NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Eleonora Omoregie and Jogaile Petrokaite delivered gold medal-winning performances Friday, highlighting a strong day by the Florida State women and men at the ACC Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Petrokaite connected on a pair of season-best jumps, including a lifetime-best of 6.38 meters (20-11.25) to lock up her first career ACC title. The Lithuanian delivered FSU’s first gold medal of the meet in style, moving up to a share of No. 10 on the NCAA list – the top 16 advance to the national championship meet – and a share of No. 6 of FSU’s all-time list, alongside her former teammate Der’Renae Freeman.
“It’s good to see JoJo, who has chased Der’Renae all these years, to stand out and have her moment,” Florida State coach Bob Braman said. “Not only to win the conference but move herself closer to the NCAA Championships. It looks like she’s in a pretty good spot.”
Those that chose to stick around Notre Dame’s Loftus Sports Center until the very end of the night were treated to a tremendous women’s high jump dual between Omoregie and North Carolina’s Nicole Greene, who came into the meet tied for sixth nationally.
It took a lifetime-best – indoors or outdoors – for the freshman from Italy to win the first ACC women’s high jump title in Florida State history. Overcoming a shaky start and near elimination at 1.82 meters, Omoregie navigated the next two bars on her first attempt to claim the outright FSU school record with a winning jump of 1.88 meters (6-2).
Omoregie missed her first two attempts at 1.82 meters (Greene cleared on her first attempt) when everything came together.
“The first jumps I was so close, I kept hitting the bar when I was coming down or going up,” she said. “I needed to adjust my approach and at 1.82 I got the right feeling and after that everything changed.”
Competing against her toughest opponent with the support of teammates in her first collegiate championship meet, seemed to bring out Omoregie’s best.
“I enjoyed it a lot because under pressure I perform a lot better,” Omoregie said. “Seeing that she [Greene] was jumping higher and her previous jump was so good, I said, ‘Whoa, I need to get everything together.’
“It’s so different and so exciting. I can’t believe it because my PR [1.86m in 2014] was old and I really wanted to improve it. I was really focused and all my teammates were there and knowing they were supporting me I wanted to jump that for them, too.”
Braman marveled at Omoregie, who arrived from Italy in January and rewarded Director of Field Events Dennis Nobles with his 45th career ACC title in 26 years of conference membership. Petrokaite responsible for No. 44.
“Three-time Olympian Chaunte Howard is the only one better ever in the ACC,” Braman said of Omoregie. “It’s just phenomenal, how good you have to be historically just to win. That wasn’t given to her. When God chiseled a high jumper it looked just like Nicole Greene. Eleonora had to fight for it and come from behind.”
The Seminole women, who enter the final day of competition in second place, also received a fourth-place finish from redshirt freshman Carmela Cardama Baez, who posted the fourth-fasted 5000-meter time (16:07.49) in program history, breaking Spain’s national indoor record in the process.
“Carmela comes out here in her debut 5k, running in the best distance conference in America, and oh by the way it was 15:38 to win the thing,” Braman said. “So there were some pretty special people in the race and she didn’t shy away from the moment, so to finish fourth and to get fourth all-time [at FSU] is pretty special.”
Militsa Mircheva was 11th overall, but her time of 17:05.39 set Bulgaria’s national indoor mark.
On the men’s side, sophomore Dante Newberg finished off his heptathlon in style, becoming just the third 5,000-point scorer in program history as he wrapped up a sixth-place finish with 5,186 points, capped off by his fourth personal-best of the meet in the 1000-meter run.
Keniel Grant and Carlos Becker tag-teamed for a nine team points in the long jump. Grant leaped 7.58 meters (24-10.5) for the bronze medal, despite cramps which hindered his final two attempts. Becker, the freshman defensive back for the FSU football team, climbed for 13th to fourth on his final attempt in the prelims and finished sixth (7.35m/24-1.5).
Grad student Ed’Ricus Williams delivered the first points of the day for the Noles in the men’s high jump, placing fifth in an intense battle with a top clearance of 2.15 meters (7-0.5).
While there were plenty of highlights among those performing in the finals, the Seminoles set themselves up nicely in a host of preliminary events as well.
On the women’s side, Peta-Gay Williams, Cortney Jones and Nicole Setterington advanced to the finals in the 60-meter hurdles, matching defending champion and favorite Miami in finalists. Sprinter Shauna Helps did her part, moving on the 60- and 200-meter dashes. The sophomore climbed to No. 6 all-time among Noles in the 60 when she qualified third in 7.37.
Fellow sophomore Shaquania Dorsett’s indoor lifetime-best 400 of 54.21 – also No. 6 all-time at FSU – very nearly wasn’t enough. She grabbed the eighth and final qualifying spot on .01 seconds.
Bridget Blake was the third-fastest mile qualifier overall (4:46.78) while finishing third in her heat.
“The women finished with a bang,” Braman said. “Shauna Helps was great twice and our hurdlers did what they were supposed to do and got through. Cortney Jones was awesome for a freshman and Shaquania had to battle. That was the fastest 400-meter eighth place in the history of this conference. That would have been third place a couple years ago.
“We did a good job and we’ve got to finish with as many points as we can.”
Chasing a third ACC Indoor Championship, the Seminole women are second with 37 points and trail Louisville (43.5), with Miami lurking in third with 34 points and an arsenal of finalists up Saturday.