TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – National titles, World Championship berths and even a bit of revenge; there is no shortage of motivating factors in the track & field world this weekend for a host of Florida State athletes, past and present.
Five members of the 2017 Florida State program will be in Sacramento, Calif. competing at Hornet Stadium in the USATF Outdoor and Junior Outdoor Championships, which run from June 22-25. Four others will be in Kingston at National Stadium for the Jamaica National Senior Championships, June 22-25. Another will compete June 23-24 at the Bahamas National Open Championship in Freeport.
Of the 10 2017 Noles competing to represent their respective countries, seven will return to Tallahassee next season.
“This is a great experience for a lot of really young kids,” said Florida State coach Bob Braman, who will be in Sacramento, along with assistants Dennis Nobles and Brandon Hon. “A bulk of these kids are going to be around Florida State for a long time.”
FSU throws coach Dorian Scott will be in Jamaica with the competing quartet, which is led by a trio of throwers.
Freshman Cortney Jones will kick off the three-meet weekend in Sacramento in the 100-meter hurdles, with her preliminary round set for Friday at 2:55 p.m. (ET). Jones, a January enrollee at FSU who qualified for the NCAA Championships as a 17-year-old freshman, enters the competition as the No. 3 seed among Junior women with a season-best time of 13.06. A top-three heat finish will secure the former Rockdale County (Ga.) star a spot in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. final.
Fellow freshman Kyle Fearrington will compete in the opening round of the Junior Men’s 400-meter dash. He enters the meet on the heels of a breakout season, which included a fourth-place finish at the ACC Outdoor Championships and a trip to the NCAA East quarterfinal round. The Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake grad is the No. 6 seed in a field of 10 with a season-best time of 46.58 and a good bet to make Saturday’s final.
Freshman Steven Cross, who sat out the spring as a redshirt, is the No. 1 seed in Saturday’s Junior Men’s 10,000-meter run (11:45 a.m.), thanks to his runner-up finish at the Penn Relays in 29:31.22.
“We’re excited because there’s a good chance that a Steven Cross and Cortney Jones could make the PanAm Junior team and that kind of experience, making a US team, is a really, really big jumping off point for them as they head into next year,” Braman said.
“Kyle Fearrington has a shot as well…It’s a great opportunity for these kids to compete against the best of their age – 19 and under – in the country. That’s going to translate into a heck of a lot of development.”
Also in action Friday (9 p.m.) in Sacramento is sophomore triple jumper Armani Wallace. Ninth at the NCAA Championships two weeks ago, the Orlando native represented the US at the 2016 IAAF World Junior Championships, after finishing second at last year’s Junior Outdoor Championships. He qualified for his first US Senior competition with a season-best leap of 16.32 meters in his ACC title-winning performance.
“I think the same development theme is present with Armani,” Braman said. “He got a lot of mileage out of competing at World Juniors last year. I think it made him a lot better jumper and I think this past year we saw signs of that, like when he went double-champion against very good people in the ACC.
“He just didn’t quite get, in the cold and rain of Oregon, what he deserved at the NCAA Championships, so this is going to be a good opportunity for him…to push that PB out there without any pressure at all. He’s probably only going to get three jumps. If he makes the final he’ll probably have to go 16.60 ot 16.70, but Dennis feels he can do that.”
Graduate student and NCAA Championships qualifier Ed’Ricus Williams qualified for Sunday’s high jump competition with a season-best leap of 2.22m, and has ample motivation after failing to clear a bar in Eugene, Ore.
Braman compared Williams’ situation 2016 FSU senior Der’Renae Freeman, who failed to reach the finals at the NCAA Championships in the long jump, but was chasing a spot on the US Olympic team after reaching the finals at the trials.
“Ed’Ricus obviously can’t help Florida State anymore but he can go out there in the garnet and gold one more time and put a big mark out there and help fly the Florida State flag and show what we’re capable of,” Braman added.
Friday’s action in Kingston will be equally compelling, with Kellion Knibb, Gleneve Grange and Shanice Love competing in the women’s discus (4:30 p.m., ET). The trio of Noles are among nine U.S. collegiate athletes in the field of 13 competitors.
Knibb, who is coming off a heart-wrenching third-place finish at the NCAA Championships, provides the most compelling storyline of the weekend. The most decorated women’s thrower in FSU history was two throws away from an NCAA title before she was upended by Kansas State’s Shadae Lawrence, who also broke Knibb’s three-year hold on the Jamaican national record earlier in the season. They enter the competition as the top two seeds.
“Kellion wants revenge over her good friend and countrywoman from Kansas State and she does not want to be left off the Jamaican National team after making the Olympic team,” Braman said. “She’s got her hair on fire as she goes back to Jamaica.
“Even if she had won the NCAA Championships, she would have been unhappy…She’s pretty fired up.”
The same could be said of Grange, whose redshirt junior season concluded with an eighth-place discus finish at the NCAA Championships. She will also compete in Saturday’s shot put competition (4 p.m.), after setting FSU records both indoors and outdoors this season.
“Gleneve didn’t have her best meet either. She scored and that’s great for a first-timer, but Gleneve has shown signs of throwing 58 meters plus,” Braman said. “If she does that, she just might sneak in [to medal contention].”
Love, who placed 12th at the NCAA Championships in her freshman year with a collegiate-best mark, will be looking to take the next step in her progression.
“Shanice is just like Kyle Fearrington and Armani,” said Braman. “She’s is going to get the big boy experience and maybe she can add a couple meters to that PB and when she comes back next year, she’s already at that higher level.”
Peta-Gay Williams, who was 10th at the NCAA Championships in her 100-meter hurdles debut, is the No. 6 seed in the event at the Jamaican National Senior Championships. With a season-best of 12.96 the sophomore Seminole has a realistic chance of earning a spot at the World Championships. Williams’ qualifying heat is Sunday at 4:40 p.m., with the finals following just over an hour later.
Rounding out Friday’s action, sophomore Shaquania Dorsett will compete in the women’s 400-meter dash prelims at the Bahamas National Open Championship in Freeport. Already holding a World Championships qualifying mark, she will try and build on her NCAA Championships qualifying performance when the gun sounds at 6:45 p.m., with her final set for Saturday.
“Shaquania has had a monster year, running 52.13. As long as she’s healthy she has always run really well in these international meets. She wears the Bahamas colors with a lot of pride. She will give them a great 4×400 leg.”
In addition to the current Noles, a handful of former FSU greats will also be in action at their respective national championship meets, including men’s sprint standouts Walter Dix, who won a pair of bronze medals at the 2008 Olympic Games, and NCAA 60-meter champion Dentarius Locke. Locke will compete in the first round of the men’s 100-meter dash tonight at 9:35 p.m. (ET) in Sacramento, with the semis and finals set for Friday.
Dix will compete in the 200-meter dash, with the first round scheduled for Saturday (2:48 p.m., ET) and the semis and finals set for Sunday.
Also on Sunday, Kimberly Williams will try and extend her lengthy streak of consecutive Jamaican national triple jump titles, which dates back to her days as a five-time NCAA champion for the Noles between 2008-11. Williams has reached the Olympic finals in 2012 and 2016.