BY BRIAN LANDMAN
Times Staff Writer
Senior sprinter Walter Dix didn't disappoint in his final race for Florida State on Saturday.
Dix, who eschewed lucrative pro offers last year to return to school to graduate and make a historic run, won the 200 meters for a third straight year in a race that led to a three-peat for the Seminoles at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Seminoles finished with 52 points, eight ahead of LSU and Auburn. Florida was 15th (20 points). FSU now joins Southern California, UCLA, Texas El-Paso and Arkansas as schools that have won at least three straight men's outdoor titles.
LSU won the women's title, nipping defending champ Arizona State, 67-63. Florida was ninth (26), FSU was 12th (16) and Miami was 20th (12).
"It was definitely worth it," Dix told CBS of his return for his senior year. "I'm happy to be here and happy to celebrate with my teammates."
"Not only are you probably not going to see a talent like him again, you just don't see guys who are ready for the big time who continue their education and continue on for the team," FSU coach Bob Braman said. "He's special."
Just five weeks ago, Dix injured his left hamstring and contemplated a return for the Olympic Trials later this month and not the NCAA meet. But he recovered and figured the NCAA could be a springboard for a run at a spot on the U.S. team. He came to Iowa with the plan to run the 100 and 200, events he'd won last year, but not the 4x100 relay, which he also won in 2007. Then sophomore Charles Clark injured a hamstring on Thursday night and Dix volunteered to help out.
The revamped lineup, which also included Ngoni Makusha and Brian Chibudu, finished fourth and then Dix followed with a fourth-place showing in the 100 on Friday.
If Dix felt he had to redeem himself, he did so in his signature event on Saturday. He surged by 100-meter champ Richard Thompson of LSU and then held him off in the face of a tough wind with a time of 20.40 Thompson ran a 20.44.
"It would have been a tragedy to me for him to come back and then not win the race," Braman said.
Clark was eighth in the 200 to earn a point and give FSU 48 points, but Braman had done the math and realized that his team hadn't necessarily won the meet. Texas still could catch FSU if it scored the maximum 28 points (first and second in the 1,500 and first in the 4x400 relay) in the final two events.
But he knew those races wouldn't be a factor if senior Drew Brunson merely finish the 110 hurdles; he was fifth (13.80) to clinch the win. (Texas did have the 1,500 winner, but was also seventh in the race and the relay team was seventh.) Earlier in the day, Ray Taylor, who won the outdoor triple jump title last year while at Cornell, finished fourth (16.53 meters) to set the stage for Dix.
The highlight for the FSU women came shortly after Dix's win when sophomore Hannah England won the women's 1,500 with a strong surge in a meet-record time of 4:06.19, bettering the mark of Tiffany McWilliams of Mississippi State (4:06.75) in the 2004 championship. England, who also won the NCAA indoor mile, shattered her collegiate best which was 4:12.24.
"Unbelievable," Braman told FSU's Web site concerning England's accomplishment. "She was undefeated the whole outdoor season, which is just amazing. She had an amazing race and to be able to pull away from Sally Kipyego was unbelievable."