EUGENE, Ore. – From Lauri Paredes’ javelin bronze medal to season- or personal-best qualifying efforts from Cortney Jones, Ka’Tia Seymour and the 4×100 relay, Thursday’s opening of women’s NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships competition brought out the very best from the Florida State squad.
Washing away the memories of her last trip to Historic Hayward Field, four years ago at the IAAF World Junior Championships, Paredes unleashed an-opening round personal-best of 55.17 meters (181-0). Not only was it the top mark in her career-best series, setting her native Paraguay’s under-23 national record and breaking her own FSU record, it delivered the Noles their first points of the meet.
“I was so nervous,” Paredes said, recounting her emotions before that opening throw. “I was feeling tired in my legs, like, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going on? I really rested for this competition. This can’t happen today.’”
It didn’t, despite a flashback of memories from her 23rd-place finish at the 2013 World Junior Championships.
“I came here four years ago for the World Championships and I did so bad,” Paredes said. “I was looking around this place and remember crying so bad because I was so terrible, but I said, ‘Today, that’s not going to happen. I really want to change that situation.’
“I still can’t believe it…I don’t know what more I could ask. I just want to go home and hug my mother.”
The scoring highlight of the day was set in motion by the strong qualifying performances which came from her teammates earlier.
Taking a page from the men’s playbook a day earlier, the Noles came roaring from the proverbial blocks Thursday, nailing down an automatic qualifying spot in the 4×100 relay with a season-best time of 43.33.
FSU’s team of Jayla Kirkland, Shauna Helps, Jones and Seymour recorded the third-fastest time in program history, moving past the 1984 national championship team on the same Historic Hayward Field track on the top-10 list. Seymour finished it off, moving from fourth to second on the anchor leg, passing heavyweights Texas A&M Alabama, to finish behind LSU’s meet and facility record quartet.
The Noles were the only relay team not seeded in the top eight – they were No. 11 entering the meet – to reach the finals.
“We’re really proud of each other and proud of ourselves,” said Helps, a junior and the veteran of the group, who came into the competition nursing a tender leg. “Coming into this we had the usual aches and pains of track & field, but we had to put that aside and just compete with our hearts.”
Kirkland, a freshman, was especially happy to put the nerves of her first NCAA Outdoor Championships appearance behind her.
“It’s really exciting,” she said, after handling the leadoff leg duties. “We’ve just got to come back and execute again. The main goal going into prelims was to survive and advance, and we did exactly that. We’re real excited to see what our time will be on Saturday.”
An after her third leg relay duties, Jones was back on the track for the 100-meter hurdle semifinals. The sophomore came into the meet as the No. 13 seed and made reservations for Saturday’s final with a blazing personal-best of 12.86 – sixth-fastest overall – and an auto qualifying second-place finish in heat 2.
Jones’ time is the fastest ever produced in collegiate competition by a Seminole and trails only Anne Zagre’s school record 12.83, which was set against international competition in Belgium at the completion of her senior season.
“Cortney Jones is a warrior,” FSU head coach Bob Braman said. “She ran four runners down to grab the automatic qualifying spot. She just never believes she’s out of it.”
That kind of relentless competitiveness also pulses through the veins of Seymour, whose three-event day continued with the 100-meter semifinals.
Seymour finisheds third in heat two, seven one-thousandths of a second behind defending NCAA champion Mikiah Brisco of LSU, for the final automatic qualifying spot. Ultimately, the freshman’s 11.18 came up one spot shy of claiming one of two qualifying positions on time for Saturday’s final.
“That was a heart-breaker for Ka’Tia; thousandths of a second from making the final,” Braman said. “She is a freshman running against some of the world’s best sprinters and never blinked. She’s a special athlete.”
And the Palatka, Fla. native didn’t waste one last qualifying opportunity, to show just how special she was in the 200-meter semifinals.
Racing out of less-than-favorable lane two in the third and final heat, with the sixth-fastest personal-best of the those in her race, Seymour’s closing surge delivered a new personal-best (22.74). Along with the PB came a measure of redemption and a spot in the final.
“That’s an unbelievable triple for anyone, let alone a freshman,” Braman said of Seymour’s big day. “Overall it was just a fantastic job by our sprint and hurdle ladies.”
Senior Gleneve Grange’s career came to a close with second-team All-American honors in the shot put as her best mark of the day, 16.70 meters (54-9.5), came up two spots shy of advancing to the final and 11th overall. She came into the competition as the No. 15 seed. Grad transfer Ieva Zarankaite out-performed her No. 20 seed, finishing 17th (16.09m/52-9.5).
Militsa Mircheva’s nagging Achilles’ flared up in the 10,000-meter final and forced her to withdraw shortly past the midway point in the final event of the day for the Noles.
Still, with three spots in Saturday’s finals secure and Paredes’ six-point contribution, the day was a rousing success. Discus throwers Shanice Love and Zarankaite will join the trio of qualifiers to provide the Noles with additional scoring opportunities when the women return on Saturday.
The attention shifts back to the 10th-ranked FSU men on Friday. Junior triple jumper Armani Wallace will begin his podium chase and join fellow finalists Andre Ewers (100, 200), Trey Cunningham (110 hurdles) and the 4×100 relay for an opportunity to add to the Noles’ point total. The relay will get things started at 8:32 p.m. (ET) with ESPN providing live coverage.
You can follow the action throughout the day via Twitter @FSU_Track and stay abreast with live results at noles.co/2xNZteR.