BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Arriving at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships ranked No. 10 and No. 14 nationally, Florida State’s men and women can post their best team finishes since 2014 and 2011, respectively, by performing to their US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association ratings index standings.
The Noles will be represented by four men and four women, competing in five events for each gender, as the two-day competition unfolds Friday at the Birmingham CrossPlex. Six of the eight are underclassmen, and four of those are making their second NCAA Indoor Championship appearances.
“I think we’re in a really good spot in the immediate future, which is outdoors, and even in the long-term future,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “I think we’re going to be a contender for the next couple of years on both sides.
“This is a meet where we’ve got to move up. We were 11th and 14th outdoors last year, and that’s about where we sit indoors.”
A year ago an extremely inexperienced group of Noles came away from the meet with the men placing 21st and the women finishing 26th. They figure to improve on those finishes by simply performing to the level they’ve competed at all season. FSU’s four men are all seeded among the top eight, while the women are led by No. 1 long jump seed Rougui Sow and have two additional top-eight seeds.
Among the Noles’ qualifiers are sophomores Trey Cunningham and Jayla Kirkland, who are no strangers to the facility. The Alabama natives have been competing here since the facility opened in 2011.
Cunningham and Kirkland combined for 40 Alabama state high school titles during their decorated careers, many of which were won at the CrossPlex.
Cunningham, from Winfield, Ala., is seeded third in the 60-meter hurdles on the same track where he was the first high school athlete in the world to dip under 7.50 seconds in his specialty event. Kirkland, who starred at Birmingham’s Woodlawn High, held CrossPlex track records in the 60- and 200-meter dashes; the two events she has qualified for this weekend.
The long-time friends, who are central figures in FSU’s re-ascent on the national scene, have been looking forward to the opportunity in front of them since their senior years in high school.
“If I remember correctly…I was telling some of my friends in physics class that we were going to come back in 2019 and that they’d be able to come and see me run,” said Cunningham, who expects as many as two-dozen family and friends on hand.
“It’s a different aspect when my whole family is here instead of the usual crew. It motivates you to run faster because they’re here to watch you run, and I feel comfortable because I’ve run here many times. With the family here I feel like I can just do my job and their support and love will push me across the line.”
Kirkland remembers how she felt when she learned the NCAA Championships will be contested in her hometown.
“I knew I’d have to make nationals in order to come back and run in front of my family,” said Kirkland, who is also anticipating a large and loud crowd of supporters. “I don’t know the exact number, but a lot of family and friends. Most all of my family lives in Birmingham…
“Support is everything. I love support, especially when it’s coming from people who have seen me run my whole life. It’s a great feeling. I’m just excited to see who all is going to come out and scream my name and Go Noles.”
Friday’s competition will begin at 7:07 p.m. (ET) with Cortney Jones in the 60-meter hurdles prelims, with Cunningham to follow. Ka’Tia Seymour and Kirkland will race in the 60-meter dash prelims at 7:57 p.m. , followed by Kasaun James and Bryand Rincher in the men’s prelims.
Sow will begin her chase to become the first FSU woman to win an NCAA title since Kimberly Williams in 2011 when the long jump gets underway at 8:10. Kirkland’s 200-meter prelim is set for 8:37, which James to follow in the men’s 200.
Saturday’s schedule includes senior Armani Wallace, who is the No. 6 seed in the triple jump, as well as those who advances from Friday’s prelims to the finals. A strong opening day of qualifying could portend to big things by the Noles when the action wraps up Saturday night.
“We are good enough with what we have here to be a top-15 teams and to continue that progress that we made outdoors, with a chance to do something big, which would be a top-10,” Braman said.
The meet will be available on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN App both days.
Friday, 6:30 p.m. https://es.pn/2EvGBRU
Saturday, 5:00 p.m. https://es.pn/2SLHnz6
You can follow the Noles with live updates via Twitter @FSU_Track and Instagram @fsu_track and live results can be found here: https://on.ncaa.com/2IEstuU