BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Florida State men’s sprint squad extended their brilliant season and will have the company of an elite hurdler as well on the final day of the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Posting season-bests in the 60- (6.55) and 200-meter dashes (20.49), junior Kasaun James qualified for the finals with the third- and second-fastest times, in the respective events. He is joined by Bryand Rincher, who qualified sixth (6.60) and is the first Seminole freshman to advance to the 60-meter final since Walter Dix in 2005.
Sophomore Trey Cunningham joins them, blasting his way to the 60-meter hurdle finals in 7.55, as the No. 2 qualifier.
It was a strong performance for the 10th-ranked Seminole men, who will have four scoring opportunities, with triple jumper Armani Wallace joining the aforementioned trio for Saturday’s finale at the CrossPlex.
The men didn’t have all the fun. Sophomore Ka’Tia Seymour advanced to the 60-meter dash final, qualifying fourth-fastest in 7.24. Seymour, who was 13th as a freshman, is the first Seminole to reach the shortest sprint final since Tonya Carter won the 2000 NCAA title.
“It feels good,” Seymour said. “I believe I have a good chance. I’m happy because last year I didn’t get out like I was supposed. This year I did. I’m super excited to see what I can do tomorrow.”
FSU coach Bob Braman was especially happy for the diminutive speedster from Palatka, Fla., who will be the lone finalist for the Seminole women.
“Ka’Tia looks like her old self,” Braman said. “She’s finally healthy and peaking at the right time. I’m really proud of how hard she’s fought to get back to this level.”
The opening night belonged to the men’s team, which rose to the occasion and was a perfect 4-for-4 in qualifying opportunities.
Cunningham got things going. After watching collegiate record-holder and two-time defending champion Grant Holloway of Florida qualify from heat one in a facility and meet record time of 7.44, the Winfield, Ala. native exploded from the blocks and ran away from his heat in 7.55.
“Trey looked awfully comfortable here at the CrossPlex,” Braman said. “That was an impressive opener.
Who knows what kind of magic he may come up with in the final.”
Fifty minutes later the sprint crew took center stage in the 60-meter prelims, with James and Rincher lining up in heat two along with a trio Florida Gators, led by Holloway, the No. 1 seed.
All five advanced to the finals, with James trailing Holloway and Hakim Sani Brown across the finish line; the trio separated by just two-tenths of a second. Rincher was fourth and UF’s Ryan Clark was fifth.
“Our 60-meter men really came through,” Braman said. “It’s their first NCAA meet and Kasaun runs a lifetime best, and Bryand was just a tick off…They can score some huge team points for us.”
James, the ACC 60- and 200-meter champion, is equally excited about the opportunity.
“There’s definitely more in the tank for the 60 because my blocks moved coming out and it kind of threw me off,” James said. “Coach [Rick Argro] taught me how to keep my cool throughout the race, so the 60 is definitely going to be a shocker tomorrow.”
He wasn’t done. Paired with No. 1 seed Divine Oduduru in his heat, he rolled to a sea-level career best of 20.49. That trailed only Oduduru’s winning time of 20.31.
“Kasaun was a beast,” Braman said.
It was quite a day for the Arkansas Baptist transfer who arrived at FSU with personal-bests of 6.73 and 20.87 in the 60 and 200, and now finds himself toe-to-toe with the nation’s best in both events.
“That’s what I had on my mind at the beginning of the season,” James said. “The first time on this stage against this level of competition showed me that I can just be myself.”
It was a tough day for the 14th-ranked FSU women, right from the start. Junior Cortney Jones, who has missed considerable practice time over the past month nursing an injury, turned in a season-best of 8.06. That left her two spots shy of a place in the 60-meter hurdle finals.
“I really felt bad for Cortney,” Braman said. “She’s been banged up the whole Indoor season and almost grabbed a spot in the final. She’s probably only two weeks away from being a top 3-4 finisher.”
Fourth a year ago, Jones’ lone consolation was that she finished first among the four qualifiers from the ACC, just two weeks after placing third at the conference championship meet.
Jayla Kirkland, competing in front of her hometown crowd in the 60- and 200-meter prelims, was unable to advance. A tender leg which forced her to pull out of the ACC Championship meet wasn’t quite strong enough as she was 10th in the 60 (7.33) and 15th in the 200 (23.70).
“She fought her heart out but you can’t make an NCAA final at less than 100-percent,” Braman said. “She’ll make All-American outdoors I’m sure.”
The toughest blow of the night came for graduate transfer Rougui Sow. The two-time indoor All-American in the long jump at South Carolina, she came into the meet as the No. 1 seed, but never quite found her rhythm on the runway. Sow advanced to the finals and was in sixth place entering the final round of jumps but tumbled all the way to ninth, and out of the scoring.
“One of the hardest things in our sport is to wear the favorite crown,” Braman said. “Rougui will learn from this experience. It’s a one-day sport and no one really pays attention to the seedings.”
The Seminoles will get Saturday underway with Cunningham competing in the 60-meter hurdle finals at 5:40 p.m. (ET). Wallace will begin the triple jump at 6 p.m.
Seymour’s 60-meter dash final is set for 6:10, with James and Rincher following her to the starting line at 6:20. The men’s 200-meter final is set for 7 p.m.
The meet will be streamed live on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN App at 5:00 p.m. https://es.pn/2SLHnz6
You can follow the Noles with live updates via Twitter @FSU_Track and Instagram @fsu_track and live results can be found here: https://on.ncaa.com/2IEstuU