LOS ANGELES, Cal. – Two days of team bonding, including trips to the Hollywood Walk of Stars and Santa Monica Pier, give way to competition on the track Saturday as the Florida State men’s and women’s teams compete in the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational at UCLA’s Drake Stadium. The Seminoles will square off against the host Bruins of UCLA, Utah State and UNLV, as well as dozens of post-collegiate athletes, many of whom bring Olympic and world class credentials to the competition.
Florida State will send 43 athletes into competition – 23 men and 20 women – into the meet, which carries the names of two of UCLA’s most famous multi-event athletes. The competition begins at 9 a.m. (PT) with the women’s hammer and wraps up with the 4×400 relays at 4 p.m.
“It’s pretty cool,” FSU redshirt junior heptathlete Grete Sadeiko said. “I’ve been at Florida State for four years and I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve never been to California before…I think it’s super team bonding for us.”
And that team bonding was one of the reasons FSU coach Bob Braman put the meet on the schedule.
“In the track and field world you get very few opportunities to take the ‘whole’ team to a meet, and we felt like that was a priority for team-building,” Braman said. “That was the focus. Let’s get a whole-team meet where we go and compete against good competition and we felt like not only was UCLA a destination to come to, but also a quality competition.”
There will be plenty of competition, not only from the collegiate teams competing, but also from a list of entrants which include the likes of United States stars Carmelita Jeter, Dee Dee Trotter, Jon Kovacs, Ashton Easton, Britney Reese and Jenebah Tarmoh, as well as international athletes from Jamaica, Saudi Arabia and Brazil.
Braman also hopes the Seminoles will benefit from having to adapt to three-hour time difference of competing on the west coast, as well as the climate change; factors which come in play when the NCAA Outdoor Championships are contested in Eugene, Ore. In June.
“We’re going to travel like we do for nationals, across the United States,” Braman said. “It’s a really good rehearsal for our championship meets and it’s a team competition.”
While the weather has been less than ideal leading up to the meet, and the forecast for Saturday calls for more rain, it has not prevented the Seminoles from making the most of the experience.
“It’s always nice traveling away from home, where you haven’t been,” fifth-year Seminole Stefan Brits said. “It’s exciting; a different excitement. I think you tend to focus a little more when you travel, and focus for a purpose. You have an extra two or three days to get in competition mode. I’ve never been to California before, so that’s really cool.”
Braman expects the Seminoles will “feed off each other” throughout the competition and come back to Tallahassee with a stronger bond than before. That’s important with the championship season set to begin in just about a month.
“Pulling for each other and being with each other for four or five days, is part of the mission,” Braman said. “I think we have an opportunity with UCLA and the pros, to get some really good competition. Some of the world’s best train in LA, and UCLA is a storied program, that I think may have produced more NCAA champions than any other.”
You can keep up with the meet via Twitter @FSU_Track and look for a full recap at the conclusion of Saturday’s competition on Seminoles.com.