Track & Field News. Freshmen have been a vital part to Florida State’s success the last three seasons. Three years ago Dix claimed the school’s first individual outdoor title in 20 years. During FSU’s first title run of 2006 Michael Ray Garvin earned All-American honors and last year Clark was a four-time All-American.
“From a recruiting standpoint it’s a lot easier to go into kid’s homes and come in and say we’ve already got two national championships,” Braman said. “We’ve done it without a lot of bells and whistles. We’ve done it with coaching and picking the right athletes for our program and developing them. We won two National Championships without a locker room. Now that we’ve got a new track building that is almost complete and we’ve got more to show it definitely helps in recruiting.
“I think one of the things that have been a big benefit is our stability on the coaching staff. We’ve had essentially the same coaches for a number of years and then we add one of the best distance coaches in the country in Karen Harvey.”
The current Seminoles are in action this weekend as they continue the indoor season at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational.