The men's track and field program at Florida State has been on a roll lately.
The Seminoles won the 2006 NCAA outdoor championship and finished second last month at the 2007 NCAA indoor meet. Last weekend, they took their fifth Atlantic Coast Conference outdoor title in six years.
If only they could win a Penn Relays Championship of America race, coach Bob Braman would be delighted. The next victory at Franklin Field for the Seminoles' men would be their first.
"It's real important," Braman said Tuesday from Tallahassee before heading to practice. "Our women have won, but the men have never won, and that's a big deal.
"I've had good teams before, last year and the year before. I thought we stacked up well. But we haven't been in this position before. The 4x100, 4x200, sprint medley, we'll be in contention in all three. I've read some articles that said we'll win all three. But there's always a team at Penn that will come up and bite you."
Things have been hectic in Braman's world the last few days. After the Seminoles won the ACC championship in College Park, Md., they arrived home in the wee hours Sunday morning. The next day, many of their athletes went into final exams.
When Braman got them together for practice Tuesday, he said it was to "figure out who's broken and who's healthy." But he said that most of them probably made it through the ACC meet OK, and that they were now looking forward to Penn.
"It's a lot of fun for the kids," Braman said. "They're not as stressed. There's not the team scoring deal. That's why you see great things happen from the colleges. It really is a carnival for them. That makes Penn unique. Exams will be done for us, and hopefully it will be celebration and enjoyment as our athletes get after it and put the stress behind."
What can eliminate stress for a coach is having the deep and talented collection of sprinters the Seminoles possess. The group is led by junior Walter Dix, who had a time of 20.19 seconds - the fastest in the United States in the 200 meters this year - to win the ACC title.
"Walt is a world-class athlete who wants to do big things," Braman said. "He's as good as anybody in the world, the top five or six, in the 200. When he's at top speed, I think he's equal to anybody in the world, and that includes Asafa Powell."
Powell is the world-record holder in the 100.
"I'm not overstating his potential," Braman said of Dix. "I completely believe he's going to break 20 seconds in the 200."
Dix teamed with Greg Bolden, Michael Ray Garvin and Charles Clark for a time of 38.78 seconds, tops in the nation this year, in the 4x100 at the ACC championships. Dix and Bolden have met the NCAA regional qualifying times in the 100 and 200, Garvin and Cedric Nabe in the 100, and Clark and Ronald Wright in the 200.
Those six runners will run in the 4x100 and 4x200 heats tomorrow. Ricardo Chambers, the NCAA indoor 400-meter champion, will be part of the 4x400 and sprint medley teams. The sprint medley team will be anchored by Tom Lancashire, the NCAA runner-up in the indoor mile.
Clark is another runner to watch, on and off the track. The freshman from Virginia Beach, Va., is a budding rhythm and blues singer who has appeared on Showtime at the Apollo and reportedly turned down a recording contract from the same company that represents Alicia Keys.
"He's a pretty neat kid," Braman said. "He's got a permanent smile on his face."
This weekend, the Seminoles will try to match, if not exceed, the accomplishments of the last Florida State team to win at the Penn Relays. The 1982 and 1983 women's team won the 4x100 and 4x400 in each of those years and was paced by Randy Givens, a member of the carnival's Wall of Fame.
"It means a lot," Braman said. "We want to get our name in that [record] book. Our women won the national championship the years they won at Penn. So, it's about time."