CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Corion Knight was at his best when it meant the most in Thursday’s ACC Outdoor Championships men’s high jump, and while his effort did not produce a victory, it did provide the highlight of the opening day of competition.
Locked in a three-man battle for the title, Knight cleared a lifetime-best 2.21 meters (7-3) to secure a silver medal for the Seminole men. Coupled with Brandon Tirado’s sixth-place hammer finish, the 10th-ranked Noles have 11 points and stand alone in fourth place behind Syracuse (23 points), Louisville (19) and Notre Dame (12.5) amidst the 15-team field competing at Miami’s Cobb Stadium.
“I just want to do my part,” Knight said. “We have a great team. We’re in a good position to win another ACC Championship and I just want to do my part.”
FSU’s women did all of their scoring damage in the high jump as well, with Eleonora Omoregie grabbing a share of third place with a clearance of 1.69 meters (5-6.5) and teammates Hannah Welsh and Kayla Maczuga sharing sixth place at 1.64 meters (5-4.5).
The Seminole women are in eighth place with 7.5 points, but well behind Virginia Tech (37 points), Louisville (25.5), Miami (21) and Duke (15.5).
It’s a deficit the Noles will likely need two days to overcome in their attempt to match their indoor performance with an outdoor ACC title.
“We did OK in the high jump, getting pretty close to what I predicted, but the big hit was in the 200,” FSU coach Bob Braman said, after assessing a less-than-best opening day. “A couple of people who weren’t predicted to make the final did; the two Miami girls did, and obviously our two stars didn’t make. Thank God Jayla made.”
Freshman Jayla Kirkland advanced to the 200 final automatically by winning the fourth heat of Thursday’s prelims in 23.56. Teammates Ka’Tia Seymour and Shauna Helps were not as fortunate.
The top two seeds entering the meet did not advance, with Helps finishing behind Kirkland in 23.63 and Seymour placing third in her section in 23.54. Their absence from Saturday’s final could prove pivotal in the Noles’ quest for title.
“So instead of feeling like we’re a 10 or 12-point favorite, we’re feeling like we’re back to the familiar indoor role of chasing the leaders,” Braman said. “This will be a good gut-check for the ladies to see if we can gather ourselves and make up some of those points in the 100 and the 4×100 relay and come back and get after it.
“Nobody ever got better by winning all the time. People get better in this sport by getting kicked in the teeth, pull yourself off the mat and do something about it.”
What the Seminole women need now are more qualifying efforts like the one turned in by Maudie Skyring, who automatically qualified for the 1500-meter final with a third-place heat finish in 4:24.63.
They will get those opportunities on Friday in the preliminary heats of the 100 hurdles, 400 dash, 100 dash and 800-meter run. Plus, Gleneve Grange and Ieva Zarankate, the top two seeds in the shot put, should be able to pad the Noles’ point-total as well.
“On the men’s side we’ve been kind of Steady Eddy,” Braman said. “Getting Dave Barney to the 1500-meter final where he’s not picked to get any points gives us a weapon; gives us a chance. We just missed with Darryl Haraway in the 200. That wasn’t a loss, it was a missed opportunity. The same thing with Brandon in the hammer. He could have been fifth, but he gets sixth. It’s just a missed opportunity, but one point is not going to undo us.”
Tirado provided the first points of the meet for the Noles with a sixth-place toss of 56.15 meters (184-2). Knight followed close behind in the high jump.
“It’s about time,” said Knight, who was fifth at the ACC Indoor Championships. “Me and Coach Herston have been preparing for a long time…We’ve had time to actually work on the high jump and I’ve had a PR ever since. We’re making steady progress and it’s getting exciting.”
Like the women, the Noles only advanced one of three 200-meter runners to the final. Andre Ewers took care of that by laying down the fastest time of the day (20.66), but Haraway ended up 11th after running 20.20 in his preliminary heat and Darryl Gay (PB, 21.32) was further back.
Barney, a graduate transfer, nabbed one of 12 qualifying spots in the 1500 by finishing third in his heat in 3:49.22. Freshman Tyricke Dickens punched his ticket to Saturday’s 400-meter hurdles final with a strong, late surge to qualifying eight in 52.98.
“Tomorrow is a big day for the guys,” Braman said. “We can be mediocre and leave the door open, or we can put ourselves in a great spot to get ready for the final on Saturday.”
The Seminole men will have the same qualifying race opportunities as the ladies on Friday, but should get an added scoring boost as three finals will be contested. Austin Droogsma is the top seed in the shot put, while the long jump contingent of Knight, Kenneth Fisher, defending champion Armani Wallace, Keniel Grant and Jacore Irving hope to near the productivity of the Noles’ indoor group which produced 29 points.
Michael Hall heads into the men’s steeplechase final as the No. 4 seed.
The Noles also hope that Dante Newberg can hold on for two points in the decathlon after suffering a hamstring injury in Thursday’s second event, the long jump, which took him out of contention for a much bigger prize. The junior is in seventh place in the seven-man, 10-event field, and merely needs to start Friday’s final five events to hang on to that position.
Braman is hopeful that the lessons learned on the opening day of competition, some of them difficult, will prompt a resurgence with plenty opportunities ahead over the next two days.
“What we’re finding out – and if we haven’t found out yet, we better think about it – is this conference is getting much, much better and it’s coming from everywhere,” Braman said. “It’s coming from, maybe not the traditional sources…
“Tomorrow there is a lot of qualifying with some field event finals. We’ve got to get out there and compete.”