DES MOINES, Iowa – With 22 student-athletes in tow, Florida State’s track & field travel party arrived here in preparation for Wednesday’s opening of the NCAA Championship meet at Drake University.
The sheer number of Seminoles qualifying for the ultimate collegiate event for the sport speaks volumes about the comprehensive program that has been fortified in coach Bob Braman’s 12 seasons at the helm. The United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) provided additional confirmation Monday, when it announced its annual regional awards for the outdoor season.
Florida State won four of the eight awards presented to coaches and athletes from the South Region, tying Wisconsin for the most by any program in the country.
For the third time in his career, was selected by his peers as the NCAA South Region Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year, while Ken Harnden was selected as the Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year and senior sprinter Maurice Mitchell was selected Men’s Track Athlete of the Year.
Karen Harvey rounded out the honorees as she was selected Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year.
“I’m really happy for our staff because a lot of times our assistant coaches go unrecognized,” Braman said. “For a long time we’ve felt like we have the finest staff in the country.
“I think Maurice was an obvious, but certainly deserving, choice. Let’s see where this takes him in terms of The Bowerman.”
Mitchell is one of the leading candidates to win The Bowerman Award, which is presented each year to the nation’s top male and female collegiate track & field athlete. Former Seminole Ngoni Makusha was the 2011 Bowerman winner.
Not surprisingly, the FSU men are on the short list of contenders for the 2012 NCAA Championship when action opens Wednesday at Johnny Bright Field/Jim Duncan Track. Harnden, FSU’s director of sprints, hurdles and relays, will oversee a group led by Mitchell – an NCAA qualifier in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay – Kemar Hyman and Horatio Williams, but also includes Stephen Newbold, David Ambler and Kieran Showler-Davis.
“Coach Harnden’s group is probably, more than anything, the reason we have a chance [to win],” Braman said. “They can hit you in a lot of areas – the 100, 200 and 4x100.. They’re our bread-and-butter.”
Likewise, Harvey’s six distance qualifiers to the championship lead the way on the women’s side, including a championship-leading three entrants in the 1500-meter run, as well as two steeplechase and one 5000-meter qualifier.
“The whole season long women’s distance has been our big, big points area, at ACC and in the Region, where they qualified 10 and advanced six,” Braman said. “Those are all individual qualifiers, not relays. They were what I call no-doubt qualifiers. They didn’t just slip in the back door. They were just that good. That’s really exciting.
“Those two groups have carried the ball the whole year, while others have gotten better to the point that we don’t have to put it all on them.”
Both Harnden and Harvey are three-time recipients of the Regional Assistant Coach of the Year honors.
As for Braman’s award, he’s most happy that it’s reflected in the overall strength of the program and how it was built.
“It’s rewarding for that reason,” Braman said. “It’s more difficult to do it the way we do it, because it’s difficult to be represented in all areas with just 12.6 scholarships, instead of loading up in one or two areas, and representing in all areas. That’s the way we’re going to continue to do it.”
The FSU men are one of only two programs in the NCAA Championship field with athletes qualifying in all seven disciplines – sprints/hurdles, middle distance, distance, relays, jumps, throws and multi-events. Texas’ men are the only other program – men or women – of the 293 teams represented at the championship that can make that claim.
In addition to being in the thick of the championship hunt – Track & Field News projects the FSU men to win the title based on their pre-meet form chart – the Seminoles are also contending for a second consecutive John McDonnell Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top comprehensive program.
“That certainly validates how we do it,” Braman said. “Now we’ve got to take the next step and do it in the only meet that counts.”
NCAA Championship action begins Wednesday at 1 p.m. (ET) with the decathlon, where FSU MBA student Gonzalo Barroilhet is the No. 2 seed.
Live coverage of the four-day meet can be found Wednesday-Friday at ESPN3.com and NCAA.com, while Saturday’s finale will be aired live on ESPNU beginning at 12 noon.
You can follow the Seminoles through the competition with live updates through Twitter @FSU_Track, as well as delay recaps at www.Seminoles.com.
Men's Track Athlete of the Year
SOUTH REGION - Maurice Mitchell - Florida State
The senior qualified for NCAA Championship from the East Preliminary in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay. The 200 and 4x100 marks were top collegiate qualifying times from the preliminary rounds. The Kansas City, Mo., native owns the NCAA’s fastest 200-meter time for all-conditions (20.08) which also ranks fourth in the World. Mitchell won ACC titles in the 200 and 4x100 relay.
Men's Coach of the Year
SOUTH REGION - Bob Braman - Florida State
Under Braman's watch the Seminoles qualified 19 for the East Preliminary Rounds of the NCAA Championship. FSU will have 13 men competing at the Final Rounds, third most of teams competing. The Seminoles are ranked second in the region and fifth nationally. FSU finished second at ACC Championship, just 4½ points shy of the title. In his 12th season at FSU, Braman directly coaches the distance team, which has qualified Terril Gibson (800) and Mike Fout (10k) for the NCAA Championship.
Men's Assistant Coach of the Year
SOUTH REGION - Ken Harnden - Florida State
Harnden is Florida State’s director of sprints, hurdles, and relays. He qualified eight individuals and the 4x100 relay for the NCAA preliminary rounds and he boasts four finals site qualifiers. FSU owns the top qualifiers in the 100, 200, and 4x100 for the finals site and the Seminoles swept the top two spots at the ACC Championship in the 100, 200, and 4x100 relay. Florida State combined for 66 of 149 points for the runner-up showing in the league meet.
Women's Assistant Coach of the Year
SOUTH REGION - Karen Harvey - Florida State
Harvey, FSU’s distance coach, qualified 10 individuals for the NCAA East Preliminaries, including a national-best six in the 1500 meters. Six of those, including three in the 1500, have advanced to the finals. Her runners accounted for 43 of the team’s 75 points at the ACC Championships where they produced a conference champion in the 5000 meters.