CLEMSON, S.C. – The plane carrying the Florida State track & field team to the NCAA Indoor Championships next month got a little more crowded Friday, thanks to a pair of breakout performances by the Seminole men in the 60-meter dash.
Freshman Taylor Banks and sophomore Jhevaughn Matherson rolled to lifetime-bests of 6.61 and 6.63, respectively, which rank seventh and eighth nationally at the end of the day.
“It was definitely what I was looking to see; some guys get into high-level meet and compete,” FSU men’s sprints coach Ricky Argro said. “They competed their butts off today. On paper right now we’ve got two guys that are in [the NCAA Championships], but with the championship season coming around the corner. We’ll see if we can improve, solidify our spots in the show and see what we do when we get there.”
Matherson’s breakout run came in his heat-winning, semifinal round run; a fine follow-up to the 6.65 he ran at altitude at the semifinal of the Texas Tech Invitational two weeks ago.
“The 6.65 was a big improvement from last year, so I was just focused on coming out here and executing properly and lowering that time,” Matherson said. “That’s exactly what I did. It was a major confidence-boost.”
The Jamaican star very nearly didn’t make it to the starting line, due to some calf cramping.
“I felt a bit of discomfort, but after a few strides it felt a little better,” he said. “It was still in there, but I knew that I had what it takes to compete in the race and do well.”
While Matherson opted to sit out the final Banks and teammate Darryl Gay advanced in 6.68 and 6.69 respectively. Gay’s time, in his first meet of the season, was a personal best. Banks might have also bettered his previous best of 6.66 in the semis, but misjudged his finish and didn’t run through the line.
That wasn’t the case in the final.
“In the semis I was focusing on my competition and not myself,” Banks said. “In the finals I was focusing on me and I was able to execute the 6.61. It feels wonderful.”
While the sprinters stole the thunder, the Noles’ 60-meter hurdles tag team of Trey Cunningham and Caleb Parker – who came into the meet ranked 1-2 nationally – put on quite a show of their own. They advanced through the first two rounds as the second- and third-fastest men in the field, behind three-time NCAA champion and collegiate record-holder Grant Holloway, who is a first-year pro.
Holloway would go on to wrestle the world lead away from Cunningham, winning in 7.38, but the Noles duo were on his heels.
Cunningham overcame a slow start and was closing fast on Holloway when he clipped the final hurdle, yet still managed to record a personal-best of 7.51, breaking his own ACC and Florida State records. He also equaled the seventh-fastest time in collegiate history.
Parker recorded his own personal-best, finishing third in 7.61 and solidifying his No. 2 national ranking.
Isaac Grimes suffered his first long jump loss of the season, but it took an NCAA -leading mark to do it. The junior transfer leaped 7.95 meters (26-1) to finish second behind Tennessee’s Carey McLeod (8.16m/26-9.5). FSU freshman Jeremiah Davis finished fifth (7.46m/24-5.75).
In all, seven men from the top-ranked Noles turned in personal-best performances against a field including eight of the top-25 teams nationally.
The other two came in the 400-meter dash, where senior Kyle Fearrington (47.37) lowered his two-year-old previous best set at the 2018 ACC Championships to finish 13th overall. Freshman Cameron Daniel continued his season-long progression, checking in at 47.71 for a new best. Sophomore DaeQwan Butler also notched a season-best of 47.27 to place 10th in the field.
On the women’s side, senior Janae Caldwell moved to No. 5 on FSU’s all-time 400-meter list. Her 53.72 eclipsed the 53.91 she ran at the 2019 ACC Indoor Championships and moved her past Brittany St. Louis and Shaquania Dorsett among previous Nole standouts.
The top finishing performance of the day for the 18th-ranked women was produced by redshirt freshman Erin Phelps, who finished second in her first indoor 5,000-meter race (17:13.50), smashing her 2019 outdoor best in the event by nearly 20 seconds. Kate Bernicke finished fourth in 17:32.26.
Senior Nadia Maffo flirted with a breakthrough in the weight throw before finishing sixth with a top mark of 20.41 meters (66-11.5), just off her personal best.
Two other Nole veterans also recorded notable marks. Senior Nicole Breske cleared 3.82 meters (12-6.5) in the pole vault, which stands as her top mark in a collegiate competition, bettering her 3.80m performance at Birmingham two weeks ago. Junior Jen Lima also came up with a personal-best in the mile run, breaking through the five-minute barrier with a second-place heat finish in 4:59.24.
Skyring, Funderburk lead way in Boston
Junior Maudie Skyring overcame some uneven pacing in the early stages of Friday’s mile run to lower her lifetime-best to 4:37.64 at the David Hemery Valentine Invitational.
The Aussie shaved two seconds off her previous best to place third in the second heat of quality competition at Boston University. Skyring’s time moved her to No. 8 on FSU’s all-time list, up two spots. She was the fifth-fastest collegian in the field of 250 competitors in the mile.
The Noles capped the night in style, establishing three new personal-best times in both the 3,000-meter run and the 5,000-meter run and netting five ACC Indoor Championship qualifying marks.
Redshirt freshman Elizabeth Funderburk finished sixth overall from a field of 54 competitors in the 5,000 with a well-paced 16:05.56 out of the fast section in her indoor debut at the distance. That’s the fifth-fastest time in program history, and nearly 10 seconds faster than her outdoor personal-best.
Before Funderburk took the track, FSU’s 3,000-meter trio of Megan Mooney, Addi Coggins and Kayla Easterly all dropped all-time bests on the boards. Mooney and Coggins crossed in 9:29.91 and 9:30.20 – ACC qualifying marks – and took 11 and 16 seconds off their previous best times. Easterly shaved four seconds off her previous best, finishing in 9:55.04.
Following up Funderburk in the 5,000, true freshman Rebecca Clark registered the 11th-fastest time, closing in 16:34.92, which is just outside FSU’s all-time top 10. It was her collegiate debut at the distance. Redshirt freshman Ella Swigler won the third section in wire-to-wire fashion, slashing 44 seconds off her outdoor 5,000 PB and finishing in 16:43.67. All three of the 25-lap performers met the ACC qualifying standard.
In other early competition, freshman Yasmine Abbes rebounded from a sub-par 800 to record a personal-best in the mile of 4:53.09.
While the men take center stage in Boston on Saturday, beginning with the mile at 4:20 p.m., the action at Clemson will begin at 11 a.m. with the women’s shot put and men’s triple jump and pole vault.
You can follow the Noles throughout Saturday’s competition at both Clemson and Boston via Twitter @FSU_Track.