JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Combining for six qualifiers on the final day of the NCAA East Preliminary, the Florida State track & field teams will be well-represented in Austin, Texas at the NCAA Championships.
Cortney Jones and Ka’Tia Seymour qualified individually in the 100-meter hurdles and in the 200-meter dash, respectively, and contributed the middle legs on the advancing 4×100 relay on a sweltering Saturday at North Florida’s Hodges Stadium.
Just seconds apart, seniors Andre Ewers and Armani Wallace locked down qualifying spots in the 200-meter dash and triple jump for the Noles men, who also advanced the 4×100 relay.
The seventh-ranked Florida State women’s track & field team will be sending 11 qualifiers on to the NCAA Championships, while the 19th-ranked men will carry four to Austin for the June 5-8 meet.
The Noles hit the ground running, with both relay teams laying down season-best times, and new FSU top-10 all-time marks.
The women’s quartet of Karimah Davis, Seymour, Jones and Jayla Kirkland pushed LSU, the defending national champions, to the wire, finishing second in the second heat in 43.38. That is the fifth-fastest time in program history and ended up as the fourth-best time on the day.
“It felt really good, mostly because when the first race is done and your body is feeling good, you know it’s going to be a great day,” Seymour said. “It was relieving, knowing my 4×100 [teammates] are going with me, so I just needed to go and get the 200 to repeat the triple.”
Bryand Rincher, Jhevaughn Matherson, Michael Timpson and Ewers won the first heat in 39.04, with Ewers running down North Carolina A&T anchor Rodney Rowe for the automatic qualifying spot. The time – second-fastest on the day – was good enough to take over the No. 10 spot on FSU’s all-time list.
Ewers said the 4×100 was just what he needed to move on from the disappointment of not qualifying in the 100-meter dash on Friday.
“It helped me a lot,” he said. “After the 100 happened, my perspective on it was, ‘Maybe this is God’s plan for me and he wants me to focus on the 200.’ I got the 4×1 and went out and dropped the hammer on that and got loose.”
Before Seymour and Ewers returned to the track for the 200, Jones had business to handle in the 100-meter hurdles. She did that, nailing down an automatic qualifying spot with a runner-up finish in the second heat. Finishing in 12.87, the junior will make her third NCAA Championship appearance riding a string of five consecutive sub-13 second races and eager to improve on her bronze medal finish a year ago.
“Cortney makes 12.87 look so easy,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “She’ll notch it up at Nationals.”
Kirkland was first up in the opening heat of the 200 quarterfinals and the sophomore responded with her collegiate-best time of 23.12, finishing fifth in a blazing fast section. She was still hanging on to one of the three qualifying positions on time until the third heat crossed the finish line.
Trailing NCAA leader Kayla White of North Carolina A&T and Kentucky’s Abby Steiner at the finish, Seymour finished third in a new personal-best of 22.73; one of four sub-23 times in the section.
“I’m so happy with everything right now,” Seymour said. “My goal was to come here and qualify in three events and at least PB in one event and I accomplished both goals. Hopefully when we get to Austin, everything goes correctly and I’m in three finals.”
Kirkland, who had qualified in the 100 as well as with the relay team, was nudged from the field, finishing 14th.
“Ka’Tia ran fantastic,” Braman said. “She’ll be a factor at Nationals. Jayla was only two-tenths of a second from making Nationals. She’s done such a great job the whole outdoor season.”
As Ewers was preparing to climb into the starting blocks for the 200, Wallace was capping a strong triple jump series with a third and final attempt of 16.49 meters (54-1.25). That pushed him past national leader and ACC champion Jordan Scott of Virginia for the No. 1 qualifying spot.
“He’s really in a zone right now,” Braman said of Wallace.
Ewers followed with the finest 200 of his career. The 2018 NCAA runner-up hammered the opening curve and powered up the straightaway, closing in 20.14 for second place in his heat, posting the third-fastest time of the day.
“Sometimes you’re not going to have a great meet, so I can’t let one race define me and affect my next race,” Ewers said. “I had to refocus and put that  behind me. I kept my composure and executed, and there’s a lot more in the tank.”
It also moved him to No. 5 on FSU’s all-time list behind NCAA record-holder Walter Dix, Mike Roberson, Brian Dzingai and Maurice Mitchell.
“That was a great race for Andre; a lifetime best and a truly world-class time,” Braman added.
Saturday was not without some disappointments.
Sophomore Trey Cunningham, who sat out the ACC Championships and has been limited for nearly a month due to a leg injury, will not get a chance to improve on his fourth-place finish at the 2018 NCAA Championships in the 110-meter hurdles.
Cunningham was leading heat two of the quarterfinals, even after clipping the eighth hurdle, but the No. 4 national seed slammed the 10th and final hurdle and was unable to recover. His time of 13.82 left him in 15th place.
“Unfortunately, Trey couldn’t pull it off,” Braman said. “He ran a gutsy race and even lead through eight hurdles…If it’s two weeks later and he’s back in the groove he wins that heat.”
Sophomore Jacore Irving was on the precipice of his first NCAA Championship appearance in the triple jump after launching a third attempt mark of 15.61 meters (51-2.75), which moved him into 10th place. Moments later he was eclipsed by three jumpers in succession, finishing the painful 13th position; the first man out of the field.
“I’m sick for Jacore to get so close and be first man out of Nationals,” Braman said. “He always competes like a Tiger.”
Junior Sanjae Lawrence authored his best shot put series of the season, but his top throw of 18.38 meters (60-3.75) left him in 17th position.
Freshman Trentorria Green backed up her breakout ACC performance in the triple jump with a 12.45-meter leap (40-10.25) to place 29th, while the 1500-meter duo of Jodie Judd (4:25.30) and Maudie Skyring (4:25.86) faded over a blazing final lap to finish 19th and 21st.