TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Armani Wallace has covered a lot of ground in his first season as a triple jump standout at Florida State, and the horizontal specialist isn’t done yet.
With a silver medal performance late Saturday night at the United States Junior Track & Field Championships in Clovis, Cal., the Orlando native earned a spot on Team USA for the IAAF World Junior Championships, July 19-24 in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
“I’ve never been out of the country before,” Wallace said. “It was very humbling. It’s something that I’ve been trying to obtain for a long time. I’ve always kept my eye on the Olympic Trials, but being that I hadn’t qualified for the Olympic Trials, this is just as good.”
Locked in a battle with Texas Tech freshman Charles Brown, Wallace came out firing. The ACC runner-up outdoors took the lead after the first round, surrendered it in the second, then posted the second-best mark of his career in the third (16.05 meters/52-8) to regain the lead.
In response to Brown’s fifth-round jump (16.35m/53-7.75) for the lead, Wallace didn’t shrink in the face of competition. He answered by matching his own personal-best of 16.12 (52-10.75) to secure the silver medal and his first appearance as a member of a USA national team.
“That’s the best I’ve ever felt running on the runway, technically,” Wallace said of the series. “I’m glad he [Brown] was there and I was able to compete with him and that somebody else was out there to push me to do better.
“There was a lot of pride. I’ve never had a competition where I was going back-and-forth with another athlete jumping…The competition itself was really exciting. I’ve never been around that type of atmosphere before.”
Wallace more than held his own.
“It was a great series for Armani,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “He was determined to jump big after narrowly missing NCAAs, but now he gets to represent the USA at World Juniors. I promise you this won’t be his last USA team. He’s a special guy.”
Wallace admitted that he was spurred by his disappointing 16th-place finish at the NCAA East Preliminary, which left him four spots shy of a trip to the NCAA Championships.
“It gave me all the drive,” Wallace said. “I was seeded [sixth] and highly favored to go to the NCAA meet and when I didn’t, it left a sour taste in my mouth. For the next four weeks leading up to the Junior Nationals, I trained the hardest I’ve trained in my life. I didn’t leave any stone unturned.
“I deleted all social media and was completely locked in.”
Back at his Tallahassee residence less than 24 hours after collecting his silver medal, Wallace was still trying to grasp what he had accomplished.
“I don’t think it has set in yet,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to set in until I board the plane and I’m off to Poland. I’m looking at my USA suitcase right now like, ‘Yeah, it’s here. I did it.’ It’s definitely a great accomplishment. I can’t believe I did it.”
He will continue to train under FSU jumps coach Dennis Nobles until he departs for Poland on July 15. Wallace is scheduled to compete in the preliminary round of the triple jump on July 20 with the finals scheduled for the following day.
Former Noles Enjoy Big Weekends Around The Globe
With the world gearing up for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, national championship meets are in full swing around the globe and there were plenty Seminoles in action over the past weekend.
At the Senior National Championships in the Bahamas, former Noles Alonzo Russell and Stephen Newbold secured Olympic berths by finishing second and fourth in the 400-meter dash, respectively, in personal-best times. Russell was the runner-up in 45.25, which will qualify him for both the open 400 and the 4×400, while Newbold (45.80) will join him on the relay team.
FSU freshman Shaquania Dorsett, whose season was cut short due to injury, placed third in the women’s 400 (53.97), which should secure a spot on her country’s 4×400 relay team as well.
Veronika Kanuchova competed unattached this past season, her first at FSU, and established herself as a future force with the Seminoles in the hammer. She drove that point home with a silver medal finish at the Slovakian National Championships (68.08m/223-4).
Another Seminole freshman who missed the outdoor season due to injury, Carmela Cardama Baez, captured Spain’s Junior National Championship title in the 5000-meter run (17:01.58). Baez will now turn her focus on preparing for the upcoming cross country season at FSU.
In Brussells, Belgiun, FSU school record-holder Anne Zagre successfully defended her national title in the 100-meter hurdles (12.93) and will make her second Olympic appearance. Jonathan Borlee placed fourth in the 400-meter dash, but is expected to be a member of Belgium’s 4×400 relay for a third consecutive Olympic Games.
At the All African Championships, Maryke Brits placed third in the 100-meter hurdle finals (13.47) and was sixth in the long jump (6.12 meters). Brits is the younger sister of Olympic-bound Seminole Stefan Brits.
At the British Championships in Birmingham, England, Zak Seddon finished third in the 3000-meter steeplechase (8:46.33), just ahead of fourth-place former Nole Luke Gunn (8:47.26). Hannah England was fifth in the 1500-meter final (4:14.29).
A host of additional Seminoles will get going in national championship competition later this week as the United States and Jamaica championship meets get underway.