TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The days spanning the end of March and the first of April have traditionally been reserved for the transition season of outdoor track & field on the college circuit.
After knocking off the cobwebs and the clearing the musty air lingering from the indoor season, programs around the country are streaming to a handful of marquee meets, including the Florida State Seminoles.
Over the next three days, members of the Seminole men’s and women’s teams will be suiting up at meets on opposite coasts and a time zone in between.
“I always look at the week after FSU Relays as an important week,” said FSU coach Bob Braman. “We need to keep the momentum going from the good results we got at home. “
The Seminoles certainly built some of that last Friday at Mike Long Track, sweeping the men’s and women’s team competition at the 38th FSU Relays behind some outstanding individual performances. This weekend’s slate – the three-day Pepsi Florida Relays, the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays and the Stanford Invitational – provides an opportunity to build on those times and marks against some of the finest athletes in the country.
“A few of our stars will open their outdoor season at Florida Relays,” Braman said, mentioning sophomore hurdler Peta-Gay Williams and graduate transfer 800 runner Jaap Vellinga. “Darryl Haraway and Keniel Grant get their outdoor seasons rolling at Texas Relays, and they join Eddie Clarke and Jamal Pitts in what should be an outstanding 4×100 Relay.”
The action at Percy Beard Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. actually gets underway Thursday with sophomore Brandon Tirado, coming off back-to-back meet wins in the men’s hammer, set to begin at 5 p.m.
Freshman Conor McClain will compete in the men’s javelin at 7 p.m., followed by the women’s distance trio of Tara Rooney, Fatema Jaffer and Marianne Aguilar in the women’s 5000-meter run at 9 p.m., followed by Christian Aman in the men’s 5000 at 9:45.
Most of the Noles competing this weekend will get into gear on Friday. First on the track at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas will be the FSU men’s sprinters. The action begins with the 4×100 relay where the quartet of Grant, Haraway, Clarke and Pitts compete against a field of 58 in the preliminary round beginning at 10:35 a.m. (ET). They will be hunting an NCAA East Preliminary qualifying mark and a spot in Saturday’s Clyde Littlefield Championships 4×100 final on Saturday (2:30).
Shortly after, Clarke will carry his 10.34 100-meter time from the FSU Relays – tied for ninth nationally – in the preliminary round, where he’ll be joined by Pitts in a field of 116 sprinters. At 11 a.m., Grant will compete in section B of the long jump.
Friday’s action in Gainesville revs up on the track with Williams making her outdoor debut in the 100-meter hurdles (12:15 p.m.), followed by Kiera Brown in the 100 dash (12:35), Shaquania Dorsett and Janae Caldwell in the women’s 400 (1:25) and the trio of Kyle Fearrington, Kenny Lane of Steven Simpkins in the men’s 400 (1:50).
The women’s 800 begins a stretch of middle distance races with Madison Harris, Ginelle DeMone and Emily Edwards set to compete at 2:15, followed by Vellinga, Matt Magge and Matthew Butler in the men’s two-lap event at 2:40. The 400-meter hurdles follow with Kimmie Cunningham and Shy’Kea Wimberly competing at 3:05 followed by James Rhoden and D’Mitry Charlton at 3:30.
Sophomore Shauna Helps earned a spot in the women’s Invitational 200 at 3:55. Preliminary heats in the women’s and men’s 4×400 are scheduled for 4:55 and 5:35, respectively.
FSU will try and keep its impressive early-season work in the field events going through mid-day Friday, with freshman Shanice Love competing in the open section of the discus at 12 and NCAA co-leader and defending Florida Relays champion Ed’Ricus Williams chasing a repeat in the Invitational men’s high jump at 1. Williams, a graduate transfer, won the 2016 title while competing for Bethune-Cookman.
At 3 p.m., Veronika Kanuchova – ranked No. 3 nationally – will get her strongest test yet in the Invitational women’s hammer. At 6 p.m., graduate student Kellion Knibb takes her nation-leading discus mark (60.85m/199-7) into the infield circle in pursuit of her first Pepsi Florida Relays title, where she will be joined by fourth-ranked Gleneve Grange.
Friday’s evening schedule will include Bridget Blake, Hailey Hendry and Megan Mooney in the women’s 1500 (8:20), with Michael Hall chasing an NCAA East Preliminary mark – and perhaps an FSU top 10 standard – in the men’s 1500 at 8:50. Sarah Candiano closes the day in the first women’s 3000-meter steeplechase competition of her career at 9:20 p.m.
“Mike Hall looks to put a big dent in his 1500-meter PR in a really good field,” Braman said. “I’m also excited to see our throwers keep improving their lifetime bests at Florida Relays, while women’s sprints and distance are looking to keep building for the major meets ahead.”
Long after the Gainesville crowd has called it a day, junior transfer and California native Mackenzie Landa, will line up in the second section of the women’s 10,000-meter run at the Stanford Invitational. Poised to earn an NCAA East qualifying mark, Landa will take the starting gun at approximately 1:05 a.m. (ET).
Saturday’s schedule is light by comparison, with eighth-ranked Emmanuel Onyia competing in the men’s Invitational discus at 11 a.m., followed by Grange in the women’s Invitational shot put at 1 p.m. Sophomore Armani Wallace, ranked seventh nationally in the men’s triple jump, will be tested by a strong field at 1:30.
Austin Droogsma, coming off a shot put personal-best of 19.22 meters (63-0.75), will put his No. 2 national ranking on the line against a stout group.
You can follow the progress of the competing Seminoles throughout the weekend via Twitter @FSU_Track and check back nightly for recaps on Seminoles.com.