EUGENE, Ore. – The most successful athletes, at any level, are those capable of managing the moment and rising to even the greatest challenges before them.
Authoring another defining moment on the grandest stage of her redshirt freshman season, Florida State’s Veronika Kanuchova is the first women’s hammer All-American in school history.
Kanuchova’s fifth-place finish Thursday at Historic Hayward Field was nothing more than a notable footnote to her arrival at that position in her NCAA Championships debut.
As the final thrower in the second flight of competition, the Slovakia native was coming off a foul and in 13th-place entering the ring for her final attempt. One month after delivering a winning mark on her final attempt for the ACC title, Kanuchova slung her way into the finals with a school-record 65.85-meter (216-0) mark, carrying her all the way into second place.
“It gave me a lot of confidence,” Kanuchova said, after breaking the FSU record she set in March season debut. “It gave me a lot of energy.”
Riding that energy and adding to her record, Kanuchova’s fifth-round 65.97m (216-5) highlighted the finest series of what had been something of an uneven season of performances.
“It was the best competition this year technically, because I found something I had been missing all season,” Kanuchova said. “I finally found it in the right place, at the right time and in the right competition. So I’m glad it was like this. I’m kind of sad, but I’m kind of happy.”
After pacing nervously throughout the competition, FSU throws coach Dorian Scott was basking in Kanuchova’s success.
“She seems to buck up when her back is against the wall,” Scott said. “We’ve practiced that situation a couple times this last week. ‘Hey, you’ve two fouls, let’s see you make the final.’ Each time she always bucked up and got the job done. Veronika is special…She is doing what she’s supposed to do.
“This is perfect. This is how we want to end the season. She is here to have expectations. I expect her to be upset when she gets fifth, even if it’s a season-best and she breaks the school record. That’s the kind of person we want at FSU.”
“That’s really heady stuff for a freshman,” Florida State head coach Bob Braman said.
Heady indeed, especially given the circumstances leading up to Thursday’s competition.
“She had the flu last week and she had three days off from lifting and throwing, and I don’t like days off at all, unless it’s NCAA mandated,” Scott said. “When she came back she looked fresh, she looked relaxed and I saw some throws that showed she had some consistency that said, ‘Hey, this is right on time.’
“We came out on the West coast and jumped into that competition circle and the two sessions she had, the same technique carried over. We’ve had a rough season. She’s been a little inconsistent, so I was holding on tight. Once I saw the first throw and the second throw…and they were clean and her rhythm was not being manipulated by the pressure, I knew we were going to have a good day.”
Kanuchova sensed a breakthrough was in the offing.
“I was struggling all season,” she said. “It was so frustrating, so you lose your energy, you lose your motivation, but day-by-day I was finding myself. I finally found my rhythm so I forgot what happened. You need to forget what happened in order to go forward.”
And she could not have found it at a more fitting time or location.
“That’s huge for us to see the last two months that we’ve done the right things,” Scott said. “I know when the pressure is on I can trust her.”
While Kanuchova’s NCAA Championships debut was a rousing success, three of her teammates found the going a little more difficult in their initial foray on the big stage.
Sophomore Peta-Gay Williams ran 13.22 for fourth place in heat one of the 100-meter hurdle preliminaries and wound up 10th overall; just .12 of a finals qualifying spot on time.
Running in heat two, 17-year-old freshman Cortney Jones’ magical campaign, which began with her early enrollment in January, ended with a sixth-place heat finish in 13.30. Jones wound up 15th overall.
“Our young hurdle ladies have had a fantastic season,” Braman said. “They’ve crushed their personal-best times all season. Today they were a little tight and couldn’t seem to get warm enough in the mid-50s temperatures. That’s a tough assignment when all your training is in 85-90 degree heat, but second-team All-Americans for first-timers ain’t bad.”
The Seminoles will return to action Friday with the men taking center stage for their final day, and be joined by Melissa-Maree Farrington’s opening day of heptathlon competition. Farrington will take the track in the 100-meter hurdles at 3:30 p.m. (ET) and be followed by Ed’Ricus Williams in the high jump (8 p.m.), Emmanuel Onyia in the discus (8:05) and the triple jump tandem of Montel Nevers and Armani Wallace (8:40 p.m.).
You can follow the Noles throughout the day via Twitter @FSU_Track and keep tabs through live results at noles.co/2rWl2VW
The complete ESPN broadcast schedule for the entire meet can be found here: http://noles.co/2qYz4mD