JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The second of two career-defining moments in a 60-minute span Saturday left Florida State junior Nicole Setterington with a look of total disbelief as she paced in circles just beyond the 100-meter hurdles finish line.
Setterington had a pretty good idea she had just finished the fastest hurdle race of her career, but it took a PA announcement and her name – and the time – flashed on the 25-foot tall scoreboard to confirm the transcendent moment.
Not only did Setterington’s third-place finish secure her first individual NCAA Championship appearance, but she shattered her previous-best time with a 12.98; an Olympic qualifying standard, the third-ranked time in her native Canada and the No. 2 time in Florida State history.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Setterington said. “First off, I couldn’t believe I came in top three. That was crazy. Then to see I broke 13 seconds and it was legal, I couldn’t believe it.”
Florida State coach Bob Braman called it, “a shockingly great race.”
It was a fitting cap to strong, three-day NCAA East Preliminary performance by the Seminoles at UNF’s Hodges Stadium.
Florida State’s men and women qualified their 4×100 relay teams on a hot and windy final day to go along with Setterington’s spot in the hurdles, which pushed the Seminoles NCAA Championships qualifying total to 14 overall.
Twelve of those spots were secured over the three-day meet, with heptathletes Melissa-Maree Farrington and Grete Sadeiko locked in for the multi-events based on their top 24 national rankings. Eight belong to the FSU women’s team.
In all, the Seminoles will book flights to Eugene, Ore. for 21 athletes.
“We had a spectacular meet,” Braman said. “This is as many qualifies as we’ve ever had on the ladies side and the young men’s team added a strong crew as well. We missed very few realistic opportunities and hugely out-performed the form chart in almost every case.
“Our coaches did a fantastic job getting their kids ready to compete, especially with so many first-timers.”
The fourth and final men’s spot came from the 4×100 relay team of freshmen Raheem Robinson, Darryl Haraway, Edward Clarke and redshirt junior anchor Jamal Pitts. Pitts, a transfer from UNF, helped the quartet overcome a near-disastrous second baton exchange when he chased down LIU Brooklyn for third place and an auto berth in 39.53.
It was the second-fastest time of the season for the squad, which was buoyed by the return of Haraway, who was forced out of the ACC Championships two weeks ago by a balky hamstring.
“It was a fantastic job by our young men sprinters,” Braman said. “The key was the health of Darryl’s hamstring and he passed the test with flying colors. I thought Jamal Pitts did a wonderful job of fighting off challenges and securing us an automatic spot. They’ll be even faster in 2 weeks as they get healthier, but I couldn’t be happier for those guys.”
The men got the job done on the heels of the day’s first and perhaps, biggest surprise, turned in by the 22nd-seeded women’s 4×100 relay team. The squad of Setterington, freshman Shauna Helps and seniors Jande Pierce and Der’Renae Freeman managed to nab the final qualifying spot on time in a season-best 44.65.
Freeman’s big anchor, following a strong curve from Pierce and some deft baton work on both ends by Helps, provided decisive. Freeman ran down Rutgers for fifth place in the third heat to get the job done.
“It just means so much,” said Pierce, whose collegiate career was extended. “As a senior you always want to end your college career the way you want, with family. I’m just excited that I was able to do it with people that helped me and pushed me.”
Pierce had a look of concern on her face after handing the baton to Freeman.
“I just know if it’s in God’s will, what’s going to happen is going to happen, regardless of rankings or where we’re at,” she added. “If it was meant for us to go to Oregon, we were going to go to Oregon. I’m just so thankful and excited, because there was a point where, ‘This could have been it,’ but it wasn’t. Now we’re going to Eugene.”
“Freeman anchored like a champion and got us the one spot we needed, but what gutsy effort by all four,” Braman said. “And huge props to Shauna Helps who made two veteran like adjustments to save us.”
There were some disappointments on the day as well.
Sixth-seeded freshman Armani Wallace was unable to build on his opening triple jump mark of 15.72 meters (51-7) and placed 16th, while classmate Ashton Butler (14.60m/47-10.75) was 43rd after struggling to get just one approach on the takeoff board in gusty conditions.
Senior Georgia Peel could not match her preliminary round performance – fourth-fastest in the field – and was 23rd in the 1500, while Chad DaCosta placed 29th in the men’s shot put (17.33m/56-10.25).
The most painful outcome of the day fell on the shoulders of grad student Meme Jean, who was unable to join Setterington in hurdles. She was sailing along to an auto spot in the second heat before she smacked the seventh hurdle. That opened the door for New Orelans’ Alexia Fortenberry, who nipped Jean for fourth-place finish in 13.18 (13.171) to 13.18 (13.180).
That .009 difference left Jean in the dreaded 13th position; one spot shy of a second trip to nationals.
“My heart breaks for Meme as she was on her way to a sub-13 time,” Braman said. “Luckily, she’ll get consideration for relay duty in Eugene.”
Freshman Peta-Gay Williams ran 13.40 to place 17th overall in the event, which also produced the most dramatic storyline of the day.
Setterington came into the race with a lifetime-best time of 13.24, but a solid season hinted that she was capable of more, which she delivered in dynamic fashion.
“I wanted to focus on getting off with the gun and Coach [Brandon] Hon talked about having the Kentucky girl, Jacklyn Howell right next to me,” Setterington said, as she recounted her race. “I raced her once this year and it was the same situation, she was right beside me.
“I’ve just got to get out and run my race…I saw her out of the corner of my eye and I just found my rhythm. She was in hers and I just wasn’t going to let her get away from me.”
Still, Setterington had no idea how fast she had just run.
“It felt fast,” she said. “It went by like a blur. I remember my start and I remember seeing a little blue flash right beside me each hurdle, each hurdle, each hurdle.”
When asked about her bewildered look at the end as she awaited the results at the end of the race, Setterington confessed:
“I didn’t know. I just hoped. Both girls to my right [Michigan’s Cindy Ofili and Howell] had the top two fastest times going in. I didn’t know if I was third, fourth, fifth; I didn’t know.”
She does now.