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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Bolting from the starting gate like a team on a mission, the 11th-ranked Florida State women opened the ACC Outdoor Track & Field Championships with a 39-point scoring barrage, building a 14-point lead following Thursday’s opening action.
The Noles started fast and finished faster, and while they didn’t get all of the big points they had hoped for, it was clear from the start that they have every intention of leaving Virginia’s Lannigan Field on Saturday with their fifth ACC title.
From junior Nadia Maffo’s enormous hammer personal-best in the first final of the meet, to sophomore Megan Mooney’s seven-second personal-best to give the Noles three 1500-meter finalists, they were on-point from the start.
Rougui Sow and Jogaile Petrokaite dialed up season-best efforts in the long jump for a 1-2 finish, accounting for 18 of those points. The seniors came into the meet seeded third and fifth, respectively, but turned the competition into their own duel in the sand, swapping leads throughout.
“Our women had an incredible day,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “The massive PB’s for Maffo and Mooney exemplify the spirit of this team; rising to the occasion on the biggest stage. Rougui and JoJo put themselves into the national conversation with their jumps, and our 1-2-6 qualifying in the 200 from the sprint ladies was absolutely huge.
“Nearly lost in all this success was excellent  qualifying from Judd and Skyring. We really brought our A-game today.”
The Seminole women carry a 14-point lead over Notre Dame and Virginia Tech into Friday’s schedule, which will include critical qualifying preliminaries in the 400, 100 and 800 and Nicole Breske in the pole vault; the lone scoring opportunity for the women.
Sophomore Jacore Irving was responsible for all of the men’s scoring on Thursday, rising up with his second personal-best long jump of the day on his final attempt to finish second. Irving needed a third-round personal-best of 7.52 meters (24-9) just to get into the final, then climbed from fourth to second with his final attempt burst of 7.56m (24-9.75).
“Jacore Irving was a beast today,” Braman said. “He’s gone from a walk-on from Sneads to ACC runner-up in 18 months. That’s unbelievable!”
Andre Ewers began his bid to become the first Seminole to win back-to-back 100- and 200-meter dash titles, qualifying second in the 200 in a comfortable time of 20.66; second-fastest in the field. He will be joined by Michael Timpson Jr., who nabbed the final qualifying spot in 21.08.
Senior Istvan Szogi was positioned to grab a spot in the 1500-meter final coming off the final turn in Thursday’s preliminary heat, but he was tripped up and crashed to the track, ending those hopes. Meet officials denied a protest by Braman to have Szogi automatically advanced into the final.
Decathletes David Lott and Hunter Napier are in the thick of the scoring race, midway through their 10-event competition. Lott posted personal-bests in the long jump and shot put on the way to a Day 1 total of 3,457 points, which leaves him in seventh place but on pace for a lifetime-best. Napier recorded personal-bests in the 100, shot put and 400 and begins Thursday in ninth place with 3,286 points, which is also on pace to smash his previous personal-best of 6,042 points.
“We got the job done in the 200,” Braman said of the men. “That will be a dual meet with Virginia Tech on Saturday, but we need to have a huge day tomorrow if we’re going to be able to defend out title.”
The Noles send seven men into the 100-meter dash preliminaries, five of whom are among the top nine seeds, led by Ewers. DaeQwan Butler and Kyle Fearrington lead a quartet of FSU hopefuls in the 400-meter prelims. Qualifying will also be contested in the 110-meter hurdles and the 800.
In addition to the conclusion of the decathlon, the Noles will also have scoring opportunities in the shot put (Sanjae Lawrence), high jump (Christoff Bryan), hammer (Brandon Tirado) and steeplechase (Michael Hall).
Thursday, those scoring opportunities fell to the women, and they delivered.
Veronika Kanuchova and Maffo led things off by finishing fourth and fifth in the hammer, putting the first nine points of the meet on the scoreboard. The top seed entering the meet, Kanuchova never quite found her rhythm, managing a top throw of 65.17 meters (213-9), which would have been good enough to win the last seven ACC titles.
Maffo helped make up that scoring void with a fifth-round throw of 64.53 meters (211-8), smashing her previous personal best by more than nine feet to place fifth.
On the track, freshman Elizabeth Funderburk’s ACC Championship debut in the 10,000 meter run produced a fifth-place finish in 34:18.31; good for four team points and second-team All-ACC honors.
Lauri Paredes’ javelin title defense came up one position short as the favorite was second with a top throw of 53.77 meters (176-5), which was just an inch shy of her winning throw last season.
The Noles were nothing short of sensational in 200-meter and 1500-meter qualifying, advancing three in each event to Saturday’s final.
Ka’Tia Seymour (22.96), Jayla Kirkland (23.36) and Shauna Helps (23.58) each ran season-best times, qualifying 1-2-6 in the 200.
While Jodie Judd (4:25.93) and Maudie Skyring (4:26.33) finished 1-3 in the second heat to automatically advance to the 1500 final, it was Mooney who stole the show. Battling with the lead pack from the start in heat three, she came off the final curve in third place. Unable to hold that position for an automatic qualifying berth, she sped across the line in 4:21.30 – fourth-fastest in the entire field of 30 – to advance on time.
Mooney entered the meet with a lifetime-best of 4:28.23.
Friday’s action begins at 11 a.m. with the 110 hurdles for the decathlon.
You can follow the action via Twitter @FSU_Track and on Instragram @fsu_track. A complete recap will be posted to Seminoles.com at the conclusion of the day.