CLEMSON, S.C. – With the postseason set to begin with the ACC Indoor Track & Field Championships in two weeks, Florida State’s No. 1 men and No. 18 women will emerge from this weekend well-tested.
While the men’s and women’s distance groups make their annual trek to Boston for the David Hemery Valentine Invitational, a larger group comprised predominantly of sprinters, jumpers and throwers will be facing stout fields here at the Tiger Paw Invitational.
The Noles’ third trip to Clemson this season will produce the highest level of competition of the indoor campaign. FSU’s top-ranked men are joined by No. 3 Texas, No. 4 USC, No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 7 Florida, No. 13 Kentucky, No. 15 South Carolina and No. 18 Tennessee.
And it’s no easier on the women’s side where No. 1 USC, No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 5 Texas, No. 7 Kentucky, No. 14 Florida and No. 15 South Carolina lead the 18th-ranked Noles women, who are ahead of No. 22 Houston.
And since the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) rating indexes are based solely on where individuals rank in each event, there will be no shortage of talent to bring out the best in each event.
The two-day meet begins Friday at 12 noon and culminates with the 4×400 relays Saturday.
“This is Pre-Nationals for us and we want to put ourselves in position to run our best,” FSU men’s sprints coach Ricky Argro said, looking ahead to Friday’s start of action. “Hopefully we get a couple guys qualified [for the NCAA Championships] in the 60 and then get my 400 guys some real legitimate reps against high-level competition and prepared for whatever the future holds for them.”
A look at some of the most highly anticipated events on Friday:
• Freshman Taylor Banks and sophomore Jhevaughn Matherson are currently tied for 14th and tied for 20th on the national descending order list in the 60-meter dash. They will potentially have three rounds to improve on those positions and would likely secure top-16 NCAA qualifying marks by running 6.64…coming off injuries, freshman Tshenolo Lemao and sophomore Darryl Gay will make their season debuts in the event.
• FSU’s dominant 60-meter men’s hurdles group will be tested by a talented field and while Trey Cunningham and Caleb Parker, ranked 1-2 nationally, are locked into to NCAA berths, hurdles coach Matt Kane would like to see ninth-ranked Braxton Canady dip under 7.70 for the first time and Tyricke Highman move back into the top-16 from his spot at No. 20…three-time NCAA champion and record-holder Grant Holloway, now running professionally, adds some juice to an already strong field.
• On the women’s side, Kane believes an NCAA qualifying mark in the 400-meter dash is well within reach for senior Janae Caldwell, who currently ranks 50th nationally. Getting 2019 ACC runner-up Karimah Davis closer to her form from a year ago also ranks high on the list of objectives…the field is particularly stout with the nation’s top three ranked women entered.
• The men’s 400-meter dash could well produce personal-best marks for the trio of DaeQwan Butler, Kyle Fearrington and Cameron Daniel, providing a perfect tune-up for the Noles’ Saturday bid for a 4×400 NCAA qualifying mark.
• Senior Nadia Maffo is coming off a personal-best performance in the weight throw (20.47m) and has shown signs of making a run at both an NCAA mark and the school record. She ranks 24th nationally and a throw in excess of 21 meters would accomplish both.
• While Isaac Grimes is the class of the long jump field as the nation’s second-ranked athlete, field events coach Keith Herston believes freshman Jeremiah Davis could make a run at an NCAA qualifying mark as well.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys with a lot of talent who haven’t had the opportunity to run on this level or at a meet of this caliber,” Argro said, specifically addressing his sprints group. “Being able to see how they handle running against very high-level competition on a collegiate level, I’m really looking forward to seeing how they respond to it while getting ready for conference.”
Women kick things off at Boston University
Women’s distance coach Kelly Phillips will unleash nine athletes across four events Friday at the David Hemery Valentine Invitational, on a track which has produced three FSU records (800, mile, 3000) over the years.
“The plan remains the same, whether you’re at Clemson or Boston,” Phillips said, who also has three runners competing Friday at Clemson. “We’ve only had two meets to shake out the dust and now it’s time to get work done. We haven’t really gotten after it like we will tomorrow; get some ACC and national qualifiers.”
Freshman Yasmine Abbes will start things off in the 800, which is scheduled to begin at 12:55 p.m. Next up comes the mile (5:30), where Maudie Skyring and Ellie Wallace are entered. Skyring, currently ranks 22nd nationally in the mile (4:39.29), has her sights set on securing a trip to the NCAA Championships. That will likely require a time of 4:35. Wallace’s fitness suggests she should easily meet, if not smash, the 4:48 ACC qualifying standard.
Addi Coggins, Megan Mooney and Kayla Easterly are all chasing personal-bests and the ACC qualifying standard (9:30) in the 3000-meter run, which begins at 8:30 p.m.
Redshirt freshmen Elizabeth Funderburk and Ella Swigler, and freshman Rebecca Clark will make their indoor 5,000-meter debuts on a track that has already produced 15 of the nation’s top 16 times this season. Of that group, Funderburk is closest to challenging for an NCAA mark, racing from a heat that will be paced to produce a time of 15:50 or better. The ACC qualifying standard is 16:47.
“If they’re relentlessly gritty, they’re going to be happy with the results,” Phillips said.
Florida State’s men will compete at Boston University on Saturday.
You can keep pace with the Noles throughout the weekend via Twitter @FSU_Track and check out the nightly recaps each day at Seminoles.com.