CLEMSON, S.C. – The Florida State indoor track & field teams enter Friday’s season-opening Orange & Purple Elite with a little extra bounce in their step.
The Seminole women and men check in at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national rating index, which was released Thursday.
It’s the highest ranking in women’s program history – preseason or otherwise – for the Noles, whose previous best preseason ranking was No. 4 in 2010. The women opened at No. 5 in 2009.
FSU’s men had not cracked the top-five since 2010, when they opened at No. 1 for the second time in three seasons.
In the case of both programs, the preseason rankings validate impressive turnarounds in a short period of time. The men opened the 2017 season at No. 95, while the women were No. 60 according to the USTFCCCA rating index, which calculates point totals for personal-best performances for eligible athletes in each event based on their national ranking.
“It’s certainly a great honor to be ranked this high,” FSU head coach Bob Braman said. “Our coaches have worked tirelessly for the past three years to get us to this point, and they’ve obviously recruited fantastic athletes to Florida State.”
FSU’s women check in at No. 2 behind 2018 NCAA Indoor runner-up Arkansas, and narrowly ahead of perennial power Texas A&M. The Noles were 26th at last year’s NCAA Indoor Championships, led predominantly by a group of freshmen and sophomores.
The Seminole men trail only No. 1 Texas Tech and No. 2 Florida, the defending NCAA Indoor champions, in the rankings. Like the women, the men return a core group of scorers from last season’s 21st-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
It’s only fitting that the two squads open the season at the Clemson Track & Field Complex, where they announced their return to a place of prominence last February when they swept the men’s and women’s ACC team titles.
“The indoor season is highly unpredictable,” Braman cautioned. “It’s only two months long and staying healthy and peaking at the right time are critical. I’m excited and proud to be in the position to compete at the top of the NCAA.”
Most of the Seminoles’ stars are slated for action in Friday’s day-long competition, which will include the host Tigers, South Carolina, NC State and Youngstown State.
Sprinters Ka’Tia Seymour, Jayla Kirkland and Shauna Helps, and hurdler Cortney Jones – who are the core group responsible for the Noles’ preseason ranking – will compete. So too will a host of distance runners, including 2018 ACC Indoor mile finalists Maudie Skyring and Jodie Judd.
Among those women making their debut performances in garnet & gold are graduate transfer Rougui Sow from South Carolina, who projects as the second-ranked long jumper national. Southern Miss transfer star Nadia Maffo will debut in the weight throw and Texas transfer Ashley Miller will compete alongside Jones in the 60-meter hurdles. Heralded redshirt freshman Karimah Davis will make her first start as a Nole in the 200-meter dash.
The sprint-heavy men’s lineup will be led by senior Andre Ewers, who is the top returnee nationally in the 60-meter dash and will race in the 200. Fellow senior Darryl Haraway will compete in the 60, while sophomore Trey Cunningham will test his All-American 60-meter hurdles skills against Youngstown’s Chad Zallow, who currently ranks No. 1 nationally.
Among the host of first-year Noles competing are four-time JUCO national champion Sanjae Lawrence and freshman Milton Ingraham in the shot put.
First-year FSU sprinters Michael Timpson Jr., Kasaun James, Jhevaughn Matherson and Bryand Rincher will race in the 60-meter dash. DaeQwan Butler will join Ewers in the 200.