FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Shauna Helps ventured – quickly – into a new level of success as Friday night’s opening action at the Razobrback Invitational wound toward a close.
The junior from the Jamaica shattered the Florida State record in the 200-meter dash, winning her heat in 23.20; fourth-fastest on the night against a field filled with some of the nation’s very best sprinters.
Helps took down Kala Funderburk’s previous FSU record of 23.41, set in 2015. Along the way she beat Texas A&M’s Danyel White, the NCAA leader entering the weekend, and USC’s Deanna Hill, who placed third at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Championships.
“This is definitely not what I expected at all,” Helps said. “I knew that I would run fast, but not this fast. This is a huge personal best. I’m grateful for that. Coming into the meet I expected to do my best, which I did, but maybe not to this magnitude.”
Helps came into the meet with an indoor personal best of 23.56 and exits almost assured of her first individual event berth at an NCAA Championship event.
“Shauna Helps ran an incredible race,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “She’s reaching whole new level. That mark will easily qualify for nationals.”
Behind Helps’ fourth-place finish, freshman Ka’Tia Seymour’s 200 debut produced the No. 7 time in FSU history. On her first time around Arkansas’ high-banked Randal Tyson Track Center, she produced a 23.84.
Senior transfer Corion Knight more than held his own against a men’s high jump field which included NCAA champion Randall Cunningham from USC and SEC champion and All-American Keenon Lane. The former NAIA national champion from Florida Memorial cleared the first four bars on his first attempt, including two which exceeded his previous indoor best.
“My first jump is always my best one because I’m so excited about that height,” Knight said. “I try to bring everything I can to that first jump…I kind of get that momentum going and always want to put everything into first jump.
“I was competing with those guys, who are heavy hitters in the high jump. I was really adamant about keeping up to show them what I’ve got. And this is my first year at Division I so I was really excited.”
Knight finished in a tie for fifth after clearing 2.16 meters (7-1), and narrowly missing twice at 2.19. His performance earned him a share of 10th on FSU’s all-time list.
“Corion did a great job,” Braman said. “He led the competition through four bars and had a fantastic third jump at 7-2.25, missing a national qualifying mark on that jump by probably a quarter-inch.”
The lone win of the night for the Noles against the stacked 11-team field of Power 5 programs was delivered by the women’s distance medley relay team of Emily Edwards, Madison Harris, Ginelle DeMone and Jodie Judd, which won easily in 11:37.76.
FSU’s men placed third in 9:51.97, despite newcomer Toby Hardwick’s tumble on the last lap of the leadoff leg. Kyle Farrington, Bert Freire and Michael Hall brought the Noles back from sixth place over the final three legs.
“We competed well in both distance medleys but we ran into some bad luck in both races,” Braman said. “The men missed a probable ACC [fast heat] mark when Toby fell on the lead-off leg and the women just needed some competition.
“Tough races for both and some invaluable experience.”
Among the other opening night highlights, freshman Darryl Gay secured an auto qualifying spot in the 200-meter dash when he debuted with an indoor personal best of 21.73. Brandon Tirado was just five centimeters off his lifetime best in the weight throw, placing sixth in 18.86 meters (61-10.5).
Junior Dante Newberg is on pace for a new personal best in the heptathlon through four events. Buoyed by an indoor-best in the high jump (1.99 meters/6-6.25) to close out the day – which also matched his outdoor lifetime best – Newberg posted a career-best first day score of 3,058 points and stands in fifth place. He is just 119 points out of third with the 60 hurdles, pole vault and 1000-meter run remaining Saturday.
Hunter Napier recorded personal best marks in three of four events and is sixth with 2,421 points.
Saturday’s action begins with the women’s 3000-meter run at 12:22 p.m., with Newberg and Napier tackling the hurdles at 12:35.
Among the highlight events for the Noles on Saturday will be Austin Droogsma and Gleneve Grange in the shot put, Edward Clarke, Helps and Seymour in the 60-meter dash, as well as Armani Wallace and Montel Nevers leading five FSU athletes in the triple jump.
The FSU men’s distance group will be led by the season-debuts of Steven Cross and Stanley Linton in the 3000.
You can keep track of the action via Twitter @FSU_Track throughout the day.