The Florida State men's track & field team is returning to Tallahassee with the Atlantic Coast Conference Outdoor Championship trophy for the 10th time in 12 years.
Winning championships never gets old, but Seminoles' coach Bob Braman and staff may not have celebrated a sweeter conference title triumph than the one that played out Saturday at NC State's Paul H. Derr Track.
This one the Seminoles earned without the help of six All-American athletes back at home for a variety of reasons by dispatching defending champion Virginia Tech 149-138.
"That's what is most gratifying," Braman said. "They competed like they expected to win, and probably on paper coming in we should have been second. They got it done. We did feed off the momentum of the first two days. … I really felt like we did as good as we possibly could have done. We had some big performances, which makes it gratifying because we would have not won this meet without a bunch of huge step-ups."
The only thing that could have made the sun-splashed day better was a matching trophy for the Florida State women. Thanks to a 1-2-3 sweep of the 5000-meter run, the Seminoles were deadlocked with three-time defending champion Clemson entering the final event. A fourth-place finish in the 4x400 relay prevented the ‘Noles from duplicating their 2009 sweep, as they came up by a 151-146 count to the Tigers.
The outcome did not diminish the program's measurable progress. A year ago the Seminoles finished third, 110 points behind the Tigers. When Saturday's dust settled, FSU had made up 105 of those points with a squad that will return virtually everyone in 2014.
"For the women to rally and get that many points was just fantastic," Braman said. "We got beat by a ton last year. To come back and tie it up and have a chance to win in the 4x400…Can you imagine what was in the mind of the Clemson coaches?"
There was no shortage of highlights and major contributions from either team.
James Harris won the 400-meter dash in the nation's second-fastest time (45.25) and anchored the Seminoles' winning 4x100 relay. ACC Championship Track MVP won the 100 (10.12), finished second in the 200 (20.73) and also contributed to the winning 4x100 relay.
Those three victories were complemented by Darrin Gibson's momentum-swinging, runner-up finish in the 800 meters (1:49.11) and bronze medal performances from Andrew LaHaye (pole vault), Owen Cain (triple jump), Markindey Sineus (hammer) and Alonzo Russell (400).
In all, the Seminole men claimed seven titles and 15 All-ACC honors to lead all teams in both categories, which doesn't account for some pretty significant scoring performances on Saturday from the likes of: Zak Seddon (fourth, 1500), David Ambler (sixth, 100), Tremaine Grant (fourth, 110 hurdles), Harris and Cristobal Hurtado (fifth and seventh, high jump).
Fittingly, senior Mike Fout's sixth-place finish in the 5000 meters, on a cranky foot which had limited his training, secured the Seminoles' championship and allowed associate head coach Ken Harnden, who spent the day tabulating the team's title pursuit, to pull his 4x400 relay from the track.
"It's exciting to win and, dare I say, more exciting going forward," Braman said, after watching the men pile up a dozen or more NCAA East Preliminary marks over the three-day meet.