FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Feeling healthier than he has at almost any point in his Florida State career, Stefan Brits wanted to make the most of his first, full-approach long jump competition of the 2016 indoor track & field season.The postgraduate student didn’t waste any time, landing his best mark – indoors or outdoors – since 2013 on his first attempt, securing a third-place finish Friday night at the Razorback Invitational.
“It’s more of a relief to be opening up your first meet jumping as far as you have in three years, at the end of the season,” Brits said. “That’s a lot of confidence. I came here and did exactly what we wanted to do; put my name in the books and go to nationals.”
Brits’ opening mark of 7.72 meters (25-4) was his best indoor mark since he leaped 7.80 at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships at the same Randal Tyson Track Center, which was good for a sixth-place finish. This time it stood up for a third-place finish against a stout field which produced the nation’s top No. 1 and No. 3 marks this season.
Arkansas’ Jarrion Lawson won in a nation-leading 8.17 meters, while Florida’s KeAndre Bates was second (7.93).
“We’ll be back in two weeks and hopefully go further from there,” said Brits, who now owns the ninth-best mark in the country.
The top finish of the first of two days of competition was produced by Sasha-Ann Lebert, who continued her progression in the weight throw, unleashing a pair of new personal-best marks. Lebert’s fifth throw of the competition carried 19.72 meters (64-8.50) and held up for a second-place finish.
Back on the runway, senior Der’Renae Freeman stood her ground against the finest women’s long jumpers in the nation this season. Freeman put together an outstanding series, matching her season-best on her first attempt and then matching her lifetime-best on the second.
Freeman sailed 6.38 meters (20-11.25) – the eighth-best mark in the nation this season – but only good enough for fifth on the night against a loaded field of competitors.
“The field events and the veterans were the highlight for us today,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “Brits and Freeman probably solidified their trips to nationals and Sasha continues to impress. I thought JoJo [Jogaile Petrokaite] and Cristobal [Hurtado-Arteaga] competed well and have bigger jumps coming their way soon.”
Petrokaite missed the women’s long jump finals by one place with a preliminary round best of 6.12 meters (20-1), which was good for 10th overall. Hurtado-Arteaga tied for sixth-place in the men’s high jump with a 2.04-meter (6-8.25) clearance.
The Seminole women also received an eighth-place scoring performance from sophomore Hannah Welsh in the high jump (1.61m/5-3.25).
Friday’s competition also included the multi-events, which produced a mixed bag of results. Freshman Dante Newberg, competing in his first heptathlon, recorded new personal-best marks in the 60-meter dash (7.23), long jump (6.51m/21-4.25) and shot put (10.77m/35-4), and came within a half-inch of matching his lifetime-best in the high jump.
His first day, four-event total of 2721 points leaves him in 11th-place, with the 60 hurdles, pole vault and 1000-meter run remaining Saturday.
“It went pretty well and coach [Dennis] Nobles was happy,” Newberg said. “I collegiate-PR’d in every event. You can always do better, but it was a good day.
“The hardest part of day two is always dialing with the soreness. I’ll do all I can to have the best day-two I can.”
Melissa-Maree Farrington was poised to turn in the second-best pentathlon score in FSU history when her day ended with a lap-two stumble into in the infield in the 800. The Australia native carried 3,228 points and a seventh-place standing into the final event, highlighted by solid efforts in the 60 hurdles (7.46), high jump (1.63m/5-4.25) and long jump (5.86m/19-2.75), only to have her day undone when she did not finish the 800.
The Seminoles will face a full day of action Saturday, beginning at 12 noon (ET), and the SEC Network will provide four hours of live coverage beginning at 1:30 p.m.
“Tomorrow we look forward to some big track performances,” Braman said. “Middle distance, short sprints and hurdles are areas we can make some noise.”
You can follow the Seminoles via Twitter @FSU_Track or via the live results http://www.flashresults.com/2016_Meets/Indoor/01-29_RazorbackInvite/.