BOSTON, Mass. – Melissa-Maree Farrington opened her first ACC Indoor Track & Field Championships appearance with the fastest 60-meter hurdle performance of her career and closed it with her fastest 800, propelling the junior transfer to a runner-up finish in the pentathlon for Florida State’s first points of the meet.
Farrington recorded a lifetime-best total of 4,082 points – the second-highest total in FSU history – to move into 16th-place nationally. Teammate Grete Sadeiko was seventh with 3,983 points to get the Noles off and running Thursday at the Reggie Lewis Center.
Shortly after Farrington and Sadeiko closed out the pentathlon with career-best 800’s, Sasha-Ann Lebert completed the finest weight throw series of her career with a third-place finish. Her fourth lifetime-best mark of the night – 20.96 meters (68-9.25) – was two centimeters off the school record and is now tied for the 13thnationally.
Capping a big opening night for the Seminole women, the distance medley relay team of Georgia Peel, Shaquania Dorsett, Chelsea Jarvis and Bridget Blake ran 11:13.34 – the ninth-fastest time in program history – to finish second to Clemson.
With a 24-point first day haul – one of their most productive opening nights in the championship meet’s current format – the Seminoles will carry the team lead into Friday’s competition, ahead of No. 16 Duke and Louisville, who are tied for second with 15 points.
“The women refuse to believe the pre-meet rankings,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “They’re competing to win the title. I’m proud of our focus and preparation. The assistant coaches have done a fantastic job.”
The Seminole women, who have not finished lower than second over the past seven seasons, came into the meet unranked and behind four ACC teams currently ranked among the top 18 nationally.
Not to be completely outshined on the opening night, the Florida State men’s distance medley relay team – not projected to score – authored a gutty sixth-place finish. With senior Zak Seddon’s monster leadoff 1200-meter leg setting the tone, teammates Ricardo Roy, Matt Butler and Harry Mulenga brought the baton around in 9:45.46 – the third-fastest time in program history.
“I was real proud of the men’s DMR,” Braman added. “Injuries to our 400 and 800 legs led us to substitute a couple of Florida high school products who came to FSU without any scholarship assistance. Ricardo Roy and Matt Butler ran with their hair on fire and filled in like champions for us.”
The only other member of the FSU men’s team in action Thursday was freshman Dante Newberg, who put up 2,708 points on the opening day of the heptathlon. Newberg, who got things going with a lifetime-best in the 60-meter dash (7.17), will begin day 2 in 13th place.
“Dante acquitted himself well in his ACC debut,” Braman said. “The moment wasn’t too big for him as he was near his collegiate-best in nearly every event today. He has a chance to rally and score tomorrow.”
Still, the opening night belong to the Seminole women, who followed Farrington’s cue when the Nebraska transfer popped off with a career-best time of 8.34 in the 60-meter hurdles to take the lead after one event. It didn’t hurt that her father, Kelvin Farrington, made the trip to Boston from Sydney, Australia.
“Having my dad here really pumped me up and excited me and I raced for him in the hurdles, and also coach [Brandon] Hon who has really helped me and shown belief,” Farrington said. “I just wanted to kick it out of the park.”
Farrington flirted with her all-time best in the high jump, clearing 1.71 meters (5-7.25), to hold on to the lead through two events. Sadeiko, the runner-up in the pentathlon last season, hung around the top of the leaderboard all day as well, but her title hopes took a hit when she managed to clear only 1.68 in the high jump.
After slipping into third place following the shot put, Farrington moved into second with the second-best long jump of the competition (5.83m/19-1.50); within 99 points of Duke’s Karli Johonot the eventual champion. Sadeiko had the third-best mark with a leap of 5.74.
Farrington and Sadeiko worked together in the closing 800, finishing with indoor-best times of 2:24.51 and 2:25.18, respectively, and shared a congratulatory embrace afterward. Farrington’s five-event total moved her – at least at the time – into 16th place nationally, the last qualifying spot for the NCAA Championships in two weeks.
“Melissa was simply fantastic,” Braman said. “A silver in her ACC debut is pretty special. She’s firmly on the bubble to go to Nationals. Her hurdles performance was a big one. I’m glad we entered her in the open hurdles as well.”
“The biggest thing about the multis is consistency,” Farrington said. “There are going to be events where you do great and there are going to be events where you do bad. That’s life. I was happy with how I handled myself after each event. I just moved on to the next, no matter how good or bad it went, and I can’t complain with how it went overall. I know there’s a lot of room for improvement. I hope I get another chance indoors in Alabama.”
Consistency has been Lebert’s calling card all year and Thursday night’s weight throw competition was no exception. The graduate student and transfer from Florida A&M came into the meet as the No. 5 seed, behind four ACC competitors ranked in the top 17 nationally. Lebert, who had never cracked the 20-meter barrier, launched her opening effort 20.90 meters.
It was the first of four 20-meter throws out of five marks, capped by her fifth-attempt 20.96 bomb which moved her into 13th place nationally and in line for an NCAA berth.
“I’m so thankful for the moment right now,” Lebert said. “I’m excited and proud of where I came from and where I am now. Hard work does pay off and I’m thankful for my coach, Dorian Scott, pushing me non-stop and always believing in me.
“It’s a great feeling and I’m so excited for the opportunity and I’m glad I was able to contribute to my team…It would mean a lot to me to be at the national level for just one semester competing at Florida State.”
“Sasha was a tiger out there today,” Braman said. “She twice exceeded her lifetime best by a full meter. Coach Scott did a great job of peaking her at the right time. We’re hoping she gets another shot in 2 weeks at the National meet.”
FSU’s women’s DMR was hoping to land a national qualifying mark, and while they came up short – the Noles registered the 16th-fastest time in the nation, but needed to crack the top 12 – it wasn’t due to a lack of effort. Peel (3:27.75), Dorsett (54.07) and Jarvis (2:05.99) had the Noles step-for-step with top-seeded Clemson through the first three legs, and Blake (4:45.54) pushed the Tigers’ anchor to the limit before settling for silver.
“It was a great job by our women’s DMR,” Braman said, noting that the Noles came into the meet as the No. 4 seed. “They went for the win and easily handled two top 10 nationally-ranked teams [Notre Dame and Duke].”
On the men’s side, Seddon (3:00.95), Roy (48.62) and Butler (1:51.84) had the Noles firmly in the hunt through the 1200, 400 and 800 opening legs. Handling the anchor, Mulenga ran the 1600 right at his lifetime-best, but could not make up any ground as the top three teams were anchored in 3:57 or faster.
Still, it was quite a performance for a patchwork unit, which at full strength, was the No. 9 seed entering the meet.
Friday’s action will feature the talented tandem of Seminole women’s long jumpers, Der’Renae Freeman and Jogaile Petrokaite, and Stefan Brits in the men’s long jump. The full slate of action will also include finals in the men’s and women’s high jump and the completion of the heptathlon. A complete schedule of qualifying rounds in all other events is also on tap.
ESPN3 will provide a live stream of the action from 5-8 p.m. and you can keep pace with the Seminoles via Twitter @FSU_Track. Live results will also be available at http://noles.co/1UlZNnJ.