BOSTON, Mass. – Meticulous training programs are geared to produce the best performances when championship season comes around and that certainly appears to be the case with the Florida State track & field teams.
The Seminole men and women spent Friday at the Reggie Lewis Center turning in season- and career-best marks across all event areas, setting themselves for a big finish at the Atlantic Coast Conference Indoor Championships on Saturday.
Florida State’s women enter the final day of competition with a two-point lead over 16th-ranked Duke, 40-38, with North Carolina (32.5 points), No. 13 Notre Dame (32) and No. 18 Miami (31) in close pursuit.
The Seminole women were able to maintain the lead they grabbed on Thursday thanks to a strong performance in the long jump, where senior Der’Renae Freeman (6.33m/20-9.25) and sophomore Jogaile Petrokaite (6.03m/19-9.50) contributed 13 points to the cause, finishing second and fourth. Kiara Wright chipped in three more points with her sixth-place finish in the high jump (1.71m/5-7.25).
“The women continue to defy the oddsmakers and keep fighting for a title,” FSU coach Bob Braman said of his unranked squad. “Our long jumpers fought hard and scored 13 valuable points for our team. They’ve been our consistent leaders all season. Hopefully they’ll get another chance at Nationals in 2 weeks.”
Equally important was a strong qualifying effort, as the Noles advanced athletes to the finals in five of the six preliminary events on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Seminole men also turned in a strong qualifying day and reaped the rewards of an equally impressive effort in the long jump. Stefan Brits claimed the third silver medal of his FSU career at the indoor championships, soaring to a career-best mark of 7.82 meters (25-8), which virtually assured him a third career trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships. Teammate Keniel Grant added a seventh-place finish (7.26m/23-10) for two more points as the Noles enter the final day in ninth place with 13 points and the potential for many more.
“It was great to see Stefan back healthy,” Braman added. “He always competes as hard as anyone in the building. That 7.82 moves him up to ninth nationally. Those were 10 big points between Stefan and Keniel.”
The men advanced athletes to the finals in all four events they had entries. More importantly they will have two finalists in the 60 and 200-meter dashes, as well as the 800.
“The men did a really nice job in qualifying today,” Braman said. “We have some big scoring opportunities in virtually every running event. We have a chance for big points in the shot put and triple jump, as well.”
The bountiful qualifying performance was highlighted by the effort of the women in the 60-meter hurdles. Three Seminoles advanced to the finals – all with personal-best marks – lead by Meme Jean, who turned in the nation’s fifth-fastest time of the year (8.08) as the top qualifier in the field. Jean was just .01 seconds off the school record.
Nicole Setterington breezed into the finals in 8.28 – the fifth-fastest time in FSU history – and freshman Peta-Gay Williams followed suit with a lifetime-best 8.43, No. 8 all-time among Noles, to join them.
“Meme made a real statement today,” Braman said. “That was a truly special race. I thought all three of our ladies were impressive today. Credit coach [Brandon] Hon for peaking them at the right time.”
The hurdle event set the tone on a day when the Seminoles recorded 16 lifetime-best marks; eight each for the men and women.
On the men’s side, freshmen Darryl Haraway and Edward Clarke showed no sign of fainting in the face of their first collegiate championship meet. Haraway and Clarke qualified for the 60-meter dash finals in 6.67 and 6.69; the second- and third-fastest times of the day.
They back that effort up by advancing to the 200 finals in 21.55 (Haraway) and 21.77 (Clarke).
All four of those marks were personal-bests.
“Coach Ricky Argro has done a fantastic job will our freshmen sprinters,” Braman said. “They looked like veterans out there today.”
Not to be over-looked, freshman Shauna Helps recorded the fastest 60-meter time of her young career, qualifying for the women’s final with the third-fastest mark.
Chelsea Jarvis locked down an automatic spot in the 800-meter final, using a big kick to advance automatically with a heat win and the top preliminary round (2:07.14). Bridget Blake (4:45.89) qualified on time in the women’s mile and freshman Shaquania Dorsett battled her way to the 400 final on time (54.99) as well.
“Chelsea and Bridget looked strong and under control,” Braman noted. “I know coach [Kelly] Phillips will have them ready to score high tomorrow.”
Senior Zak Seddon posted perhaps the most surprising qualifying performance of the day. Competing in the mile for the first time in his career, Seddon handled his strategic heat like a veteran to nail down an automatic spot with a big finishing 400 in 4:12.30.
Defending 800-meter champion Jake Burton took any suspense out of his qualifying heat by running away from the pack with 400 meters to go, advancing with the win in a well-executed 1:51.53. Otniel Teixeira, who was third a year ago, used a big finishing lap to nab a spot in the 800 on time in 1:50.42.
“Zak Seddon is a wily veteran and he competes like a tiger,” Braman said. “He’ll have a chance to score big points tomorrow. Our 800 men ran with a lot of poise and took care of business today. They’ll be sharp and ready to go.”
In addition to the qualifiers and scorers, the Noles received lifetime-best performances from freshman Dante Newberg in the pentathlon (4,810 points, 12th place), Madison Harris (2:11.38, 14th) and Kayla Thomas (2:17.23) in the 800 and Hannah Welsh (1.68m/5-6, 9th) in the high jump.
Saturday’s all-finals action gets underway at 11 a.m. when defending champion Kellion Knibb steps into the shot put circle.
ESPN3 will stream the action from 1-4 p.m. http://es.pn/1Tr1zmG.
You can follow the action via Twitter @FSU_Track or keep abreast by monitoring live results at http://noles.co/1UlZNnJ.