Des Moines, Iowa - Florida State closed the evening at Drake Stadium up one point on LSU for first place at the NCAA Track & Field Championships. In day three of action in Des Moines, Iowa, the Seminoles picked up six All-American titles to bring the team's tally of honors at this meet to eight.
"We're in a pretty good position," said head coach Bob Braman. "We'll have four guys tomorrow to LSU's two and to Auburn's two. Normally the numbers don't mean anything, but when the names are Dix, Clark, Brunson and Taylor, you've got four national champions. We're in a good position, but we have to get to 52 points tomorrow."
Silence befell Drake Stadium in the seconds before the men's 4x100m relay as Florida State's 15-time All-American and seven-time national champion Walter Dix slid into place as the lead-off runner in lane one. Dix, along with fellow All-American Michael Ray Garvin and freshmen Ngoni Makusha and Brian Chibudu had never run together prior to the national finals, but inexperience didn't slow the foursome much as they placed fourth with a time of 39.11 (the fastest for FSU this year) to secure five more points for the Seminoles' cause and add four All-American titles to the Seminoles' tally.
"The biggest thing today was the first thing--they got the momentum going with the 4x100m," said Braman. "That was huge. That was probably three or four points we weren't going to get. That was a really big turnaround there. Coach (Ken) Harnden came up with a great strategy to keep Drew (Brunson) and Charles (Clark) fresh. It looks like it's going to put us in a better position than if Drew and Charles would have won. Chibudu did a wonderful job on the anchor; for a redshirt freshman to hold off a great sprinter like Ruben Williams was huge."
Dix returned hours later for the 100m finals where he faced some of the toughest competition in the sprinting world. After a slow start out of the blocks, Dix picked up the pace to finish fourth overall with a time of 10.22 and notch his second All-American honor of the day--the 17th of his career.
The most decorated runner in Florida State history will conclude his career with the Garnet & Gold on Saturday at 3:44 p.m. in the 200m finals. Dix is the defending national champion in the event and holds the American collegiate record in the event with a 19.69 set at the NCAA East Regionals in 2007.
"I know Walt is disappointed, but you can't run a great 100 on five weeks of training," said Braman. "You need to get the speed work, the turnover and the block work. What he has done, to lead off the relay and give us a big lead is nothing short of remarkable for a guy who shouldn't be wearing a uniform by anyone else's account.
"My greatest hope for this meet is obviously to win, but a close second is for Walt to get one more title before he goes to the trials."
In the 3000m steeplechase finals, senior Luke Gunn glided over each of the barriers with ease to cross the line in 8:34.41 to finish third and score six points for Florida State, bumping the team score to 27 and keeping the Seminoles in first place. Gunn finishes his career at FSU as a two-time All-America in the steeplechase.
Senior Drew Brunson picked the perfect time to post his personal-best in the 110m hurdles. Brunson posted a heat-winning 13.39 in the semifinals to advance in second to tomorrow's finals scheduled for 4:02 p.m. CST, which will be the Seminoles' final race of the 2008 season.
With Florida State in a tight battle against LSU for the gold, Brunson's race could be a crucial one.
Senior Ray Taylor, who was not expected to score for the Seminoles, advanced into the men's triple jump finals in eighth-place with a top leap of 15.94/52'03.75". Taylor will compete with 11 others in the final round tomorrow at 1:00 p.m.
"We challenged those guys," said Braman of Taylor, Brunson and Gunn. "We said `seniors have got to lead us,' and unlike the indoor meet they're doing it. Gunny coming through, the relay led by Walt and then Ray and Drew. There were bad conditions in the triple jump and Ray was the only guy who was even close to his season best and a lot of people didn't deal with that adversity well. Drew ran two huge PRs in consecutive rounds."
On the women's side, ACC Indoor and Outdoor Freshman of the Year Kim Williams advanced to the final round of the women's triple jump with a fifth-place leap of 13.58m/44'06.75". Sophomore Tiara Swanagan also competed in the competition but came up short of the finals with a 16th-place leap of 12.91m/42'-4.25".
Williams will duke it out for her first national championship on Saturday at 3:00 p.m.
Fellow freshman Teona Rodgers ended a promising rookie season with a tight race in the 100m hurdles semifinals. Rodgers just missed out on the finals by three spots with a 13.53 for 11th place.
Competition will conclude tomorrow, Saturday, June 14, in Des Moines, Iowa, as the Seminole men will fight for their third-consecutive national title and the women will try to claim a trio of All-America honors and a few individual titles as well.
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