Jan. 17, 2008
With an incoming batch of top-ranked recruits set to mesh with a powerful returning cast of All-Americans and national qualifiers, the Florida State women’s track team is in perfect position to make 2008 one of the most successful seasons in program history.
“This will be the most talented group that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said head coach Bob Braman. “We’ve got great athletes in the field, we’ve got some great distance athletes and we’ve got some great new sprinters and hurdlers that I think are going to do well.”
Florida State’s 67-member 2008 squad is composed almost entirely of returning veterans ready to build on last season’s national and conference success. This season’s women’s track line-up is highlighted by returning All-Americans Kandia Batchelor (sprints), Susan Kuijken (distance) and Keyla Smith (sprints). In all, the Seminoles return six national qualifiers, 11 regional qualifiers and six All-ACC team members.
Joining Florida State’s returning veterans this year is a class of recruits ranked third in the nation by Track & Field News. Newcomers include Kim Williams (jumps). All three boast stellar prep careers sprinkled with national and international titles from around the globe.
“This is a very balanced team that has ACC and NCAA scorers in every area,” said Braman. “We’re very excited about this year’s team. After three of the last four NCAA Championships we’ve been in the top 15 in the country. Obviously the next progression is to try to get in that top 10 and maybe even compete higher than that–maybe a top 5, This is a very young team as well, so we’re excited about not just what they’re going to do this year, but for the next several years that they’re going to be together.”
Sprints & Relays
With two members of last season’s seventh-place NCAA 4x400m relay team back in action this year (Batchelor and Smith) along with national qualifiers Dana Massiah and Hshkeni Richemond, Florida State has a host of returning talent in the sprint events. Batchelor holds three spots on FSU’s all-time 4x400m top ten list, including the ACC Championship meet record time of 3:32.11 from 2007.
The Seminoles will also receive some help this year from freshmen Ashley Cruder and Brittany St. Louis. Cruder finished a standout high school career as a four-time All-American with a national championship in the 60m dash as well as a trio of Colorado state championships in the 100m, 4x100m and 4x200m. St. Louis, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, brings two Carifta Games gold medals in the 400m and two qualifications for the Pan-American Games to the Seminole squad this season.
Sophomore Allyn Laughlin will fight to fill the shoes of former Seminole Sara Reed this year in the throwing events. Though it’s no easy task, Laughlin already has a decent start boasting bests of 51’0.25″ (shot put) and 129’1″ (discus). Laughlin led Florida State in the indoor shot-put in 2007, setting her season-best mark of 49’5″ at the ACC Indoor Championships.
Joining Laughlin in this year’s throwing competitions is one of FSU’s best field recruits to date, freshman Kamorean Kayes. Throwing for Harding High School in Charlotte, N.C., Hayes won four outdoor national championships in shot put and earned a bronze medal in discus at the IAAF World Youth Championships.
Despite losing one of its best triple jumpers to date in three-time All-American Alyce Williams, Florida State still has a promising outlook on the jump events.
Taking over for Williams in both the triple and the long jump is sophomore Tiara Swanagan. The Orange Park, Fla. native set her personal-best mark of 41’07.75 in the triple jump last season, also snagging a spot at No. 8 on FSU’s top ten list in the event. Swanagan also lead the team in the high jump as she matched her career-best of 5’7″ at the 2007 ACC Outdoor Championships.
Also jumping for FSU’s top spot this year is four-time Carifta Games triple jump gold medalist Kimberly Williams. The 2007 National Junior Champion with a mark of 44’4″ in the triple jump is also a three-time Penn Relays champion in the event and owns a silver medal from the 2007 Pan American Junior Games.
Sophomore Valerie Flournoy will step into the blocks this season as Florida State’s top veteran hurdler. Boasting a career-best time in the 100m hurdles of 13.53 from her freshman season, Flournoy hangs at No. 7 in FSU’s all-time best for the event. Flournoy also posted the Seminoles’ second-best times of 2007 in the 55m and 60m hurdles during the indoor season, registering an 8.15 and an 8.65 respectively.
Battling Flournoy for FSU’s top hurdler title this season will be freshman Teona Rodgers. The Tampa, Fla. native set the Florida state record in the 100m hurdles at the Class 3A Championships in 2007 with a time of 13.30. Rodgers also won the 100m and 300m hurdles titles at the Hillsborough County Championships. Rodgers proved dangerous without hurdles as well, posting the second-fastest 200m time of the season (23.44) in route to a first-place finish at the 2007 state championships.
Leading Florida State once again in the pole vault this season will be junior Tori Allen. With a personal-best mark of 12’05.50 from the 2007 ACC Indoor Championships, which ranks fourth all-time in Florida State lore. Last season, Allen led the team in the pole vault by more than a foot and managed to meet or break the 12′ mark four times.
Also contributing to the pole vault competition this year is senior Leilani Carballo. Boasting a collegiate-best of 11’04.50″ from the UF Diet Pepsi Challenge last year, Carballo will back the team at the No. 2 spot on pole vault. Senior Jacintha Anderson and juniors Brittany Janson and Annalee Maciejko will also push the Seminoles to their best in the pole vault.
All-American Susan Kuijken will lead the way in the distance events for the Seminoles this season. Kuijken placed second in the 1500m at last year’s NCAA Championships, placing herself on top of Florida State’s all-time bests in the event with a time of 4:11.34. The Netherlands native also holds the No. 2 on FSU’s all-time 5000m list with a 16:20.30 from 2006. Seniors Laura Bowerman and Debbie Huss also made the top ten in the 5000m event at Nos. 5 and 8 respectively.
Huss will take the reigns for Florida State in the 10,000m, which she competed in at last year’s NCAA Championships. Huss holds the second-best 10,000m time in FSU history with a 33:56.38. Junior Lydia Willemse will step into the shoes of former Seminole Barbara Parker, running in the 3000m steeplechase where she holds the third-fastest time in school lore (10:27.01). Freshman Hannah England will also enter the distance event mix, boasting three gold medals from the indoor and outdoor 2006 AAA Nationals and a career-best 1500m time of 4:12.44 and 2:03 in the 800m.