CLEMSON, S.C. – The No. 1 Florida State men and No. 11 women launch their 2020 indoor track & field seasons Saturday at the Orange & Purple Elite meet, where more than 20 athletes will be making their indoor debuts as Noles.
Quality competition at the day-long affair will provide a measuring instrument for the coaching staff, which has praised the offseason conditioning efforts.
In addition to the Noles, No. 8 Florida and No. 24 Georgia are also in the men’s field, while No. 3 Georgia, No. 8 South Carolina and No. 18 Florida highlight a women’s field. ACC rivals Clemson and Georgia Tech are also competing.
“These guys are healthy, ready to go off a good fall, with good reps, a good training atmosphere and really good vibe,” said FSU coach Bob Braman.
“We’ve seen the Texas A&Ms and Florida’s turn the calendar, go into the first meet and knock [NCAA qualifying] stuff out. We’ve always wondered, ‘How in the heck are they doing that?’ Well, we have a chance to do that.”
The women’s pole vault will kick-start the day at 10 a.m. The first track event, the highly-anticipated 60-meter hurdle prelims, at set for 12:30 p.m., with the men’s 4×400 closing out the competition at 7 p.m.
While the Noles are a known commodity in some areas, with the return of All-Americans Kasaun James and Trey Cunningham leading the men and Ka’Tia Seymour and Jayla Kirkland pacing the women, Saturday’s competition will feature a host of newcomers.
Cunningham, who was selected to The Bowerman Watch List, will be joined in the 60-meter hurdles field by transfer All-Americans Caleb Parker and Braxton Canady. That trio comes into the season with three of the nation’s top eight returning times, with junior returnee Tyricke Highman close behind.
All four will be gunning for spots in the finals against quality competition, including 2019 ACC runner-up LaFranz Campbell of Clemson and 2019 NCAA Indoor qualifier Cory Poole of Florida.
An influx of talent in the horizontal jumps also played a role in FSU’s ascent to the No. 1 preseason ranking. Isaac Grimes, the 2019 Division II indoor national champion in the long jump and triple jump runner-up for Chadron State, will make his debut. So will 2018 NJCAA indoor long jump champion Darius Clark, who transfers in from Coffeyville Junior College.
Sophomore transfers Austin Thompson (UNF) and Nick Napier (South Alabama) bolster the Noles’ in the pole vault.
Four freshmen from the state of Florida will also make their indoor debuts, led by sprinter Taylor Banks, who will line up in the 60-meter dash. Banks, who was the 2019 Florida 4A state champion in the 100 and 200 for Miramar High, will be involved in a closely-watch preliminary heat when he lines up in heat one next to Georgia freshman Matthew Boling.
Banks entered the 2019 season as the nation’s top-ranked 100-meter dash runner, but it was Boling who laid claim to that distinction at the end of the year, capped by his four gold medals at the Pan American U20 Games for Team USA.
“That will be pretty cool, because all eyes will be on [Boling], so it gives Taylor a target,” Braman said, noting the contrasting physiques and styles of the two young sprint standouts. “You wonder if Taylor can come in and do something similar to what Bryand Rincher did last year.”
Jeremiah Davis, the 2019 Florida 3A long jump and triple jump champion for Lehigh, will get his first taste of collegiate competition in those events. Freshmen Cameron Daniel (Miami Columbus) and James Rivera (Lakewood Ranch) will compete in the 400 and the 4×400.
Though there are fewer high-profile newcomers who will debut for the FSU women this week, two stand out.
Junior transfer Jazmyn Dennis, who set Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference [MEAC] and Florida A&M records in the pole vault (3.97m/13-0.25) last year, will compete in her specialty event as well as the high jump. Grad student Deja Bush, who spent four seasons terrorizing opponents on the basepaths for the Noles’ national championship softball team, will make her track & field debut in the 60-meter dash. Bush was a standout track and softball athlete at Flanagan High.
Freshman combined event athlete Ella Madson and redshirt freshman Asia McMillon will make their FSU indoor debuts in the 60-meter hurdles, while redshirt junior Sarah Myers leads a group of seven distance runners competing in either the 3000-meter or mile run in their first career indoor races.
While most of FSU’s proven stars – men and women – will be competing in one-off events like the 300-meter dash, Kirkland will launch her junior campaign in the 60-meter dash. Ranked fourth all-time at FSU with a personal-best of 7.24, she will put her outstanding offseason work to a test against a deep field on the track where she won the ACC title as a freshman.
“You remember last year Jayla was on fire and actually ahead of Ka’Tia indoors,” Braman said. “She qualified in both events [for the NCAA Championships] and then got dinged up. It’s exciting to see Jayla kind of get in her own lane and come in with a chance to make a statement.”
Among the entrants in the 60 will be Florida high schooler Briana Williams, the World Athletics U18 100-meter record holder, who will be representing Jamaica in the competition.
“It’s going to be fun to watching the whole thing unfold,” Braman added. “There are people at this meet, whether its Jeremiah Davis and Austin Thompson, who are here to get a conference mark and see where they are. There are a lot of them…You’ve got some conference-level people who are trying to do some damage like Nicole Breske, Jazmyn Dennis and Tee Green. Those are some key conference pieces.
“Indoors is two things – ACCs and Nationals. We have some missions on both sides that we can accomplish. That makes it fun.”
You can follow the Noles throughout the competition via Twitter @FSU_Track and monitor live results here: https://results.adkinstrak.com/meets/4913