BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Veteran Florida State track & field coach Bob Braman doesn’t exactly know what to expect when the Seminoles open the indoor season with Friday’s UAB Blazer Invitational at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
While a handful of veterans like All-American long jumpers Stefan Brits and Der’Renae Freeman leap back into the fray for the first time this season, much of the attention will be on the newest Seminoles. Buoyed by a giant signing class which comprises a good portion of a retooled roster, no fewer than two dozen athletes will make their FSU debuts.
“The really fun part of a young group is seeing the next star, whoever it is,” Braman said. “There is enough talent there that there is an unknown national champion in that group. Not necessarily in 2016, but there is a national champion on our team. You just know it’s out there.”
Chief among the newcomers are a large group of sprinters, including freshmen men Darryl Haraway, Edward Clarke and Raheem Robinson, and first-year women Shauna Helps, Peta-Gay Williams and Shaquania Dorsett.
Haraway is the lone member of that group with any significant indoor experience. The former DeMatha Catholic star from Upper Marlboro, Md. was third in the 60-meter dash at the New Balance Indoor Nationals last year. The remaining five – comprised of four Jamaicans and one Bahamian – will be competing indoors for the first time.
“There’s no question we’re going to have some growing pains,” Braman said. “You can’t predict it for the whole group, but there are going to be times when people are going to be at a level they haven’t seen before. There’s an adaptation that takes place. The key is to get them in these good meets and get them some experience.”
In addition to the aforementioned freshmen, a handful of transfers will compete for the first time in new colors. Keniel Grant, a transfer from Texas Tech where he was an NCAA Indoor Championships qualifier in the long jump last year, will compete alongside Brits. Meme Jean, a transfer from Charleston Southern, is set to go in the 60-meter hurdles, along with Nebraska multi-event standout transfer Melissa-Maree Farrington.
Sasha-Ann Lebert, a graduate student transfer from Florida A&M, is set to go in both the shot put and weight throw.
Friday’s competition at the CrossPlex, which will host the NCAA Indoor Championships March 11-12, begins at 11 a.m. (CT) with Chelsea Jarvis, Courteney West and Sarah Candiano representing the Noles.
You can follow the live stats and keep abreast of the action via Twitter @FSU_Track, with a complete recap available at Seminoles.com following the conclusion of the competition.
Men’s signing class ranks No. 5 nationally
One of the reasons for the optimism entering the 2016 indoor and outdoor seasons is the addition of a host of talented newcomers to the FSU program. Recognizing the Seminoles’ additions, Track & Field News – the journalistic bible of the sport – ranks the men’s class No. 5 nationally in its January magazine.
The class is highlighted by sprinters Daryl Haraway, Edward Clarke and Raheem Robinson and also features freshman triple jumper Armani Wallace. The Orlando, Fla. native was one of the nation’s best last year as a high school senior, covering a career-best 51-2.25.
Distance standouts Harry Mulenga, the junior college national athlete of the year at Central Arizona last season, and Andrew Coscoran factored in the rankings. So does Texas Tech transfer long jumper Keniel Grant, who earned second-team All-American honors during last year’s indoor season.
“I’m really proud of the job our coaching staff did,” Braman said. “They worked hard and didn’t finish the class until late in the summer.
“These young men will set the foundation for great teams for years to come.”
Oregon, Houston, Alabama and Arkansas fill the top four spots in the men’s class rankings.
More new faces join squads in January
Not included in the class rankings are four newcomers – two men and two women – who enrolled at FSU in January.
Sam Pons, a Princeton graduate who will compete his final indoor and outdoor seasons this year with the Noles, placed ninth in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in June. Pons is joined by distance transfer Ben Najman from Allen (Kan.) Community College, who holds the Bahamas national record at 5000 meters.
Not to be overlooked the Seminole women added Ball State transfer pole vaulter Elizabeth Eversole, who boasts a collegiate-best of 12-feet as a sophomore last spring. FSU will likely have to wait a year for Slovakian hammer thrower Veronika Kanuchova to compete, but her resume includes a lifetime-best mark of 65.77 meters (215-9), a full 14-feet further than the current school record.
Odds & Ends
· Freshman Shaquania Dorsett was recently named the Grand Bahamas Amateur Athletic Association’s 2015 Most Outstanding Female Athlete (Senior Division) after claiming the Carifta Games 400 and 800 titles and representing the Bahamas national team in the 4×400 at the World Relays Championships;
· Redshirt junior Grete Sadeiko, who improved her own school heptathlon record (5,813) at the European Junior Championships this summer, was named Estonia’s U23 National Athlete of the Year. The second-team All-American for the Noles last season has won three national athlete of the year awards from her country;
· The Seminoles welcome the return of fifth-year standout long jumper Stefan Brits, who was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the ACC and the NCAA, in large part due to a lengthy bout with a chronic hamstring injury. Brits, who holds the ACC outdoor record (8.05 meters), is a three-time Academic All-American who is enrolled in FSU’s doctoral program for chemical science;
· There may be no better indicator of the Seminoles’ youth than the USTFCCCA Preseason Indoor National Rankings, which are tabulated by taking the top marks nationally by each athlete, which are in turn assigned point values. The FSU men checked in at No. 35, while the women were at No. 36;
· After opening the season this weekend in Birmingham, Ala., the Seminoles will return to the CrossPlex next weekend to compete in the team scored Conference Clash, which will pit nine SEC programs against eight other Power Five schools.