NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The championship season has historically brought out the best in the Florida State track & field teams and that time has arrived as the Noles embark on their three-day quest for ACC Indoor Championship hardware Thursday at the Loftus Sports Center.
FSU’s men, ranked No. 9 nationally, are gunning for a third consecutive ACC Indoor title after rallying to share the crown last season with Virginia Tech and winning it outright in 2018. The Noles have hoisted the trophy 13 times in 28 years; more than any other men’s program since joining the conference in 1992.
The unranked Seminole women are once again positioned among the contenders; a distinction they have earned by winning three titles and placing second seven times over the past 12 years.
Yet virtually every pre-meet project has the Noles men and women chasing Virginia Tech.
Thursday’s light schedule begins at noon, when Dante Newberg and David Lott open the heptathlon competition with the 60-meter dash. Nadia Maffo gets the women started at 3:30 p.m. with the weight throw, while the men’s and women’s distance medley relays close day at 7 and 7:30, respectively.
At Wednesday night’s team dinner, while addressing a room that included 21 first time ACC Indoor Championship competitors (out of 44 total), coach Bob Braman shared a comment made by former associate head coach Harlis Meaders a decade ago:
“We may be chasing, but what they [opponents] don’t know is they have to go through us to win.”
While the FSU men will be without the services of 2019 ACC Championship Track MVP Kasaun James, who was scratched due to injury, they aren’t short on stars with scoring power. Junior hurdler Trey Cunningham, the top-ranked collegian nationally, is eyeing a record third consecutive 60-meter hurdle title.
The Noles in fact have four of the ACC’s top seven hurdlers; a potential scoring windfall that will play a factor in the team competition. Similarly, top-seeded long jumper Isaac Grimes headlines an event group boasting four of the top five seeds.
Caleb Parker, the No. 2 seed in the hurdles, is the seeded third in the high jump, while Kasey Knevelbaard is seeded third in the mile. Freshman Taylor Banks and sophomore Jhevaughn Matherson, seeded third and fourth in the 60-meter dashes, have been the conference’s fastest short sprinters over the past month.
The general consensus is the Hokies are approximately 20 points better than the Noles if the meet plays out exactly by the script; something it seldom does.
“We’ve been on the other side of that,” Braman said. “We’ve been the 20-25 point favorite, particularly indoors against these guys, and all of a sudden we went from the favorite to chasing our tail on the last day trying to make up what they did the first two days.
“We need to be the best version of ourselves and maybe pull a Virginia Tech; rally up on them and have them kind of gripping as they come in. If you told me today that it would come down to winner-take-all in the 4×400, I’d take it, because I feel good about us.”
The Florida State women, who came within a 4×400 relay disqualification in 2019 of pursuing their third consecutive title, will once again lean on the sprint duo of Ka’Tia Seymour and Jayla Kirkland. Seymour is the two-time defending ACC Indoor Championship Track MVP, who swept the 60- and 200-meter dashes last season, is the No. 1 seed in the 200. No woman has won three consecutive Championship MVP awards.
Kirkland, who won the 2018 60-meter dash title, is top-ranked in the 60 again this season.
“We’re probably on the [projection] sheet for 70-72 points,” Braman said. “If we have a good meet and do well in the areas we’re strong and we get some things going…80 is a big number for this team and 80 could end up winning it.”
Junior Maudie Skyring, the No. 2 seed in the mile, will be key piece to reaching that total. So will Janae Caldwell (400), Elizabeth Funderburk (5000), Trentorria Green (triple jump), Jazmyn Dennis (pole vault) and Amani Heaven (shot put). They are all projected scorers capable of putting the Noles in the thick of the race.
You can follow the Noles throughout the meet via Twitter @FSU_Track and catch up with nightly recaps by visiting Seminoles.com. Real time results can be monitored at https://theacc.co/itf20results.