TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As encores go, Florida State track & field’s late signing class is the perfect complement to the star-studded fall class, providing the Seminole women and men with the type of quality depth which should play well in postseasons to come.
FSU coach Bob Braman and staff adds 16 newcomers – 11 men and five women – to the fall haul of eight. Collectively, it’s a signing class which ranks among the nation’s very best and stacks up as one of the finest ever assembled by the Seminoles.
In fact, the Noles’ signing class is already gaining national traction in rankings by a pair of prominent running websites.
FloTrack has ranked FSU’s combined gender sprint class as the best in the nation, a distinction which does not take into account what is inarguably the best collection of hurdlers among incoming men.
In its April 19 ranking of the top 13 signing classes in the country, MileSplitUSAtabbed Florida State No. 3 overall, trailing only No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 Oregon. Keep in mind that the ranking was weighted heavily by the stellar early signing class and did not take into account 12 standouts signed after the article’s publication date.
Highlighting the Seminoles’ spring group are two collegiate national champions. Kansas State transfer Christoff Bryan, the 2017 NCAA national champion in the high jump, joins a large contingent of fellow Jamaicans on the FSU roster for his final year of eligibility. He will be joined by Florida-raised sprint star Andre Ewers, who raced to gold in the 100-meter dash for Butler Community College at the NJCAA national meet this past spring.
Bryan and Ewers are what Braman calls “plug-in” performers; athletes capable of providing immediate scoring help at the NCAA Championships.
“The men’s side overall, this is the deepest, biggest class we’ve had maybe since I’ve been the head coach, and we’re looking to add people in January,” said Braman, who will be entering his 15th season as the head coach of the Seminole men and women. “When we line up for the ACC Championships in 2018 the 30 that we bring are going to be pretty stout. Every one of them are going to be potential scorers. Nobody is going to get an atta-boy trip to the ACC’s. It’s going to be a battle to get on the bus to go.”
“ACC-wise we’re going to be a hungry bunch looking to try and put a big number up.”
Christoff and Ewers aren’t the only seasoned veterans joining the fold.
David Barney, a graduate transfer from William & Mary, was the Colonial Athletic Association 1500-meter champion this past spring and a three-time All-CAA cross country performer. With a year of eligibility remaining, Barney will provide the Noles invaluable depth in cross country and a proven performer on the track, where he was a three-time CAA scorer in both the 1500 and 5000.
Hungarian distance standout Istvan Szogi, who spent two years at Southern Utah before returning to his homeland last year, returns to the Division I ranks with two years of cross country and track eligibility remaining. Having regained the form which made him one of the top high school 5000-meter runners in the world, the Noles are hoping Szogi provides the cross country team with a low stick finisher as well as a potential NCAA qualifier on the track.
FSU’s deep and rich group of jumpers will benefit from the addition of another graduate transfer. Kenneth Fisher, a three-time NCAA Championships qualifier in the long jump for Bethune-Cookman brings a diverse skill set to the program; someone capable of scoring at the conference level in the triple jump and high jump as well.
Championship pedigrees are the norm for the youngest members of the signing class. Tyricke Dickens, the Florida 2A state champion in the 110-meter hurdles and a third-place finisher in the 300 hurdles, makes the short trek from Tallahassee Godby High to Mike Long Track. Dickens’ versatility and upside provide a perfect complement to fall signee Trey Cunningham, the World Junior record-holder in the 60-meter hurdles and one of the most decorated hurdle signees in program history.
The Noles also mined the Panhandle for a promising jumper in Sneads High graduate Jacore Irving, who owns Florida 1A state titles in both the long jump and the triple jump.
Williamsport, Pa. may be known as the Little League capital of the world, but it has also produced a big league athlete in Qayyim Ali. While he’s established himself as an elite prep high jumper with a 7-1 clearance to his credit, Ali also starred in the swimming pool and on the basketball court and could well develop into a multi-event athlete in his FSU career.
FSU’s sprint corps will benefit from the addition of Orlando Evans grad Darryl Gay, who was third in the 100 at the Florida 4A state meet, along with Hallandale High 400-meter standout Calvin Golson. In addition to promising upsides in their individual events, Gay and Golson figure to be in the thick of competition for spots on the 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams immediately.
Rounding out the men’s class is Illinois prep distance standout Tyler Dau from Geneva Community High, who could contend for a spot in the cross country lineup early in his career.
After loading up on some of the finest sprint talent in the nation this past fall, the Noles added a crowning gem to the class in Palm Beach Central High star Karimah Davis. The New Balance Indoor National runner-up in the 400-meter dash this past winter, Davis boasts not only 52-second 400 chops, but has old-school versatility which extends to the 100 and 200 and is sure to play well on both sprint relay teams.
“Overall the women’s class is an impact class,” Braman said, reflecting on a class which includes fall sprint signees Jayla Kirkland and Katia Seymour. “It’s three super elite sprinters who are going to come right in and help us…and when you add them to Shauna Helps, you’ve got four ladies under 11.40. That’s pretty stout.”
The balance of the spring women’s class of signees will provide immediate depth to a distance program that is retooling and should be vastly improved in both cross country and on the track.
Shelby Morrison, from Greenock, Scotland, has established herself on the track at 1500 and 3000 meters but boasts the kind of toughness women’s distance coach Kelly Phillips believes will pay great dividends on the cross country course as well.
Phillips also pried Australian Maudie Skyring from the University of Wollongong, whose resume compares favorably to three-time 1500 All-American Aussie and former Nole Linden Hall on the track, but also has the tools that could transfer to the trails in the fall.
A pair of high schoolers, Addi Coggins and Jennifer Lima, could also make their way into the cross country lineup in the fall. Coggins, from Independence High in Franklin, Tennessee, won a state title on the track this past spring and has perennially been among the top five at the Volunteer state cross country meet. Lima, a rising star from East Lake High, shined in the 3200 at the FSU Relays this past spring and has proven in both cross country and track that she is a tough competitor willing to mix it up with the favorites.
In addition to the late signees, the Seminoles’ stellar early class – completed in November – continued to build on impressive resumes.
Hurdler Trey Cunningham won the New Balance Indoor National title in the 60-meter hurdles, breaking the World Junior record with a time of 7.40 seconds. He closed out his Alabama high school career with 24 state titles and ranked No. 3 in the nation outdoors in the 110-meter hurdles and No. 5 indoors in the 60-meter dash.
Distance standout Caleb Pottorff finished off a senior season to remember by sweeping the Florida 2A state titles in the 1600 and 3200, and posting the third-fastest 3200 (8:52.67) by a Florida high school athlete in history.
Sprint standout Shamon Ehiemua ranked No. 5 in the US indoors in the 200 and recovered from an injury to get back to Texas’ UIL Track and Field Championship finals in the event for a third consecutive year, finishing fourth.
Jayla Kirkland won the New Balance Nationals Indoor 60-meter dash title (7.27) with the fastest time in the nation and ranked among the top eight nationally in the 200, 300 and 400 indoors as well.
Ka’Tia Seymour put an exclamation point on her career by sweeping the Florida 2A state titles in the 100 and 200 for the second consecutive year. Her season-best 11.33 ranked No. 3 in the US, while her 23.37 200 checked in at No. 10.
And as an added bonus, January enrollee Laura Parades will be join the group after sitting out this past spring. Last month the javelin thrower from Paraguay recorded a huge personal best of 54.86m (180-0) to finish third at the South American Championships; a mark that would easily place at the NCAA Championships next year.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun with the youth and the talent we’ve got in,” Braman said.