Aug. 9, 2013
A pair of Florida State All-American track & field athletes have traded their garnet & gold for red, white & blue as members of Team USA competing at the IAAF World Championships, which opens Saturday at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia.
Rising seniors Dentarius Locke and James Harris, members of the 4×100 and 4×400 relay pools, respectively, hope to contribute to gold medal winning performances over the course of the nine-day meet. They departed Tallahassee for Linz, Germany , the training site for Team USA, three weeks ago and arrived in Moscow on Monday.
They will be joined in the competition by fellow teammate and rising senior Anne Zagre, who set the Florida State school record in the 100-meter hurdles (12.84) last month at the Belgium National Championship meet on her way to the title. Zagre will represent her home country in one of the deepest events that will be contested.
“It has been great,” Harris said. “Just being able to prepare for this meet with all of the other US athletes has been electric. Everyone has been getting after it and we are all excited for the meet to start.”
Harris and Locke will be waiting a while to play their part if they are called on by Team USA officials. The 4×400 – both the preliminary heats and finals – is schedule for Saturday, Aug. 17, while the 4×100 preliminary heats and finals bring the championships to a close on Sunday.
“Training has been great,” Harris said. “It looks like I will be running lead off leg in the prelims. I believe waiting around has been the hardest part this whole time. Even the older teammates here are ready for the meet to start.”
They got their first look at Luzhniki Stadium on Friday during a walk-through, which preceded the opening ceremonies.
Harris was selected as a member of the six-man USA relay pool in the 4×400 on the strength of his fifth-place finish at the USA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa in the 400-meter dash in June. There he matched his career-best time of 45.23, which he had previously established at the NCAA Championships, where he also placed fifth. He is currently ranked No. 22 in the world in the 400.
Locke enters the World Championships currently ranked No. 10 in the world in the 100, but a sixth-place finish at the USA Championships will prevent him from competing as an individual. The NCAA Outdoor runner-up in the 100 to fellow Team USA teammate Charles Silmon, Locke ran 9.97 in the semifinals in Eugene, Ore., then came back with a wind-aided 9.91 in the final.
The Tampa, Fla. made his first trip abroad earlier this summer to work with Team USA and lowered that mark to 9.96 when he finished second to top-ranked US star Justin Gatlin in the Diamond League meet at Moncao. Locke came within .02 of upsetting Gatlin out of lane 8 and into a headwind, but dusted his current relay teammates, 2012 Olympian Mike Rogers and Silmon.
Still, he is uncertain what his role will be on the relay team.
“Training went pretty well in Linz,” said Locke. “The relay is interesting and I am curious to see what order we will run in the prelims. …
“I will be anxious, but also a little hurt that I am not competing in the open 100 as well. I wish I could compete with the other USA teammates, but it’s all motivation for next year.”
Both athletes have taken the opportunity to see the sights of Moscow. Locke (@BlackDash813) recently tweeted a night time shot of downtown.
“We all went out to eat at a TGI Friday’s here in Moscow,” Harris said. “It’s by far the most I’ve ever paid at that restaurant. After leaving, it was nice to see Moscow at night. The buildings are beautiful and the lights are as well.”
Locke said between training and a little sightseeing, he has also been catching up on his rest in an effort to get acclimated to the eight-hour difference between Tallahassee and Moscow. In between he has been picking the brains of his veteran teammates and taking a lot of notes, including some from men – like Gatlin – who he idolized as a youngster.
Down time aside, both men are treating the meet like a business trip. Sprinting for Team USA comes with great expectations.
The 4×400 USA team, featuring veteran LaShawn Merritt and rising stars Tony McQuay and David Verburg, enters the meet as the favorite, having posted three of the four fastest times in the world this year. Though a perennial power in the event, the US squad settled for silver at the 2012 London Olympics after the Bahamas sprung one of the biggest surprises in Olympic Games history.
Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Russia and Belgium – with a lineup that includes former Seminoles Kevin and Jonathan Borlee – all have medal potential.
There will be even greater scrutiny on the Team USA 4×100 team, which has not won a major world title in an event they dominated for decades in six years. Reigning powerhouse Jamaica, anchored by Usain Bolt, may be the favorite, but the USA squad ran a world-leading 37.58 at Monaco earlier this summer.
Locke, who has been getting all of his work on the second leg of the US quartet, would like nothing more than to cap his ascendant season by being a part of a new streak.
“I feel blessed to be wearing USA gear,” Locke said. “Hopefully I will get the chance to wear it on the track sometime this week and represent not only my family and FSU, but also my country.”
In addition to the two Seminoles who will return for their senior seasons in the fall, a handful of former Florida State stars will also compete over the course of the nine-day event, which is contest in odd years around the Olympic Games.
Sprinter Kemar Hyman, the 2012 ACC 100-meter champion and recent Olympian, will represent the Cayman Islands in his specialty. Pelle Rietveld, a former All-American multi-event competitor, will represent the Netherlands in the decathlon, which begins Saturday.
On the women’s side, Jamaican Kimberly Williams is expected to contend for a medal in the triple jump. A pair of distance standouts, Great Britain’s Hannah England and the Netherlands’ Susan Kuijken, will compete in the 1500. Kuijken, who is back to form for the first time since leaving FSU in 2011, is also entered in the 5000.