EUGENE, Ore. – For the second time in as many meets, Carlos Becker IIIdelivered a very simple message with his performance: Don’t ever count him out!
Defying the odds as the No. 23 seed in Wednesday’s field of 24 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Florida State’s freshman long jumper
busted out a lifetime-best mark on his opening attempt and rode it all the way to a seventh-place finish.
“It really is remarkable,” FSU Director of Field Events Dennis Nobles said. “Like I told a few people, ‘If you had told me two days ago Carlos was going to finish seventh I’d have taken it and run like I stole something.’”
Becker’s opening leap of 7.63 meters (25-0.5) carried him into the finals, where a pair of narrow fouls on his last two attempts were all that separated him from an even higher finish on the podium.
“After I’d seen everyone jump 24 [feet] I felt pretty good about it,” Becker said. “The last two jumps were pretty big, but I fouled them. All my big jumps were fouls.
“I tried to win it, but things happen. I have three more years to do this, so I’m straight.”
Becker became the first Seminole freshman to earn first-team All-American honors outdoors in the long jump since Ngoni Makusha, who won the 2008 title in his first season. Makusha was actually at Nobles’ side as his volunteer assistant as Becker was making the most of his NCAA Championships debut.
“Those last two jumps, they were good jumps; they were really big jumps,” Nobles said. “We probably wouldn’t have won it, but we would have been third or fourth if it had been legal. But that’s a part of it. There are fouls and there are good people that didn’t jump what they wanted to jump out there. He just did a great job of focusing and competing.”
That’s been Becker’s calling card in the NCAA postseason. He arrived at the NCAA East Preliminaries two weeks ago in Lexington, Ky. seeded 31st in the field of 48 and grabbed the 12th and final qualifying spot. Then he upstaged a host of proven performers with a memorable effort when it mattered most.
“He was in the zone all day,” FSU head coach Bob Braman said. “He first jump was his best but his last two jumps were top-four territory, but small fouls. It was a super job for a freshman who makes his living on the gridiron.”
Until Wednesday, Becker’s athletic claim to fame as a Seminole was his Orange Bowl-sealing interception against Michigan. Now he’s destined to join the likes of Makusha and others with an All-American brick on FSU’s Walk of Fame outside the Moore Athletic Center.
“He’s still so very, very raw,” Nobles said of Becker. “It’s almost like having a lump of shapeless clay that you get to mold. If we had time with him, he could be something special, but he’s got some other things to do as well and I think he’s pretty good at that, from what I hear.”
Becker gave the Seminole men two points on the opening day of competition, which saw just three FSU men in action.
Redshirt junior Austin Droogsma’s round-by-round improvement in the shot put came up short of a trip to the finals, but his best of 18.89 meters (61-11.75) was good for a 12th-place finish and second-team All-American honors. That marked a one spot improvement over his 13th-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships, capping a breakthrough season for the Gulf Breeze, Fla. native who sat out the 2016 season following shoulder surgery.
“Austin did a really nice job,” Braman said. “I know he wanted to score and he’s certainly capable, but he kept grinding and kept improving on all three throws. In the end he missed the final by just a couple inches. It was a great season for Droogs. He’ll have a shot at a top-three finish next year. I’m proud of that young man.”
Senior James Rhoden’s remarkable ride from walk-on football player to engineer degree-holding NCAA Championships qualifier in the 400-meter hurdles ended with a 21st-place finish.
Rhoden had the misfortune of drawing lane one in what proved to be the fastest heat of the day, placing sixth in his heat in 53.69. The three fastest qualifiers for Friday’s finals all came out of his heat.
“James is what our program is all about,” Braman said. “He comes to FSU as a walk-on simply wanting to be great, then he beats all the odds to make it to Nationals. This was not his best day, but still a huge way to finish his career on the highest stage.”
Florida State’s women take center stage Thursday, with Veronika Kanuchova competing in the hammer at 5 p.m. (ET), followed by Peta-Gay Williams and Cortney Jones in the 100-meter hurdle prelims at 8:32 p.m. and Shaquania Dorsett in the 400-meter prelims at 9 p.m.
You can follow the Noles throughout the day via Twitter @FSU_Track and keep tabs through live results at noles.co/2rWl2VW
The complete ESPN broadcast schedule for the entire meet can be found here: http://noles.co/2qYz4mD