CLEMSON, S.C. – As lid-lifters go, Florida State’s performance at the indoor track & field season opener may not have raised the roof Saturday at the Clemson Invitational, but it certainly proved that the Seminoles have a high ceiling for the 2017 season.
In a relatively low-key affair featuring the host Tigers and South Carolina, the Seminoles scored six event victories – four by the women – added six marks to the all-time FSU top 10 lists and piled up a whopping 38 personal-best marks on the sizzling new Clemson track.
Furthermore, four Seminoles came away with standards ranked among the top 16 nationally. Only the top 16 marks in each of the 15 contested events advance to the March 10-11 NCAA Indoor Championships
“Our overall focus was really good for a first meet with light competition,” Florida State coach Bob Braman said. “This was a perfect set-up for Iowa and the bigger meets to come.”
The Seminoles were especially strong in the field events, as juniors Gleneve Grange and Jogaile Petrokaite won the shot put and long jump, respectively.
Grange, who was forced to sit out last season, made her long-awaited Seminole debut memorable by uncorking a personal-best throw of 15.67 meters (51-5) to move into fifth place on FSU’s all-time list. Petrokaite landed only two legal jumps on six attempts, but her best mark of the day – 6.31 meters (20-8.5) – ranks No. 6 nationally.
“I’m really excited about Gleneve’s FSU debut,” FSU throws coach Dorian Scott said. “It’s been a long time coming and there is a lot more in the tank. She came here based off her discus talent, so I’m really happy that we’re getting some quality out of the shot put.”
Fifth-year senior Emmanuel Onyia finished third in the men’s shot put, but like his teammate and fellow Jamaican, Grange, he posted the No. 5 mark in Seminole history with his throw of 18.01 meters (59-1.25). It was one of four personal-bests on the day by FSU throwers, including sophomore Brandon Tirado’s runner-up finish in the weight throw (17.28m/56-8.5), which ranks 10th all-time.
“Onyia really showed some good maturity in his opener,” Scott said of his shot putter, who missed the entire 2016 indoor season due to injury and has been focusing his training on the discus. “I’m happy with all the PB’s and the way we competed.”
The men’s and women’s sprinters did not allow the throwers to have all the fun.
Darryl Haraway won the 60-meter dash in 6.71, which is tied for No. 11 nationally. Edward Clarke was third (6.78) and Keniel Grant fourth (6.83). Grant and Jamal Pitts, who qualified for the finals in 6.86, each recorded the fastest times of their careers. Pitts opted not to run in the 60 final to focus on the 200; a decision that paid off with a sizzling personal-best of 21.51 for second place overall.
“I was really pleased with all the 60-meter men,” Braman said. “Their execution was pretty good for the first meet. Darryl and Ed will definitely have a shot to qualify for Indoor Nationals.”
Shauna Helps, the reigning ACC Outdoor 100-meter champion and Freshman of the Year, was impressive in her season-opening 200-meter race. Flashing her early-season fitness, Helps ran away with the win in 23.77; the sixth-fastest time in Seminole history and ninth-fastest mark nationally this year.
“I really like Shuana’s race,” Braman said. “She can be a national class 200 runner if she wants, but I know she loves the short sprints.”
Fellow sophomore Shaquania Dorsett challenged her personal-best in the 400 by clocking a 54.82 to finish fourth overall.
Freshman walk-on Alina Stewart advanced to the finals of the women’s 60-meter dash, where she recorded her second personal-best of the day in 7.63 to finish fifth.
Another freshman, former Maclay and East Gadsden standout Steven Simpkins, turned heads with his runner-up finish in the 400-meter dash (48.27). The eclipses the fastest outdoor 400 of his high school and AAU career.
Emily Edwards has been on the FSU campus for only a week, but the junior transfer from Alabama looked very comfortable in her wire-to-wire victory in the women’s mile. The former Florida high school prep star’s Seminole debut was a personal-best (4:56.35).
“The first meet is always good to see where you are and what you need to work on,” FSU women’s distance coach Kelly Phillips said. “We saw some great things today with transfer Emily Edwards winning the mile and running a new PB, and freshman Ginelle Demone with her first college race running a solid 800 (2:15.76). They all did a nice job of having a pre-race plan and executing that plan in the race.”
Fatema Jaffer was the runner-up in the 5000 (18:05.17) and Tara Rooney finished third in the 3000 (10:27.58).
Rounding out the Seminole winners was Bryce Kelley, who worked with teammate Matt Magee through most of the 3000-meter race before finishing it off in runaway fashion with his personal-best (8:27.49).
There were an ample number of other positive developments. Freshman Nicole Breske was second in the pole vault, tying for the ninth-best mark in school history (3.80 meters/12-5.5) in her collegiate debut. Redshirt junior Elizabeth Eversole was third (3.65/11-11.75) and freshman Olivia Ogles was fourth (3.50/11-5.75).
Redshirt freshman Safia Morgan’s high jump debut (1.70m/5-7) was good enough for third place and a share of eighth on the all-time list.
In the men’s long jump, Grant finished third with the longest season-opening leap of his four-year career (7.45/24-5.5). Sophomore Armani Wallace opened up with the best indoor triple jump of his career (15.49/50-10) to place second. Junior transfer and British collegiate record-holder Montel Nevers was third (15.20/49-10.5). Ashton Butler finished fifth in a PB (14.84/48-8.25) as well.
Senior Nicole Setterington posted the fastest 60-meter hurdles season-opener of her career (8.35) in the prelims and finished third in the final. The Canadian standout followed up by blasting her previous lifetime-best in the 200 by finishing fourth in 24.87.
It was a busy day for Seminole multi-event performers Melissa-Maree Farrington and Dante Newberg, who along with Hunter Napier, competed in three events each. Farrington was fifth in the 60-meter hurdles final after running 8.45 in the prelims, advancing to the shot put finals (11.00m/36-1.25) and finishing fifth in the long jump (5.65/18-6.5).
Newberg set three new personal-bests while advancing to the finals in the 60-meter hurdles (8.45) and long jump (6.69m/21-11.5), and posting a 12.02-meter (39-5.25) in the shot put.
The Seminoles will take an even larger travel contingent to Iowa City for next week’s Hawkeye Classic.