TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Eight Florida State track & field athletes will represent the Seminoles in 10 events at the NCAA Indoor Championships, March 8-9 at the Birmingham (Ala.) CrossPlex.
The contingent is comprised of four men and four women, with Kasaun James and Jayla Kirkland each qualifying in the 60- and 200-meter dashes; the lone Noles in two events.
The five qualifying spots for the FSU men, who check in at No. 10 in the US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Ratings Index, are seeded among the top nine in their respective events.
They are led by sophomore Trey Cunningham, who won his second consecutive ACC 60-meter hurdle title on Saturday, and owns a share of the school record with a time of 7.53. He trails only two-time defending national champion Grant Holloway (7.43) of Florida and Kentucky’s Daniel Roberts (7.48).
James, the ACC Championship Men’s Track MVP, is the No. 5 seed in both the 60 (6.57) and the 200 (20.56), while senior Armani Wallace, the FSU record-holder in the triple jump, is the No. 6 seed nationally (16.72m/54-10.25). Freshman Bryand Rincher rounds out the group as the No. 9 seed in the 60-meter dash (6.60).
Graduate transfer and ACC champion Rougui Sow is FSU’s highest seed of all, checking in at No. 1 in the women’s long jump following her Saturday win in Blacksburg, Va. The France native posted a personal-best leap of 6.49 meters (21-3.5) for the win and leads the way for the Noles women, who check in at No. 16 in the USTFCCCA Ratings Index this week.
ACC Women’s Championship Track MVP Ka’Tia Seymour is the No. 7 seed in the 60-meter dash (7.21), while Cortney Jones is the No. 8 seed in the 60-meter hurdles. Kirkland, the only qualifier in two events for the women, is seeded No. 11 in the 200 (23.07) and No. 14 in the 60 (7.25).
All four Seminole women participated at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships, with Sow earning first-team All-American honors in the long jump while representing South Carolina, while Seymour (200) and Jones were first-time All-Americans. Kirkland qualified in the 60-meter dash only last season.
“All of our qualifiers are capable of top-five individual finishes,” said FSU coach Bob Braman. “They’re not a large group, but they’re also a group that can contend for a top-10 finish on both sides.”
With only the 16-best declared athletes in each individual event qualifying for the meet, an NCAA Indoor Championships appearance is one of the most difficult of any sport collegiately. No one knows that better than FSU senior Militsa Mircheva, who broke the school record in the 5000-meter run back on Dec. 1 (15:43.30), but came up two spots shy of making her first NCAA Indoor appearance as the No. 18 seed nationally. Stanford’s Abbie McNulty grabbed the last spot at 15:42.13.
“I’m heartbroken for Militsa,” Braman added. “She’s the fastest 5000-meter runner ever to not qualify for nationals.”
Mircheva also came up just shy of the spot in the 3000-meter race as her No. 2 mark all-time among Noles (9:07.33) ranked 22nd nationally.
Among other Noles who came up short were freshman Karimah Davis in the 400 (53.02) and Seymour in the 200 (23.19), both of whom check in at No. 19.
A Tuesday deadline for medical scratches could potentially allow for some additional changes to the initial list of qualifiers.
Unpacking Qualifying and ACC nuggets
• Kasaun James’ ACC Men’s Championship Track MVP was notable on a number of fronts. The junior transfer is the first Seminole since Walter Dix as a freshman in 2005 to win indoor titles in the 60- and 200-meter dash and run on the winning 4×400 relay;
• James may be the No. 5 seed in the 200-meter dash but he has a distinction no one else in the field can claim. He owns head-to-head wins over the 200-meter champions from the SEC (Mustaqeen Williams, Tennessee), Big Ten (Nick Gray, Ohio State) and Big 12 (Divine Oduduru, Texas Tech)…Oduduru is the No. 1 seed at the NCAA meet as the strength of his 20.08 time, which is No. 3 in collegiate history. His only loss this season is to James;
• Both the men’s and women’s teams were forced to step up in the absence of key performers at the ACC Indoor Championships as Jayla Kirkland and Andre Ewers were sidelined by injury. A total of 22 athletes – 12 men and 10 women – out-performed their seeds entering the meet, which is why both teams were in the title hunt until the 4×400 was completed;
• Among those who made the biggest contributions compared to their seeds were freshman DaeQwan Butler, who finished second in the 400 as the No. 10 seed, and classmate Jhevaughn Matherson, who was third in the 200 as the No. 9 seed…on the women’s side, Jogaile Petrokaite entered the meet as the No. 16 seed in the long jump and finished fifth, while Nadia Maffo was the No. 10 seed in the weight throw and placed sixth;
• Janae Caldwell and Jacore Irving made substantial contributions as unsung heroes and first-time ACC scorers. Caldwell came into the meet as the No. 9 seed in the 400 and placed seventh, but along the way lowered her personal-best from 54.63 to 53.91, which ranks No. 7 all-time. The junior also lent a monster 400-meter leg (53.6) to the runner-up DMR…Irving was the No. 9 seed in the triple jump and placed sixth, thanks to a personal-best of 15.31 meters (50-2.75), which destroyed his previous best of 15.02. It was the first 50-foot mark of his career.
• For the first time in FSU history the Noles placed six men in the ACC 60-meter dash finals. The previous high was four, which had been done three times previously. The group contributed 25 points to the final day rally…it should be noted that FSU is the only team in the nation with five athletes ranked among the top 35 nationally in the 60-meter dash…FSU also qualified an all-time high of five to the 200-meter final and they combined for 29 points.
• Finally, no school produced more All-ACC honorees than Florida State at the ACC Indoor Championships. The Noles finished with 31 combined between the men and women, including 14 first-team selections; seven each, men and women. Virginia Tech was next on the list with 28 combined honorees.