TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State track & field coach Bob Braman received a big assist from Jimbo Fisher Wednesday, when two of the nation’s top sprinters – Marvin Bracy and Ronald Darby – signed national letters of intent to play football for the Seminoles.
With Fisher’s blessing, Bracy and Darby will join a long line of two-sport standouts in school history, while providing Braman’s track program with a 1-2 punch that should sustain if not enhance its run of NCAA excellence. The Seminoles have scored no worse than a second-place finish in five of the last NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Bracy and Darby are two potential NCAA Championship meet scorers upon arrival in Tallahassee.
“If you look at just statistics and what these guys have done on the track, it’s really like getting Walter Dix and Charles Clark in one year,” Braman said, referring to two of the most decorated sprinters in program history. “By the end of the year it could be like getting Dix and Maurice Mitchell or Ngoni Makusha in the same year. You’re getting two of the best guys that we’ve ever gotten, and they’re football players, which obviously makes our team unbelievably strong.”
So just how good is Bracy? He enters his senior season at Orlando Boone knocking at the door of becoming the first high school sprinter to run under 10 seconds for 100 meters.
“The fastest ever, going all the way back to Mike Roberson,” Braman said, when asked to compare Bracy to former ‘Noles. “He will be the fastest statistical athlete, and if not for .2 (mph) on the wind at USA’s he is – by just the margin of breeze – the national high school record-holder. He’s very, very special. When you’re that good, you have an influence.”
On a day when the Seminoles added their two most celebrated track athletes without using a scholarship on the men’s side, the women’s program picked up the signatures of four athletes on national letters of intent. Braman added All-USA Today long jumper Der’Renae Freeman (Winter Garden, Fla. West Orange), Canadian 400-meter standout Sage Watson (Medicine Hat, Alberta), Colorado 3A 100-meter champion Sierra Williams (Cedaredge, Col.) and distance standout Carly Thomas (Tallahassee, Fla. Chiles).
“We made the decision to combine the men’s and women’s sprints, hurdles and relays under one house, and I think that’s what you’re seeing here is a staff recruiting,” Braman said, noting that the fall promotion of Ken Harnden the Director of Sprints, Hurdles and Relays for both teams is paying off team-wide. “I like the way as a staff we work together.
Freeman and Watson, a 20-foot long jumper and sub-60 second 400 hurdler, respectively, can help in their specialties early and contributed immediately to the 4x100 and 4x400 relays as well. Williams has enough range to be able to contribute to both relays. Thomas adds to women’s distance coach Karen Harvey’s deep stable, where she will compete in both cross country and likely the longer track events.
“We’re going to be competing for national championships in the very near future,” Braman said of the women’s program, which is expected to add several world class athletes to this class.
Of course much of Wednesday’s conversation centered around what a pair of freshly-minted football ‘Noles will bring to the table on the track a year from now.
“When you get guys like Bracy and Darby they’re going to get that camaraderie, coaching; it’s going to help them so much,” Braman said. “They’re going to get way faster and it’s going to make for a giant group of super elite sprinters.”
Harnden and Fisher have worked closely together on a number of dual-sport athletes.
“Ken has worked really well with Jimbo and his staff, whenever they’ve needed our help,” Braman said. “There have been recruits, not at this level, who have wanted to be a part of the track program with their permission. It’s been incredibly smooth.
“Now, what we’ve got to do is make sure they’re available to do what they came here to do, which is to be world-class football players, and make them better at that rather than be a hindrance. Whatever Jimbo needs done cooperation-wise, we’ll be willing to provide it.”
Both the men and women are expected to sign additional athletes in the coming weeks.
Florida State Women’s Track & Field Signees
Der’Renae Freeman, Winter Garden, Fla. (West Orange) – Long jump/Sprints
Versatile senior jumper/sprinter who earned a spot on the 2011 USA Today All-American team on the strength of her season- and career-best long jump of 20-0.75…that jump delivered Freeman the 2011 4A State Championship…also placed eighth at the 4A State Championship in the 200-meter dash…owns personal-bests of 24.80 in the 200 and 12.08 in the 100-meter dash…closed out her junior season by claiming the Golden South Classic long jump title (19-4)…won Metro Conference titles in 100 and long jump, and followed with district and regional titles in the long jump…finished fourth as sophomore in the long jump at the 4A state meet…committed to the Seminoles in December.
