TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Sometimes dreams materialize when you least expect them.
That’s certainly the case for Florida State’s Elizabeth Funderburk, whose decorated freshman season will officially come to a close at National Stadium in Queretaro, Mexico this weekend, when she trades her garnet and gold Seminoles track & field singlet for a red, white & blue jersey with USA emblazoned across the chest.
One of three Noles competing at the NACAC U23 Championships, Funderburk is making her debut on the international stage in the competition, which pits competitors from North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
“I definitely dreamed about it, but I didn’t think it would be this summer,” said Funderburk, who will compete in Sunday’s 10,000-meter race. “I was thinking it would be a year or two. This is pretty cool. It will be a good experience just to meet some other people associated with USATF and other athletes.”
The rising sophomore from Moultrie, Ga., who earned All-ACC honors in cross country and during the outdoor season, will be joined on Team USA by All-American and FSU triple jump record-holder Armani Wallace. Shanice Love, who was the NCAA and Jamaica National runner-up in the discus, will represent her home country.
The three-day meet begins Friday, with Love leading off the Noles trio against a stout discus field (8:05 p.m., ET), which includes Iowa’s NCAA champion Laulauga Tasusaga, who will represent the USA. This will be Love’s third time representing Jamaica in international competition. She made her debut in 2016 at the IAFF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, and last summer grabbed bronze at the Central American & Caribbean Games in Barranquilla, Colombia.
Love will also represent Jamaica at the Pan American Games in Peru (July 26-August 11) and at the IAAF World Championships (Sept. 27-Oct. 6) in Doha, Qatar.
Like Love, Wallace is a veteran of international competition. He capped his freshman season at FSU at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where he advanced to the triple jump finals.
“You definitely know what to expect when you’ve been there,” said Wallace, who was third at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with a school record leap of 16.99 meters (55-3). “Obviously, having USA across your chest definitely means a lot. You know what you’re there to do. You know what they’re expecting of you. We don’t call ourselves the best team in the world for no reason. They’re expecting you to win, if not medal. That’s why they brought you. That’s exactly what I’m expecting.”
Wallace, who is the top American collegiate performer in 2019, is scheduled to compete Saturday at 8 p.m. (ET). Among his top competitors will be Texas standout and NCAA finalist O’Brien Waisome, who will represent Jamaica.
The NACAC Championships will serve as his tune-up for the USATF Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, later this month.
“I’m definitely using it as training for that,” he said. “That’s the big one. That’s the one you want to be your best.
“This meet is going to show me where I am. I don’t think I’m far off from nationals, but we’ll see.”
While Love and Wallace had competitive plans for the summer, Funderburk was just getting back into preseason cross country training mode when coach Kelly Phillips called to ask if she would be interested in representing her country in Mexico. Funderburk’s season-best 10,000-meter time of 33:31.05 was third-fastest among freshmen in the US this season and put her in line for a spot on the team.
“Coach called me out of the blue and said you’ve been invited to go to this meet,” said Funderburk, whose season ended at the NCAA East Preliminary meet in late May. “At first it sounded a little crazy. I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve only competed for my high school and FSU.”
Funderburk had to scramble to get a passport three weeks ago, and has ramped up her training a little bit, but hasn’t done any serious speed work in advance of the 24-lap race. She will be joined by Penn State’s Kathryn Munks, representing Team USA in the event.
Funderburk and Munks finished 15th and 22nd, respectively, in the 10,000 at the NCAA East Preliminary.
“I’m hoping my fitness from track is still there and I can bring it back up,” Funderburk said. “Hopefully I can just hang on and have a good time.”
Sunday’s 10,000-meter race is scheduled for 9 a.m. (ET).
The meet will be streamed live by FloTrack https://www.flotrack.org/live/13885-2019-nacac-u18-u23-championships