TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Olympic hopes of 20 track & field athletes with ties to Florida State University – present, past and future – will be on the line in Eugene, Ore. and Kingston, Jamaica over the next week, beginning today.
Jonathan Reid, a two-time All-American in the triple jump for the Seminoles, will get the ball rolling at the Jamaica National Senior Championships on Thursday. That is the first of four days of competition at National Stadium, where eight athletes with FSU connections, will chase a spot in Rio de Janeiro later this summer.
Two members of FSU’s 2016 ACC Outdoor Women’s Championship team – Kellion Knibb and Der’Renae Freeman – will highlight a heavy schedule of action on Friday from among the group.
Knibb, the NCAA runner-up in the discus, can secure her spot on the Jamaican Olympic team with a top-three finish in Kingston. The Jamaican national record-holder, who already owns an Olympic qualifying standard, will be joined in the discus competition by teammate Gleneve Grange and FSU signee Shanice Love.
Knibb, who won the 2014 Jamaican national title, was second in 2012 and third in 2013 and 2015, is plenty comfortable entering the competition.
“I’ve been here before,” Knibb said. “As far as pressure goes I’m OK, and I’m extra confident going into the meet, especially after a good [NCAA] meet in Oregon.
“I had a good two weeks of training weight room-wise and technical-wise. A few things needed to be cleaned up and I think we handled them pretty well. We’re not perfect yet, but I think we’re pretty close. We can do what we need to do at this meet with what we’ve done in the past two weeks.”
Still, there will be ample competition when Friday’s action gets underway at 6:30 p.m. (ET). Five Jamaican women have marks of 60 meters or better, which is a far cry from her 2012 debut in the national meet.
“It’s really amazing considering four years ago there was only one person throwing over 60 meters in the entire country,” Knibb said.
Of course it won’t hurt to have some familiar faces around the discus circle.
“It’s a good thing, said FSU throws coach Dorian Scott, who will be in attendance to coach both Knibb and Grange. “It means that things are positive on the FSU throws side and healthy. It’s good to see that my kids have the mindset that they want to compete beyond the NCAA’s in the summer and represent their country.”
“It will definitely make me more comfortable to have Gleneve, my training partner, in the competition,” Knibb said. “And Shanice is coming to Tallahassee in a couple months and she seems very calm to me already.”
Freeman, the ACC long jump with a season-best mark of 6.54 meters, is the No. 15 seed at the USA Olympic Trials. She is set to compete in the qualifying round set at 8:10 p.m. (ET), and will need to post a top-nine mark in her first three attempts in order to advance to Saturday’s final, which is scheduled for 2:45.
Competing in her first USA Olympic Trials, Freeman will not only need a top-three finish for a shot at advancing to Rio, but will also need to meet the Olympic standard of 6.70 meters.
Among other Noles competing Friday in Eugene are 2015 NCAA champion Kala Funderburk in first round of the women’s 400-meter dash, and multi-time All-American James Harris will be joined by 2015 ACC champion Michael Cherry in the men’s 400-meter first round competition.
Two-time NCAA champion Ricardo Chambers will be competing in the preliminary round of the men’s 400-meter dash at the Jamaican Trials on Friday (7 p.m.)
Saturday’s action in Eugene will include no fewer than five former Seminole men competing in the first round of 100-meter dash. That group includes Marvin Bracy, multi-time NCAA champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix, Kendal Williams, two-time NCAA runner-up Dentarius Locke and Trentavis Friday. Former Nole Candyce McGrone will compete in the women’s 100 first round.
The semifinal rounds of the men’s and women’s 400 are also scheduled for Saturday.
In Kingston, Emmanuel Onyia is scheduled for Saturday’s final in the men’s discus (7:15 p.m.), while Love is entered in the shot put (6 p.m.). The men’s 400-meter semifinals are also on the schedule.
The Jamaican Trials conclude Sunday as Seminole great Kimberly Williams will chase a second consecutive trip to the Olympic Games in the triple jump. Williams, who was sixth at the 2012 London Games, won five NCAA titles for the Seminoles.
FSU hurdle standout Meme Jean will also compete in the semifinal round of the 100-meter hurdles at the Jamaica Trials. Jean, who is vying for a spot on Haiti’s Olympic team, needs to shave .01 off her 2016 season-best 13.01 to meet the automatic Olympic standard. She is not eligible to compete in the Jamaican finals.
Sunday’s action in Eugene is reserved for the sprinters as the semifinals and finals for the 100-meter dash are scheduled, along with the 400-meter finals.
Colleen Quigley, Florida State’s 2015 NCAA steeplechase champion and a World Championships finalist, will compete in the first round of the event on Monday, with the final set for Thursday in Eugene.
Maurice Mitchell, a two-time NCAA champion for the Noles in the 200, will chase his second consecutive USA Olympic team spot beginning with first-round action next Thursday. He will be joined by Dix, who also claimed a bronze in the 200 at the 2008 Games, Williams and Friday.
You can keep up to date with the progress of the Noles at both meets via Twitter @FSU_Track throughout the competitions.