COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Cortney Jones’ breakout sophomore indoor season continued Saturday on the biggest stage of her career with a fourth-place finish in the 60-meter hurdle finals at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Jones broke her own Florida State record with a near-flawless final, finishing in 8.02 seconds. It’s the best indoor national hurdles finish in program history and a fitting tribute to what could have been a tumultuous season.
“Simply fantastic,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “She rises to the occasion every time.”
Jones’ climb from No. 10 seed to the upper steps of the podium at Texas A&M’s Gilliam Indoor Track Center was no less difficult than what she endured along the way. A knee injury in the fall derailed her training until January and led to a slow start. Then, the week of the ACC Championships, her grandfather passed away.
Her runner-up finish at the ACC Championships produced a school record (8.05), which she trimmed substantially in the biggest race of her life. Despite the setback and obstacles, Jones has taken her 60-meter time from 8.18 to 8.02 this season and is almost assured for joining the sub-8 club.
“Everything I’m doing now I’m doing for my family,” Jones said. “I’m doing it for my grandfather who recently passed away. I’m doing it for my parents. They are the reason why I’m here. For them to actually be here watching me do what I do is the best feeling I could ever imagine. I’m so grateful for the things they’ve done for me. This is the least I could do for them.”
Which explains why Jones raised her fourth-place trophy overhead and shouted in joy to her parents and family in the stands.
“I feel like I had something to prove to myself,” Jones said, adding that she was surprisingly calm before the race. “I feel like a lot of people look at me as an underdog and don’t expect me to be that person in the top three or top four. That was really motivating me to do what I did today.
“I’m proud. This is something I’ve been working for. Now I’ve got to go out and repeat it outdoors.”
Jones’ run came moments after freshman Trey Cunningham locked down a sixth-place finish in the men’s 60-meter hurdle finals. His 7.74 dash over five barriers extended an impressive run by indoor hurdlers in FSU history.
All-time the Noles have qualified 10 hurdlers for the indoor championships, and Cunningham extended the streak to 10 scoring finalists. It’s a run which began with eventual two-time national champion Danny Smith (1973-75) through national champions Phillip Riley (1995) and Drew Brunson (2008), and now adds a young man with championship aspirations of his own.
“Obviously I wanted to win, but I came out All-American, in sixth place; not bad for my first-ever Indoor Nationals,” Cunningham said. “I got out with them and I ran my own race. It couldn’t have been executed any better. I think I hit hurdle three and that might have bumped my rhythm off a little bit, but nothing major.
“I ended up being the fastest freshman in the nation. That’s a plus. There’s a little more growth to go. That’s what I’m taking away from it.”
Braman called it: “A great first NCAA meet for a promising freshman.”
Fellow freshman Ka’Tia Seymour capped her inaugural collegiate indoor season with a sixth-place finish in the 200-meter dash, posting a 23.01 in the final; the second-best time of her career.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Seymour said. “Just being a freshman and being able to be here was awesome.”
That’s no small feat for the youngster, who had never run indoor track before this season and ended up setting the school record (28.85), earning ACC Track MVP honors while helping the Noles to that title.
As for her performance on the big stage, she clearly grew from the experience.
“I’m pretty pleased,” she said. “I’m excited that I had the chance to run with people like Lynna Irby and Sydney McLaughlin. They pushed me a little faster than I expected in the prelims and they got me to the finals. I think I was a little more relaxed. I knew that anything was possible.”
“Ka’Tia did a great job,” Braman said. “She fought her way out of Lane 3 and got up for sixth-place. I’m so proud of how she’s competed all season.”
Junior Andre Ewers wrapped up the Seminole scorers with an eighth-place finish in the 200-meter dash finals in 20.88. It wasn’t the NCAA Championships debut the junior college transfer had hoped for, but he wasn’t coming away empty-handed.
“I take away experience, going into outdoors,” Ewers said. “I’m grateful because I came into the season with [personal-bests of] 6.65 and 20.90 and ended with 20.60 and 6.52. The work continues for outdoor to keep my accomplishments going.”
Braman believes he will be better for having come through the adversity of a false start in the 60, while rising up to score in the 200, where he was the No. 9 seed.
“Andre will learn from his first NCAA meet,” Braman said. “First-team All-American is nothing to apologize for, but I know he’ll clean up his technique with Coach Argro and move up Outdoors in three events.”
Junior Armani Wallace came up short of his goals, placing 13th in the triple jump (15.84m/51-11.75) for second-team All-American honors in his indoor nationals debut.
FSU’s men tied for 21st place with 10 points, which is their best finish since placing fourth in 2014. Meanwhile the women finished 26th with nine points, marking their first scoring performance at the meet since placing 24th in 2015.
The men and women combined for seven first-team All-American honors.
“Overall it’s been a great season,” Braman said. “We’re super young and inexperienced and this meet is a tough one to cut your teeth on. The guys will learn and make some noise at the outdoor meet, of that I’m certain.
“The women continue to amaze me. They’ve out-performed their seed position all year, and when you do that at this meet that’s really saying something.”