BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – It would have been understandable had the enormity of the moment caught up with the Florida State indoor track & field teams Friday at the season-opening UAB Blazer Invitational meet. Afterall, 26 of the Seminoles were competing in garnet and gold for the first time, including 19 who had never previously run an indoor meet.
Successfully navigating those built-in obstacles, the FSU women and men performed admirably at the Birmingham CrossPlex, combining for three event wins and a host of personal-best performances. The Seminole women were especially impressive, collecting six new top 10 marks in program history.
Sasha- Ann Lebert, a graduate student transfer from Florida A&M, wasted no time setting the stage in her Seminole debut. Competing in the weight throw, she unleashed a two-meter lifetime-best for the win. Lebert’s winning throw of 19.56 meters (64-2.25) not only outdistanced the field by a wide margin, but checked in as the No. 3 mark in program history.
“Coming in from another school I had to learn how to adapt and change,” said Lebert, who has embraced the concepts of FSU throws coach Dorian Scott. “At the beginning it was tough. It wasn’t something that I was used to.”
“I’m really excited and a lot more confident because I knew I had a coach who was working to correct things that needed to be corrected. Plus, it’s another level of competition that I really wanted to compete in and enjoy being in that atmosphere.”
Lebert, who is completing her master’s degree in public administration, smashed her previous best of 17.45 meters on her first attempt and never looked back.
“It’s great to see where I am right now after taking a year off and getting back to it,” she added.
“Now I see where I’m at and what I need to focus on moving forward.”
Led by another graduate student transfer, Meme Jean, the Seminoles had three athletes register top-10 marks in the 60-meter hurdles. Jean and teammate Nicole Setterington advanced to the finals against a stout field to finish fifth and seventh, respectively.
Jean’s time of 8.34 in the final was not only the fastest opener of her career, but the No. 4 time in FSU history, as she edged past Seminole legend Kim Batten. Setterington registered a lifetime-best mark of 8.42; good for No. 6 on FSU’s top 10 list.
“I expected to do something close to my PR because my training has been so good,” said Jean, who is a transfer from Charleston Southern. “Opening up with an 8.34 is pretty good.
“I was very excited. I kind of surprised myself a little. After the prelims, I knew I had to step up for finals. My race was not together at all, but in the finals, my technique was pretty bad but I kind of made up what I did in prelims.”
Nebraska transfer Melissa-Maree Farrington narrowly missed the finals in the 60 hurdles, but her 8.48 preliminary round mark is the ninth-fastest is FSU annals.
The Seminoles received a 1-2 finish from Georgia Peel (9:33.48) and Bridget Blake (9:36.39) in the 3000-meter run, with Blake establishing a new personal-best in the event. Christine Griggs placed fifth (10:02.63) in her indoor debut. Chelsea Jarvis was the runner-up in the mile (4:53.53).
Veteran long jumpers Der’Renae Freeman and Jogaile Petrokaite finished third and fourth, with Petrokaite leaping 6.16 meters (20-2.50) to crack FSU’s top 10 in the event at No. 9.
Kiara Wright registered a new personal-best in the high jump, placing fifth by clearing 1.74m (5-8.50), which is No. 5 on the top-10 list.
Among the youngest Seminoles competing, Shauna Helps placed fifth in the 200 (24.83) and fellow freshman Shaquania Dorsett was seventh in the 400 (55.15). They were among a handful of first-year Noles who had never seen an indoor track before Thursday’s practice session, having grown up in Jamaica and the Bahamas, respectively.
Injuries have prevented Madison Harris from racing on the track since placing second in the 800 at the 2014 FHSAA 2A state championship meet. In her first meet since then – and her first ever indoors – Harris used a big kick over the final half-lap to win her 800 heat and finish eighth overall (2:15.38).
Junior Chad DaCosta delivered the FSU men their lone win of the day, capturing the shot put with a best mark of 16.63 meters (54-8.25).
The Seminoles also logged four second-place finishes, including one from freshman sprinter Darryl Haraway in the 200. Haraway opened up his career with a 21.60, which wasn’t exactly what he hoped for, but encouraging for a starting point.
“I expected to do better than I did today, but it was my first meet, so I wasn’t too mad at myself,” said the Maryland native who starred at DeMatha Catholic.
“I learned to worry about my race, have fun and not press. I know I pressed today because I was trying to run something real, real fast. I still need more experience and practice on these curves.”
Matt Butler used a big surge off the final curve to nab a second-place finish in the 800 (1:55.07), with teammate Matt Magee close behind (1:55.37) in fourth. Redshirt freshman Brandon Tirado made his collegiate debut in the weight throw count with a top mark of 16.67 meters (54.-8.25) to place second.
The 4×400 relay team of Stephen Sutherland, Ricardo Roy, Alistair Moona and D’Mitry Charlton put together a runner-up finish in 3:14.55.
Freshman triple jumper Armani Wallace noted a third-place finish in his collegiate debut with a top mark of 15.18 (49-9.75).
All in all, it was a performance that FSU coach Bob Braman said his young teams can build on.
“What you come here to do is not to lay down some huge marks – if they come that’s great – but you come here to see, ‘Where am I and can I see where I’m trying to get?’” Braman said. “A lot of people look like they’re going to be successful at the ACC level.
“We had some wins and that’s always good…There are a lot of positives. We have to make sure these kids realize next week, when the bar gets raised and the competition is really good…that we come in and compete like we did this week.”
Noles add another event win on Saturday
A handful of FSU athletes hung around to compete in Saturday’s Vulcan Invitational at the CrossPlex. Melissa-Maree Farrington made that decision pay off by capturing the women’s long jump with a leap of 5.89m (19-4). Grete Sadeiko finished third (5.63m/18-5.75).
FSU will return to the CrossPlex next weekend to compete in the Conference Clash, a meet which will pit nine SEC programs against a group of eight other Power Five conference teams.