Maurice Mitchell, Florida State’s talented sprinter is painfully familiar with how close one can get to an NCAA championship and be denied. And it is eating him up. It is singularly what impels Mitchell to go all out next week at the NCAA championships in Des Moines.
He’s got three shots at a title after qualifying to compete in the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash and 4×100 meter relay. Mitchell enters the national championships ranked No. 3 in nation in 100 (teammate Ngoni Makusha is No.1) and No. 2 in the 200. He was the fastest qualifier in the 100 at the regionals in Bloomington (10.24). This season, Mitchell has a best time in the 100 of 10.03, and in the 200 of 20.19.
That’s all well and good, but for Mitchell, you should have seen the one that got away.
Last year, competing in the 100 against Oklahoma’s Mookie Salaam for the indoor title, the two finished in a virtual dead heat. Since there are no ties, some one had to win, and it was Salaam after results showed that he beat Mitchell .001 to .003.
“To lose like that, by .002, it was pretty rough on me,” Mitchell said. “I really wanted it. To not be able to win one yet is hard. It is the one thing missing.
“I kept pushing and I felt in the outdoor season I would win one. It was my second chance. But I didn’t get it. I still have that hole in my resume.”
And what a resume it is, especially for this season. Mitchell is clearly FSU’s top sprinter. He was selected the track MVP of the ACC Outdoor Championships. He won two ACC championships in the 200-meter dash and 4×100 meter relay and also earned All-ACC honors in the 100-meter dash. For several weeks this season, Mitchell held the world’s top time in the 200-meter dash.
When Mitchell finished second in the 100 at the ACC championships, he ran a blistering 10.03, which improved upon the championship mark by eight-hundredths of a second. His win in the 200 (20.19) was his second in a row and gave FSU a streak of five consecutive victories in the event. That time matched the championship record, which was set in 2007 by fellow Seminole Walter Dix. FSU’s team victory was their seventh consecutive outdoor title as well.
“That was a huge confidence booster,” Mitchell said of his ACC performance. “I know I can run with the best out there but something seems to happen to me.”
He is no stranger to the big stage. He made the championships as a freshman and by his own admission it was a learning experience and he did not fare well. His times improved his sophomore season and was ready to have a great nationals performance. But while running the 100, he strained both calves.
“It made me put it all in perspective getting hurt,” Mitchell said. “You really can’t be your best if you are hurt. I knew I had to come back and treat my body right. It’s definitely helped me this year. I’m doing the little things to make sure I am healthy.”
Along with the renewed body was a rededication to doing whatever it takes to win that elusive individual national championship.
“I came in this year with the mindset that no one was going to work harder than me,” Mitchell said. “I was going to challenge myself and have a much better work ethic. I was determined to be the very best.”
And if that is not enough self-motivation, Mitchell has a host of folks surrounding him that will keep him on task.
“It really helps when you have my coaches and teammates and family pushing me,” Mitchell said. “It makes me want to take things to the next level. With their help I know I can be a great sprinter.
“But I am not going to put a lot of pressure on me next week. The team is going for a championship and I want to take this as just another meet. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to get that [individual] title. But I want us all to do well.”