PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – The final day of the 123rd Penn Relays brought more personal-best performances by the Florida State throws group, which continues to lead the Seminoles this outdoor track & field season. Senior Emmanuel Onyia followed up his breakthrough performance last week at Stanford with a mammoth 60.34-meter (197-11) fifth attempt, capping the finest series of his career with a third-place finish against a stout field in the championship section of the men’s discus.
Not to be left behind, redshirt junior Austin Droogsma followed suit with another huge personal-best in consecutive meets as his top mark of 56.98m (186-11) was good for seventh place.
“I’m over the moon with Onyia and Droogs,” said Florida State head coach Bob Braman. “Those guys are just killing it right now. Coach Scott’s crew is really setting the tone for our squad right now.”
In addition to those Saturday performances, graduate student Kellion Knibb was named the Outstanding Women’s Athlete of the Meet for the second consecutive year, after smashing her 2016 Penn Relays discus record with a winning throw of 62.07 meters (203-7). It was the third Penn Relays title for Knibb, who extended her Jamaican National, Atlantic Coast Conference and Florida State records and now leads all of Division I by nearly two meters.
“Last week just kind of confirmed that what we’re working toward is getting closer,” FSU throws coach Dorian Scott said of Onyia. “This week kind of solidified that with the adjustments we made, everything is building up is nice. We were struggling to get over that 56-meter hump and everything today was 58 and above. For Onyia, it pretty much solidified that we’re doing the right thing and the technique is there.
“Knibb is in the same situation, where she made a breakthrough last week and this week she showed that it’s there.”
Onyia went into last week’s Cardinal Classic with nearly a dozen 56-meter marks to his credit before capping a breakthrough series with a winning toss of 59.62. On Saturday, five of his legal marks were in excess of 58 meters, including one of 59 in addition to the first 60-meter throw of his career. In addition to padding his ACC lead, Onyia moved up to eighth on the NCAA descending order list.
Droogsma’s breakthrough is only slightly more surprising, in that he has spent most of his attention on the shot put, where he claimed silver at Penn Relays with another strong series of 19-meter marks. That his personal-best came after fouling his first two attempts, was even more encouraging.
“For Austin in the discus, the same thing,” Scott said. “What we’re working is being justified by the product. It’s pretty consistent. I’m happy it’s not luck. You can tell by them coming back with the consistency of the marks. We’re taking ownership of the technique, and we’re still lifting pretty heavy in the weight room.
“Droogsma is a bit of a surprise. I knew just by the way he’s throwing the shot put, the overall rotational technique just makes sense to him. The fact that we haven’t put in a big rep count in the discus, so for him to come out here and after two fouls he throw a lifetime best of 56.98, Austin is showing his athleticism. He’s showing why he’s three-sport athlete in high school. His athleticism is kind of taking over and he’s got a good understanding of the technique. It’s pretty cool.”
While Onyia and Droogsma were the lone Noles to make the finals Saturday, Scott saw progress from Brandon Tirado in the hammer and Conor McClain in the javelin. Tirado finished 11th with his second-best performance of the season (59.68m/195-9), coming off a sub-par performance at Stanford.
“[Tirado] pretty much did what we wanted him to do,” Scott said. “He came in and got his rhythm back. When we went over to the West Coast he never really was connected well. This kind of shows that he’s getting it back.”
McClain, a redshirt freshman, was 18th in the javelin with a top mark of 57.95 (190-1), which was also his second-best performance of the season. Like Tirado, McClain was coming off a tough go at Stanford.
“Today I’m really pleased with the overall effort.”
And Scott believes there’s more to come. Redshirt junior Gleneve Grange was fourth in the women’s discus behind Knibb, with a performance that included a handful of throws around her personal-best.
“Her breakthrough is coming as well,” Scott said of Grange. “She’s had five or six meets at 55-56 meters. It’s kind of similar to Onyia’s journey. They’re on the same kind of path and we know it’s there. It’s just a matter of doing what we’re doing in practice technique-wise and applying it to the meet. She gets really excited and tries to put a little extra oomph on it and I just need her to put a little oomph on the technique. When she hits it, it’s not going to be like a one-meter or two-meter addition. It’s going to be like Onyia.”
Florida State wraps up the regular season Friday at home with the Seminole Twilight; the final tune-up for the ACC Outdoor Championships.