SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It’s not often that distance races on the track unfold exactly as planned, but Saturday morning’s USATF Junior 10,000-meter final followed the script exactly as Florida State freshman Steven Cross and coach Bob Braman.
Cross ran in the top three from the opening gun as the original field of nine contenders was whittled to eight, then six and finally three for the final seven circuits around the Hornet Stadium track. Changing gears quickly, Cross dropped a 61-second 400 on the 24th and final lap to claim the title in 31:20.95.
“I’m really happy that it played out as it did,” Cross said. “I think I was in position where I was fit enough to go with whatever pace they were going to throw at me, but it kind of played out how I wanted it.”
The Merritt Island, Fla. native joins Herb Wills as the second Seminole to win the US Junior title, and just the sixth Florida high school product to grab the gold in an event that has been contested since 1972. Wills was the first, winning the 1979 title.
“I’m so proud of Steven,” Braman said. “He’s worked as hard as any freshman I’ve ever had, and it helps that he’s tough as nails. We knew it would likely be a tactical race so a great deal of our preparation was for a big finish. He executed it perfectly and dropped a big 61.1 last lap.
“He has a bright future at the NCAA level.”
Cross’ immediate future includes representing the United States for the first time at the Junior Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, July 21-23.
“I’m real excited about that,” Cross said. “It’s a little surreal right now and just dawned on me that I’m repping the US in a couple weeks. That’s incredible.”
Perhaps more impressively, Cross is doing it in an event he ran just once before Saturday.
After competing for the Noles during the recent cross country and indoor track & field seasons, he spent the spring prepping for this meet as a redshirt. Competing unattached, he made his 10,000-meter debut at the Penn Relays, where he finished second in 29:31.22, slightly faster than Wills’ freshman record and 1979 Junior national winning time of 29:37.6.
“Redshirting kind of helped me,” Cross said. “I was pretty fresh for this, even though I’ve been training for a while. Just getting the one 10k at Penn gave me enough experience to come out here and do what I wanted to do and get the win.”
Cross wasn’t the only Seminole underclassmen to win a national title Saturday. Sophomore Shaquania Dorsett romped to victory in the 400-meter dash at the Bahamas Senior Open Championships in Freeport. The NCAA qualifier won in 52.57, and has a month to meet the IAAF World Championships qualifying standard of 52.10 in order to compete individually in London in August.
Dorsett is expected to be a member of the Bahamas 4×400 relay team at the World Championships.
In Kingston, Jamaica, redshirt junior Gleneve Grange posted a silver medal finish in the shot put at Jamaica’s National Senior Championships. Like Dorsett, Grange’s mark (16.28 meters/53-5) does not meet the World Championship standard, though her FSU school record of 17.29 meters, is well within reach of the 17.75 qualifying standard.
Another Seminole freshman competing at the USATF Junior Championships, Kyle Fearrington, posted a fifth-place finish in the 400-meter dash finals on Saturday. Fearrington, who was fourth at the ACC Championships, ran 47.56.
On Friday in her home country of Paraguay, FSU freshman Laura Paredes captured a bronze medal at the South American Championships in the javelin with a huge lifetime-best of 54.86 meters (180-0). Paredes, who enrolled in January and sat out the spring as a redshirt, would have finished sixth at the NCAA Championships with that mark.
One former Seminole will be making her second IAAF World Championships appearance in the steeplechase. Colleen Quigley locked up her trip to London with a third-place finish at the USATF Outdoor Championships in a time of 9:25.40. Quigley’s first World Championships appearance followed her 2015 NCAA title as a senior with the Seminoles, and she went on to place eighth at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Hoping to join her is FSU legend and 2008 Olympic double bronze medalist Walter Dix, who qualified sixth overall for Sunday’s 200-meter semifinals in a season-best 20.57.
On Sunday, Seminole graduate student Ed’Ricus Williams will compete in the men’s high jump at the USATF Outdoor Championships, while sophomore Peta-Gay Williams will race in the 100-meter hurdles at the Jamaica Senior Championships.
Also competing Sunday in Kingston is two-time Olympian and five-time NCAA champion Kimberly Williams, who is gunning for her eighth all-time – and sixth consecutive – Jamaican national title in the triple jump.