Carly Thomas, Tallahassee, Fla. (Chiles) – Distance
One of Florida’s top high school distance runners, she helped the Chiles High girls cross country team claim three consecutive 3A State Championships (2008-10) and a runner-up finish (2011)…captured the 2009 3A individual state cross country championship as a sophomore, highlighting a career that included four top-five state finishes…was third in 2011 as a senior with 5k personal-best of 17:53.77, which stood as the third-fastest time on the day among all four classifications…finished ninth at Nike Cross Southeast Regional (17:57.20) in 2010…Footlocker All-South Region honoree in 2011…enters senior track season with PR’s of 5:10.92 (1600) and 10:52.87 (3200), the latter of which she set at the FSU Relays…a three-time state qualifier in the 1600 and 3200, she has been on the podium five times, including once in the 4x800 relay…part of Chiles’ meet record-setting 4x1600 relay team at the Florida Relays.
Sage Watson, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada (Medicine Hat) - 400 hurdles
Canada’s top youth 400-meter hurdler has enjoyed a brilliant career to date, excelling in the long sprints as well…reached the finals of the 400 hurdles in July 2011 at the IAAF World Youth Games in Lille, France, finishing eighth…qualified by winning the Canadian Youth National Championship in 59.72…also lent a 400-meter leg to the bronze medal Sprint Medley Relay team at the World Youth Games…posted 400 hurdle personal-best of 59.0 in June at the Abbotsbord Lafarge International Track Classic…swept all three sprints – 100, 200, 400 – at the Alberta Championships last spring…among her many titles are her 2009 Canadian Youth National Championship in the 400 meters as well as the Alberta Championship in 55.38…was 2011 runner-up in the 400-meter dash at Canadian Junior National Championships (54.94)…posts an impressive range of personal bests including: 24.88 (200-meter dash), 39.91 (indoor 300) and 54.19/54.54i (400-meter dash), as well as a 41.91 (300-meter hurdles).
Sierra Williams, Cedaredge, Col. (Cedaredge) – Sprints
A Colorado high school state sprint champion, Williams brings impressive credentials to the Seminoles from Cedaredge High…as a junior, was the 2011 3A state champion in the 100-meter dash (12.19) and the runner-up in the 200 (25.33) for the Bruins last season…she also contributed to third-place 4x100 and 4x400 relay finishes…has demonstrated promising versatility by posting a personal-best 57.84 in the 400-meter dash at altitude…also has an indoor 60-meter dash of 7.78 to her credit…finished fourth in the 100 at the 3A state meet as a sophomore and was a state qualifier in the 100 as a freshman.
Football signees’ bios
Marvin Bracy, Orlando, Fla. (Boone) – Sprints
The nation’s top-ranked short sprinter is on the fast track to challenge for a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team…Pan American Junior Athletics Championships 100 in July 10.09w…won USATF Junior National Championship in June at Eugene in 10.05w…four-time Florida 4A state champion entering his senior season with a pair of titles in both the 100 and 200…posted his fastest legal 100 (10.28) at the 2011 FSU Relays…has a PR of 21.24 in the 200 meters, set in the 2011 Florida 4A finals…set the U.S. high school record for 55 meter dash last week at Florida in 6.08; the fastest time in the world at that distance since 1999 and just .01 off Leonard Scott’s world junior record…also eclipsed the O’Connell Center track mark of 6.13 set by former Olympian Justin Gatlin a week earlier.
Ronald Darby, Oxon Hill, Md. (Potomac) – Sprints
One of the nation’s top sprinters who excels at 200 meters and has extensive international experience…turned in an impressive performance for the U.S. team at the 2011 IAAF World Youth Games in Lille, France in July…finished fourth in the 100 (10.61), captured bronze in the 200 (21.08) and anchored the Sprint Medley Relay team to gold in a meet record 1:49.47…outstanding summer included a victory in the 200 in a personal-best 21.05 at the Caribbean Schools Championships…also won the 100-meter title at the New Balance Nationals in a personal-best 10.41…his 2011 indoor season was highlighted by a victory in the 200 (21.24-PR) at the New Balance Nationals…also traveled to Osaka, Japan representing the U.S. in a tri-meet with Germany and Japan, where he placed third in the 60-meter dash in a personal-best 6.77…won the Hispanic Games 200 title at the Armory in N.Y. City in 21.28…captured the 2010 Junior Olympics gold medal in the 200 (21.24) following his sophomore year of high school…a star in the Maryland High School ranks, he has won six outdoor state titles over the past two years (100, 200, 4x100 relay) after getting on the podium as a freshman in 2009…matched the Maryland state meet record (6.37) in the preliminary round of the 2011 championship…medaled twice at 2010 indoor state meet, finishing second in the 55-meter dash (6.48) and contributing to a third-place finish in the 4x200 relay (1:33.91).