June 10, 2010
EUGENE, Ore. – On a rainy, overcast Thursday that still managed to draw a record crowd to Oregon’s historic Hayward Field the Florida State track & field teams mustered only a few bright moments.
Kim Williams was unable to successfully defend her NCAA triple jump title, finishing fourth (44-6 ¾).
The events of the day will make it difficult for the FSU men and women to post top 10 team finishes when the competition concludes Saturday.
“By anybody’s measure it has been a tough day at nationals,” said Florida State coach Bob Braman.
It could have been even more difficult if not for a pair of strong qualifying performances by women’s distance runners McShine and Dunn.
McShine, a senior, made her NCAA Outdoor championship debut in the 1500 meters a memorable one, pulling away from the field over the final 300 meters to win the second heat semifinal in 4:16.53.
“It was a great race, smart race, a perfect race,” said Braman. “She’s going to have to run that smart and that fast in the finals.”
McShine, who finished third in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Championship, is anxious to make her mark on the outdoor stage after failing to advance beyond the semifinals last season in the 800.
“I tried to stay out trouble,” said McShine. “It was a bit slow in the first couple of laps, but I was prepared for anything. I knew I had to finish in the top five. I felt comfortable, I did push myself, but I’m sure there’s a lot left. I’m just ready for Saturday.”
The step up in distance appeared to serve her well. She will carry the eight-fastest time in Saturday’s championship race.
“It was a little bit of vindication for her,” said Braman, who saw McShine stumble out of contention a year ago in the 800 at nationals.
McShine’s performance was followed by yet another strong effort from one of women’s distance coach Karen Harvey’s contingent. Dunn, a sophomore entry in just the fourth 3000 meter steeplechase race of her career, secured the 14th and last spot in the Saturday’s final on time (10:14.58).
Shattering her previous personal-best by nearly 12 seconds – in a race run in a cool, driving rain – Dunn’s eighth-place finish time in the first heat stood up by through the second heat by just over one second.
“She literally could not see because a girl that was 6-foot-2 [San Francisco’s Eva Krchova] kept getting in front of her,” said Harvey. “She could not run her race, but she just held on and held on and worked through it. I really think off the double she will be better Saturday than she was today.
“She’s tough. We’re really excited for Jennifer Dunn. She’s from Alabama and a lot of people don’t know who she is. We’re hoping she can make a name for herself on Saturday.”
It was very nearly a forgettable day for the Florida State sprinters.
The Seminoles narrowly escaped – by .005 – from being shut out of a spot in the individual sprint finals. Blanked in the 100 semifinals on Wednesday, the `Noles sent four sprinters to the starting blocks in the 200 – Maurice Mitchell and Brandon Byram on the men’s side and Candyce McGrone and Teona Rodgers on the women’s side.
Byram, despite a fourth-place finish in the second heat (20.862), prevailed by bumping Oklahoma’s Rakieem Salaam (20.867) for the final spot. The junior willed his way into Saturday’s 200 final after overcoming a sub-par start out of the blocks, but will have his work cut out to match his second-place finish at Indoor nationals from lane 1.
Mitchell, however, will have to watch from the stands after a fourth-place finish in the first heat (20.93) that was just 11th-fastest overall. That’s not what Braman had expected from the sophomore, who had posted the nation’s second-fastest time this season.
With only the top two finishers from each of three sprint heats advancing automatically, plus the next two fastest times, the Seminoles repeatedly put themselves on the bubble.
“This is kind of a do-or-die format and it’s a little maddening,” Braman said. “We’ve got to be a little more adaptive to the structure. … We’re dinged up and we’ve made a few rookie mistakes, too. Brandon survived and will have to make the best of it.”
McGrone (23.53) was leading the second heat of the 200 with approximately 30 meters to go before fading to third and ultimately out of a spot in the finals. Rodgers (24.17) was eighth in the third and final heat.
Williams was in second place after the first flight, but was fourth heading into the finals. Though she marginally improved on her best jump with her fifth leap of the day, it was not enough to get atop the podium for a second consecutive year.
“Today wasn’t the best day ever but I have to be thankful,” Williams said. “Unfortunately my rhythm wasn’t there and it just didn’t happen. I am disappointed but at the same time it’s all in the game of track and field. The best competitors on the day will come out on top. I guess I was the fourth best today. I know I can do better so I am ready to turn a new page and look forward for better things in the future.”