LUBBOCK, Texas – The indoor track & field season can vanish in the blink of an eye, placing a premium on the scant few opportunities to post NCAA Championship qualifying marks.
This is one of those weekend. Select members from the top-ranked Florida State men and No. 12 women will fan out across three meets, competing for one of the coveted top-16 rankings in the individual events and a place at the March 13-14 NCAA Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“This weekend is the halfway point in the indoor regular season, so getting national marks this weekend is certainly our top priority,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “But this weekend is an even bigger ACC preparation for most our competitors. The heptathlon group needs to be a big part in our ACC title chase and they get going.”
A trio of heptathletes – Dante Newberg, David Lott and Hunter Napier – will get the weekend going beginning Thursday at the Texas Tech Invitational. The seven-event competition, spanning two days, begins with the 60-meter dash at 12:20 p.m. (ET), with the long jump, shot put and high jump to follow.
Newberg, a graduate student, will be competing in his first combined event action since the 2018 season. He finished third that year in the heptathlon at the ACC Indoor Championships, posting the third-best point total in program history (5,291).
“It’s great to have Dante back after missing all of last year due to surgery,” Braman said. “He’ll be shaking off some rust, I’m sure, but he’s a heck of a competitor.”
Lott, a senior in his second year since transferring from Kennesaw State, finished fifth at the 2019 ACC Indoor Championships and second in the decathlon at the outdoor meet. He comes into the year with the fifth-best heptathlon total (4,857) in Noles history, three spots in front of Napier, who ranks eighth with a best of 4,368 points. Napier finished sixth in the decathlon at the 2019 ACC Outdoor Championships.
The action picks up significantly Friday at the Texas Tech Invitational, which will serve as host to eight nationally-ranked men’s teams and six ranked women’s teams. The No. 1 FSU men are among five top-10 teams in the field, including No. 3 USC, No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 8 Baylor and No. 9 North Carolina A&T.
Top-ranked USC leads a strong group of women’s teams, which includes No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 16 Texas Tech, No. 22 Baylor and No. 24 Ohio State.
FSU’s deepest unit on the men’s side will be the first on the track Friday when world and NCAA-leader Trey Cunningham is joined by Caleb Parker, Braxton Canady and Tyricke Highman in the 60-meter hurdles, with the prelims set for 6:15. All four are currently ranked among the top 12 in the NCAA this season.
“All the hurdlers are looking to run faster, but Tyricke’s nationals chase is probably the most significant of that outstanding group,” Braman said, referring to Highman, who is looking to improve on his huge lifetime-best of 7.78 from the season-opening meet and move up from his share of 12th.
Junior Jacore Irving and sophomore Trentorria Green will compete in Friday’s triple jump competition, looking to move up significantly on the national lists. Irving is currently tied for 50th among NCAA men, while Green sits in 26th place.
“Triple jump will also be a key event for both genders at ACC’s and we get a really good competition for them this weekend,” Braman said. “Jacore and Trentorria are legitimate national qualifying contenders and we’re expecting a big weekend from them.”
Nearly 60 men are entered in the 60-meter dash, including freshman Taylor Banks and sophomore Jhevaughn Matherson, who are being counted on heavily by the Noles. The three-round competition will feature four of the nation’s five fastest men. Banks is ranked 12th nationally (6.66), while Matherson carries a personal-best of 6.71 into his first 60 of the season.
A trio of FSU women – Janae Caldwell, Karimah Davis and Kimmie Cunningham – are entered in the 400-meter dash. Last season, Davis missed qualifying for the championships by three positions. Caldwell, however, has improved significantly since she closed out 2019 ranked 56th nationally.
In Bloomington, Ind. at the Indiana University Relays, the FSU men’s distance group will compete on Saturday, highlighted by graduate transfer Kasey Knevelbaard’s pursuit of third consecutive trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships in the mile run.
“Kasey will have his first national qualifying attempt in the mile and the field is a great one,” Braman said.
Knevelbaard, who has run 3:58.54 and is one of the top seeds, will be joined by teammates Bert Freire and Tyler Dau in the 11:30 a.m. fast section.
“Bert is in the best shape of his life and he has a chance at the four-minute barrier if he runs well.
Veterans Steven Cross and Caleb Pottorff will lead a group of five Noles in Saturday’s fast section of the 3000-meter run, set to go off at 1:45 p.m.
“Steven and Caleb are enjoying their first healthy indoor season in two years and they look ready to attack our 3000-meter all-time list,” said Braman, who also has Jacob Holmes, Paul Stafford and Silas Griffith entered.
“Jacob, Silas and Paul will all be gunning for the ACC standard in the 3000, as will Tyler Dau in the mile,” he added.
Also on Saturday at Texas Tech, Jayla Kirkland and Ka’Tia Seymour, ranked third and eighth nationally in the 60-meter dash, will look to post NCAA 200-meter qualifying times. Three of FSU’s top long jumpers, Isaac Grimes, Fabian Edoki and Darius Clark will compete against a stout field in the seeded section.
On Sunday in Birmingham, Ala. five pole vaulters, led by Jazmyn Dennis and Austin Thompson, will compete at the Jaguar Invitational.
You can keep up with the Noles all weekend via Twitter @FSU_Track and check Seminoles.com for nightly recaps.