Fragments Vol 5
By David Yon
Yes, This is what the ACC REALLY wanted…
When the ACC extended an invitation to FSU to join the conference in 1991, many fans believed the primary goal was to upgrade the conference’s football revenues, reputation and talent. But the conference already had three national titles in football and 91 in all sports, men and women, combined. What they didn’t have, not in all the years of trying since 1953, was a national title in men’s outdoor track and field. It is a sport that has been dominated by the SEC which has won every title since 1988 except one. Of course only the best of soothsayers could see that the FSU men would break that hex. While the FSU women won the outdoor title in 1984 and the indoor title in 1985 (both pre ACC), the men were not a team to strike fear in the hearts of the nation’s track powers. In fact, despite some talented athletes no men’s team from anywhere in the state of Florida had ever won the title.
Not at least until 2006. FSU entered the meet ranked number one in most polls. But being ranked number one doesn’t guaranty walking away with title. That point was brought home with a jolt of reality when the 4 x 100 team was disqualified for a bad hand off. FSU entered the last two and half hours of the four days of competition with only 7 points, far behind leaders Wisconsin and Arkansas who each had 30. And it got worse, as Xavier Carter, LSU superman, grabbed his second of four wins by beating Walter Dix to the line in the 100 in a time of 10.09 to 10.18 into a 0.5 head wind. While no one was predicting that Wisconsin or Arkansas was going to win, LSU, FSU’s number one threat, had the overall lead. Dix did roar back from a slow start and near last place position to grab the eight points that go with second place. At the end of the event LSU had 20 points and FSU had 15.
Carter did it again for LSU in the 400 meter final (just 40 minutes after the 100) edging FSU’s Ricardo Chambers 44.53 to 44.71, PR’s for both. It was the first time NCAA history a runner had won both the 100 and 400 meter races. LSU now led the meet with 33 points, while FSU languished in 7th with 23. Two critical team members, Garret Johnson (shot put) and Rafeeq Curry (triple jump), were both mired in fourth place with sub par performances that seemed to doom FSU’s chances. The 200 looked like it might be one more disappointment as Walter Dix got off to another slow start. But then, as they say, the worm turned. Dix exploded past his competition to capture the title and, importantly, beat LSU’s Kelly Wille, 20.30 to 20.48. Nearby, Curry and Johnson used their fifth attempts to grab the lead in each of their events. Curry’s jump of 54-09.50 was a PR and both efforts were good enough to make them each National Champs. As Curry watched the final jumpers take their turn, Tom Lancashire moved from the back of the 1500 meter field to a twenty meter lead. With 100 meters to go, it seemed he had the title wrapped up. But a big brown bear jumped on his back and Vincent Rono of South Alabama nipped him at the line, 3:44.07 to 3:44.20. The last quarter, I think, was run around 55 seconds. When the dust settled, FSU had the overall lead, 62 to 41 and the title belonged to FSU. Andrew Lemoncello added a forth place steeple finish (his second) to give FSU its total of 67 points and LSU added the 4×400 title to give it a final total of 51 points. Xavier Carter was part of the 400 team giving him four titles and making him the first to accomplish that task since Jessie Owens did it in 1935 and 1936. Owens however did it in four individual events – 100 and 220 yards, 220 yard hurdles and the long jump. (Didn’t he do something special in the Olympics also?)
Perhaps the most outstanding part of the competition was the class shown by FSU coach Bob Braman. The braggadocio often present at track meets can be hard to watch, but Coach Braman, winning his first title ever, spread credit all over – to the athletes, his assistant coaches and perhaps most impressively his predecessors. There is an obvious level of respect for former coaches Dick Roberts and Terry Long, especially coach Long. Both were guests of Braman’s at the meet and at the post event celebrations. And it is fun to see a strong GWTC connection continue. Braman remains a member of the club and is quick to get team members out to races as volunteers and to credit GWTC support for the program. And of course Dick Roberts was very instrumental in GWTC’s early days. Just get Bill McGuire started telling Dick Roberts stories and you will get a good picture.
Speaking of Track
The summer track series is off to its best start ever. GWTC simply has no better outreach to kids. They invade the track on Thursday evenings like locus. At least one member estimated over 200 participants the first two weeks. Wave after wave ran first the 40, then the 100 and finally the 200 meter race. You have to smile when you watch all the GWTC parents with kids participating. It is a lot of work every week for people like Lisa Unger, Jeanne O’Kon, Perry Shaw and Tom Perkins. Allison Eagan and Chris Sumner are there as well. (I don’t even have to mention Bill Lott, you just know he is there.)
Born v. Imported, Stereo Types
Two things caught my eye on Lets Run.com (www.letsrun.com) recently. By the way, this is an awesome site for keeping up with the world of running. The first was a quote from US mile record holder Steve Scott:
“If I said that I wouldn’t be bothered by having someone who was not born American break the record, I’d be lying,” said Scott, who established his mark in 1982. “It bothered me when Sydney Maree, who came here from South Africa, broke the record in the 1,500. If you’re going to have you’re record taken away, you’d like it to be broken by someone born and raised here in America.
“But on the other side of the coin, almost all of us came here from somewhere else. My mother’s parents came over from Germany, so I’m just a second generation here. That’s how this country is set up. Just one of those things that happens.”
The top candidates for breaking the record are Bernard Lagat, who broke the national record at the 1500 meter distance last year with a time of 3 minutes 29.30 seconds, and Alan Webb, who ran a personal best of 3:48.92 in the mile last year. Scott’s U.S. record in the mile was set in July of 1982 and is 3:47.69. Lagat, who has a mile best of 3:47.28, was born in Kenya and became a US citizen just a few years ago. He attended college in the United States at Washington State and so is very familiar with his adopted country. Alan Webb of course is “home grown.”
The second item was Jeremy Wariner’s efforts to surpass the performances of his mentor Michael Johnson.
Wariner joined an elite crowd when he clocked 44.12 to win the 400m in the Michael Johnson Invitational on his home track at Baylor University in Waco, Texas in April. Only Johnson, who is Wariner’s agent and meet record holder at 43.75, have run faster than Wariner before the month of May.
Wariner preceded his Waco 400m win with a 20.37 effort in the 200m to smash his career best of 20.59 in the Arlington Invitational on 1 April to move from 23rd into ninth on the all-time 200-400m combination list. He now believes it’s only a matter of time before he ascends to the top of the 200-400m list training under coach Clyde Hart, who also mentored Johnson.
“Just knowing what (Johnson) ran staying with Coach Hart will keep me focused in the next few years,” Wariner said. “I’ll be able to get his records if the conditions are right, on a fast track and the right competition. There is no telling what the time will be. It will come someday sooner or later.’’
Johnson’s records remain among the most impressive in track. His 19.32 set in the 200 in the Atlanta Olympics remains without doubt the most impressive event I have ever had the opportunity to watch. Speaking of stereo types, do these guys have something out of order? Who is the agent and who is the speedy 400 meter runner?
No, I don’t like Track and Field
Ok so I have probably put you to sleep with all this talk of track and field. There is more to come though with the US National Championships up next. Hey, we even get to root for Lancashire in the British Championships. Of course the sport is marred by drugs and bad attitudes, but it is still, in my self indulgent view, the greatest sport on the planet. From the raw speed and power of the 100, to the artistry of the pole vault to the endurance and strength of the steeple, there is something for everyone. And everyone in the world, from the poorest countries to the richest competes and sometimes wins. So thanks for indulging me and congrats to FSU’s coaches and athletes for making Tallahassee special for two and half hours in Sacramento.