COLLEGE STATION, Texas – With Top 25 rankings and ACC team titles in tow, Florida State’s men and women arrived here at the Gilliam Indoor Track Facility for the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships with more to prove at the end of this renaissance season.
The Seminoles – the No. 7 men and the No. 25 women – boast one of the largest combined contingents in the field, with 11 athletes competing in 13 individual events. It has been more than a decade since Florida State has brought a larger contingent to the two-day meet, which begins Friday.
In fact, only four schools – Arkansas (21), Georgia (20), USC (17) and Oregon (15) – have more individual event qualifiers between men and women, than Florida State.
“I’m really pleased to have so many national qualifiers,” said FSU coach Bob Braman. “Indoor track has never been our best sport. We’ve always been an outdoor-first program, so this is a really exciting opportunity.”
Ten of the 11 Noles will be in action on the opening day, with qualifying rounds in the 60- and 200-meter dashes, as well as the 60-meter hurdles. FSU athletes will compete in finals of the women’s and men’s shot put and the men’s long jump as well.
Not only are the Noles strong in the number of qualifiers, they have enough quality competitors to post their best finishes in recent history. FSU’s men have six entries ranked among the top 10 in their respective events, led by junior Andre Ewers, who is he No. 1 seed in the 60-meter dash and ranks No. 9 in the 200. Corion Knight is seeded third in the long jump, Austin Droogsma is sixth in the shot put and Trey Cunningham is the No. 7 seed in the 60-meter hurdles. Kenneth Fisher, the No. 14 seed in the long jump, is the lone Friday competitor outside the top 10.
Armani Wallace is the No. 7 seed in Saturday’s men’s triple jump competition.
The seeding of FSU women isn’t quite as favorable, but only hundredths of seconds separate the 16-athlete fields in the sprint and hurdle events.
Freshman Ka’Tia Seymour is FSU’s top seed in the field, ranking fifth in the 200, while fellow school record-holder Cortney Jones in the No. 9 seed in the 60-meter hurdles. Seymour and classmate Jayla Kirkland share the No. 12 seed in the 60-meter dash, while Shauna Helps is the No. 13 seed in the 200.
Gleneve Grange gets Friday’s action started in the women’s shot put at 6:15 p.m. (ET), where she is seeded 13th overall. Still, the FSU record-holder – who is the first Seminole woman advance to the NCAA Indoor Championships in the shot put – has not finished worse than second in five meets this season.
It’s worth noting that only two of 11 FSU qualifiers, Droogsma and Fisher, have NCAA Indoor Championships experience. Droogsma was 13th in the shot put last year, while Fisher, a graduate transfer, was 14th in the 2016 long jump as an undergrad at Bethune-Cookman.
“I think we have a chance to finish in the top 10 in the country for both teams, but we’ll have to duplicate or exceed our ACC performance,” Braman said. “We have a lot of first time national qualifiers but inexperience has not held back this group all year.”
Florida State is tied for the lead nationally with three true freshman qualifiers – Seymour, Kirkland and Cunningham. All three won ACC titles two weeks ago.
If the Noles are able to rise to the challenge both teams are capable of equaling or eclipsing their national rankings. The men authored eight top-10 finishes between 2005 and 2014, and last finished inside the top 10 with their fourth-place finish in 2014. FSU’s women capped a string of four consecutive top-10 finishes when they were ninth in 2011. Their best finish since then was 15th in 2013.
“I’m over the moon at the potential of our program,” Braman said. “This championship is the beginning of great things for many years to come.”
Friday’s competition will be streamed live on ESPN3/Watch ESPN beginning at 6:30 p.m. (ET): http://www.espn.com/watch/_/id/3303936/ncaa-mens–womens-indoor-track–field-championships
You can follow live stats throughout the competition at: https://www.ncaa.com/sites/default/files/external/track-field/results/d1/indoor18/index.htm
As always, up-to-the-minute updates will be provided via Twitter @FSU_Track, with a full recap of each day posted to Seminoles.com each evening.