EUGENE, Ore. – A trio of Florida State freshmen, teaming with a redshirt junior walk-on, can provide the Seminoles first spark as the four-day NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships opens Wednesday at Historic Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus.
Freshmen Raheem Robinson, Darryl Haraway and Edward Clarke will carry the baton around the track before handing off to Jamal Pitts, who will complete the 4×100 relay circuit.
Wednesday belongs to the men in the second year of a revised NCAA Championships format, with the genders alternating days of competition. All of FSU’s men will be in action, with three running event semifinals and the men’s long jump final on the docket.
“There’s nothing like the NCAA Championships, especially here at Tracktown,” Florida State coach Bob Braman said. “It’s a really special opportunity and I know our newbies are anxious to dive into competition. We’re focusing on the prelims as if they are final. You can’t afford not to be ready to mix it up.”
The Seminoles’ relay team, seeded 10th overall, will occupy lane seven in the second of three qualifying heats, with the top two teams in each heat plus the next two fastest teams advancing to Friday’s final. They will be in fast company from the start, lining up alongside favorite LSU, perennial challenger TCU and a talented Western Kentucky squad.
ESPNU will provide live coverage, beginning with the 4×100 relay at 7:30 p.m. (ET), as the network has beefed up its coverage to the highest level in NCAA Championships history throughout the four-day event.
Roughly 30 minutes after the relay team takes the track, senior Zak Seddon will embark on his semifinal heat of the 3000-meter steeplechase. The third-time NCAA qualifier, who owns the nation’s second-fastest time this season, will try and improve on his eighth-place finish from a year ago. Competing in a second heat which includes NCAA leader Mason Ferlic of Michigan, Seddon’s goal is to lock down a top-five finish from his field of 12, to assure a spot in Friday’s final.
Clarke will transition from relay teammate to sole Seminole competitor in the 100-meter dash semifinals, where he drew a favorable lane three assignment in the second heat, alongside Clemson’s Tevin Hester, the ACC champion. They finished 1-2 a month ago in Tallahassee at the conference championships meet.
Again, the top two finishers in each of three heats – and the next two fastest – will move on to the final. Clarke will attempt to extend the Seminoles streak of consecutive seasons with at least one finalist in the 100 to six.
Grad student Stefan Brits, who on Monday learned that he would be representing South Africa in the long jump at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, is scheduled to make his fourth and final NCAA Championships appearance at 9 p.m. (ET). Brits, who owns the NCAA’s top mark this season at 8.22 meters (26-11.75) and currently ranks 10th in the world, hopes his balky hamstring will cooperate well enough to make a run at the title.
“The biggest thing is going out here and enjoying it,” Brits told the media at Tuesday’s pre-meet NCAA press conference. “That’s why we do it. I live for that excitement.”
Regardless how the men fare, seven of FSU’s 10 women qualifiers will jump into action Thursday, beginning with Katja Vangsnes in the hammer (5 p.m., ET), followed by the 4×100 relay semifinal (7:32) and Bridget Blake in the 3000-meter steeplechase semifinal (8:02).
Nicole Setterington, fresh off the No. 2 100-meter hurdle time in FSU history, will take to the track in her semifinal heat at 8:46 p.m., followed by the dynamic long jumps finals tandem of Der’Renae Freeman and Jogaile Petrokaite at 9 p.m.
You can follow all of the action from Hayward Field via Twitter @FSU_Track and check back nightly at Seminoles.com for a complete recap of the action.