BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – In a performance reminiscent of the Florida State track & field teams that posted five, top-five NCAA Indoor Championship finishes between 2006 and 2011, the 10th-ranked Seminole men rose up to grab a share of sixth place Saturday at the CrossPlex.
The Noles scored 24 points on the way to their best finish since placing fourth in 2014 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. By sharing sixth place with top-ranked Texas Tech, FSU authored the seventh-best finish in program history with their eighth-highest point total at the meet.
Kasaun James grabbed silver in the 200-meter dash and Trey Cunningham was the 60-meter hurdles bronze medalist, leading the way, but all four men competing over five events on the final day turned in scoring performances. The five first-team All-American performances are the most since the third-place 2009 team collected six.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our men,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “Only Trey had ever scored before at an NCAA Championship and they handled the pressure brilliantly.
“That was a fantastic performance. When Andre [Ewers] got hurt in January it would’ve been pretty easy to pack it and wait for outdoors. This group rallied up and finished the mission. We definitely took a step forward and put our program back on the national stage.”
Sophomore Ka’Tia Seymour, the lone finalist for the FSU women on Saturday, rose to the occasion in the 60-meter final. Bursting from the blocks the Palatka, Fla. native held the lead late and ran through the line in a lifetime-best 7.19 to finish third.
“I’m very proud of it,” Seymour said of her continuing improvement out of the blocks. “It’s been a long, long time. I’ve never had a start and I’m very excited I have one now.”
USC’s Twanisha Terry won the gold in 7.14, with Texas’ Teahana Daniels edging Seymour by two-thousandths of a second for the silver in a 1-2-3 finish by Florida high school products.
“I definitely thought I might have won it,” said Seymour, who equaled former NCAA champion Michelle Finn’s No. 2 time in program history. “I was so surprised about my performance that I couldn’t really believe it.
“I’m super happy; I’m excited. No matter the outcome, I did what I had to do. This outdoor season, I know it’s going to be amazing, because now I have so much confidence in my start, and finish.”
Seymour’s finish was the best by an FSU women’s sprinter since Tonya Carter won the 60-meter national title in 2000, and the best in any event by a Seminole since Colleen Quigley was third in the mile in 2015.
“Ka’Tia has reached a whole new level,” Braman said. “She had the lead with 20 meters to go and that’s an amazing place to be for such a young sprinter. She could be our next national sprint champion come outdoor season.”
Cunningham was the first to earn a place on the awards podium. Out quickly from the blocks in the middle of the track he was unable to remain clean over the barriers, as Florida’s Grant Holloway and Kentucky’s Daniel Roberts finished 1-2 with the two-fastest times (7.35 and 7.41) in collegiate history.
Cunningham was a clear third in 7.64 in front of a huge gathering of fans in his home state.
“I was with them until hurdle two, I believe, and then I hit something,” Cunningham said. “I still tried to stay in it, but they just kept going and going. That’s what I expected in the final. You’ve just got to put it all together.”
The men’s 60-meter final didn’t quite produce the point haul the Noles had hoped for, but it did produce a fitting cap to the remarkable freshman season of Bryand Rincher. With a calm belying his years and experience, Rincher finished fifth, matching his sea-level season best of 6.60.
James, seeded third entering the final, was slow out of the blocks and never recovered in an eighth-place finish.
“Bryand’s debut NCAA meet was really impressive,” Braman said. “He went toe-to-toe with some of the nation’s best sprinters and ran right at his lifetime best on both days.”
The first freshman to make the finals since Walter Dix in 2005 actually finished one place better higher than the Seminole great did that year. Rincher, running indoor for the first time this season, had trouble grasping the significance of his performance on a larger scale.
“I actually wasn’t nervous yesterday or today,” Rincher said. “I kept it as a regular meet; kept my focus like I usually have it and just went out and did my best…I think if I really put my mind to it, I could do better, but it’s a great start for me as a freshman.”
James didn’t have to wait long to make amends for his 60-meter dash disappointment. Seeded second to Texas Tech’s Divine Oduduru entering their head-to-head final, James went on the offensive out of the blocks.
“The 60 was very disappointing, but in the world of track & field you have to shake it off if you have another event,” James said. “Coach [Rick Argro] told me, ‘forget about it, you still have the 200 to go.’ That’s what I did and just came back harder for the 200.
“I got out great and felt amazing, then going up on the turn I felt my hamstring tighten up on me. I knew it wasn’t pulled because I’ve pulled my hamstring before. I just refused to stop running. Eventually it caught up to me, but I gave it all I had.”
Oduduru pulled ahead in the closing meters and held on for the gold in 20.49, with James second in 20.56.
“Kasaun’s revenge race in the 200 was as gutsy a race as I’ve ever seen,” Braman said. “His hamstring grabbed coming off the final curve and he dug down deep and almost won.”
The Arkansas Baptist transfer, who is the first Nole to earn first-team All-American honors in two individual events since Maurice Mitchell in 2012, credited his growth this season for his ability to bounce back.
“I’ve grown a lot mentally,” James said. “Before, if I’d do bad in a race it messes with my other races. I’ve grown a lot mentally, physically and emotionally. It just shows me, no matter what, I am a competitor, that I can do what I set out to do.”
The same could be said for senior triple jumper Armani Wallace. Fighting through injuries and previous shortcomings on the NCAA Championship stage, the Orlando native rose up and delivered a fourth-place finish with a leap of 16.51 meters (54-2).
“Armani’s has a great senior indoor season and he kept that roll going today,” Braman said of his co-captain, who came into the competition as the No. 6 seed. “He exceeded his seed mark and that’s as good as you can expect at this meet.”
By nabbing first-team All-American honors for the first time in four NCAA Championships appearance, he putting a fitting cap on his school-record indoor campaign.
“Last year I didn’t even make the final,” Wallace said. “This year I think I handled the pressure a lot better. I had a couple nicks during the competition, which happens when you’re trying to go all out and do your thing. I’m proud, but I’m not content.”
Wallace overcame an aborted first attempt to earn a spot in the finals with his second mark of the competition, then climbed all the way to second before finishing fourth.
“It was good to see myself be able to regroup after bailing out, because I did that at nationals last year,” Wallace said. “I bailed out of my first jump last year and that kept me out of the finals. I couldn’t get back into my groove after I did that. Today I was able to calm myself down, get in a groove, execute, get after it and do my thing.
“I proved to myself to be one of the top jumpers in the nation. Hopefully this outdoor season I can move up in the rankings and do better.”
And as excited as Wallace was with his performance, he was even happier to be a part of the Seminoles’ renaissance on the championship stage.
“These guys came to play and I love that about them,” he said of his teammates.