TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The push toward the postseason begins this weekend as the Florida State men’s and women’s track & field teams splinter into two groups to compete at Friday’s Tom Jones Memorial at the University of Florida and the two-day Tiger Track Classic at Auburn, Ala., Friday and Saturday.
“We’re right in the middle of the season,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “So in the next two weeks of calendar time – three weekends – it’s kind of, ‘Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t [My Baby] time.’”
To translate Braman’s reference to a 1940s rhythm and blues hit later popularized by B.B. King, the time has arrived for the Noles to determine – individually – how committed they are to maximizing their potential. Opportunities to post ACC and NCAA East qualifying marks begin to wind down after the three-weekend stretch which includes next week’s trip to California, followed by the National Relays at Arkansas and Penn Relays the following week.
“It’s time,” Braman said. “We’re in it. We’ve got great competitions and weather and health are two things not guaranteed to anybody, so if you’re healthy and you’ve got a shot to crank something this weekend, it behooves you to do it. I hope that sense of urgency, that sense of opportunity, is out there. I think it is.”
Friday’s Tom Jones Memorial will feature the FSU men’s sprint group returning to action, with NCAA Indoor All-American Andre Ewers competing in the 200 outdoors for the first time, while junior Darryl Haraway – healthy and cleared to compete all-out for the first time in months – entered in the 100 and 200, along with ACC Indoor 60-meter champion Edward Clarke. In addition to a full complement competing in the 100 and 200, the Noles will try and improve on their season-best – and season-opening – 4×100 relay mark.
With a field including Florida, TCU, Alabama and NC State, there is no shortage of top-flight sprint talent to prompt fast times.
“There’s work to be done there for sure,” Braman said of the sprint group. “We just want to see Clarke and Haraway, who have been the cornerstone of that group, continuing to move forward. Each of them has been ACC elite before, and regardless the fact that one in the best in the country is on your squad – Andre Ewers – we want to see that group evolve because if those guys get back to sub 10.20, all of a sudden your 4×100 becomes a more powerful piece.
“We just need evolution. We know they’re working hard, but there are some conference marks to be punched out here so you don’t have to go to Arkansas to knock it out.”
At Auburn, the Seminoles will roll out a large contingent of distance and middle distance runners, and a full complement of jumpers. Cornell, Georgia Tech, Indiana State and Lamar all boast formidable distance programs, while the jumpers will face similar competition from Auburn, Arkansas State, Louisiana and South Alabama.
Braman is especially eager to see how his men’s distance group has improved since competing at Stanford and Raleigh two weeks ago.
“It’s a little bit selfish on my part, but for the first time all season – maybe with the exception of Michael Hall’s four-minute mile – I feel like men’s distance is evolving,” he added. “We have a chance to do some really good things in that 1500. We have five guys who can punch a region mark in the 1500. Bert Freire is looking really good and I’d like to see him do the same in the 800.”
Michael Hall, David Barney Michael Callegari, Istvan Szogi and Toby Hardwick are all entered the invitational 1500 section on Friday evening (8:05 p.m., ET).
Similarly on the women’s side, Emily Edwards (Invitational 1500) and the 800-meter trio of Madison Harris, Maudie Skyring and Ginelle DeMone are ready for breakthrough performances worthy of NCAA East qualifying marks.
Freshman hurdle sensation Trey Cunningham returns to his home state to compete for the first time as a collegian, looking to improve on his season-best 13.63 in the 110-meter race. Kyle Fearrington and Calvin Golson are chasing marks in the 400, while the men’s jumps crew is eager to turn ACC qualifying marks into certain NCAA East standards.
“This is an important weekend for us, for a lot of those folks who didn’t do a lot during the indoors,” Braman said. “There’s a similar story with the women’s distance; those kids who did well in the middle distance are looking awfully good on the track…What’s that going to look like from a conference, regional and national picture.”
After sweeping the ACC Indoor men’s and women’s titles, the Noles set the bar high on the conference level, but ultimately, the coaching staff recognizes a complete evaluation of the season will only come at the conclusion of the June 6-9 NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.
The first real steps toward securing a good showing there begin with this weekend’s start of the mid-season stretch.
“We’re kind of scattered…but that’s really not important right now,” Braman said. What’s important is that each of our event areas begins to maximize their potential and, No. 1, taking care of ACC business. And No. 2, start to visualize the national. Where are you in the scheme of NCAA triple jumpers, steeplechasers, 4x1s and throwing events?
“This is an important weekend to get work done, and we should be good. We’re coming off a week of training.”
You can follow the Noles in action throughout the weekend through a variety of platforms, including Twitter @FSU_Track.
Friday’s Tom Jones Memorial will be streamed live by the SEC Network + beginning at 1 p.m.:
And as always, live results links are available from both events:
Tom Jones Memorial http://www.halfmiletiming.com/live-results/2018/041318uf/results/
Tiger Track Classic http://results.deltatiming.com/tf/2018-tiger-track-classic
A complete recap of the action following both days of competition will be posted at Seminoles.com.