AUSTIN, Texas – Competing like a team every bit as good as its No. 3 national ranking, the Florida State women’s track & field team opened its NCAA Championships competition Thursday by setting two school records and adding four other personal- or season-best performances.
While the Noles only managed four points – a career-best, fifth-place long jump finish from Rougui Sow – they set themselves up for a big finish.
Sophomore Ka’Tia Seymour qualified for Saturday’s 100- and 200-meter dash finals, and anchored the 4×100 relay to a second consecutive trip to the finals. Junior Cortney Jones also advanced to the 100-meter hurdles finals for the second consecutive year.
It was midnight when Sow stepped up on the podium to receive her hardware; the fruit of her season-best, sixth-round leap of 6.49 meters (21-3.5). The graduate transfer from South Carolina was both frustrated and relieved.
“I’m not going to lie, I’ve never felt that good and not being on the board was frustrating, because I could have gone way farther,” said Sow, France’s reigning national champion. “I’m very thankful that I made All-American, which I didn’t do during indoors. I finished fifth which was my best.
“Everybody was here to support me…I’m really thankful to be able to wear the FSU shirt and do my best to bring points to my team. That was my objective. I want to think Coach Keith [Herston] and Coach Aniis [Hopkins] for all of the hard work that they put in with me.”
Sow wasn’t the only Nole to reach the long jump final. Senior Jogaile Petrokaite advanced to her first final in three NCAA Outdoor appearances on the strength of her opening-round leap of 6.39 meters (20-11.75). She was fifth entering the finals but slipped to ninth in the final round, settling for second-team All-American honors, just as Sow did during the indoor season.
Veronika Kanuchova also had the dubious distinction of placing ninth in one of the most competitive hammer competitions in NCAA Championships history. Breaking her own school record with a sixth-round throw of 67.37 meters (221-0) – more than 1.5 meters further than her fifth-place mark at the 2017 NCAA Championships – she authored five marks superior to her best from two years earlier.
“I couldn’t ask any more from Veronika,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “What a series. It was just historically good. Honestly, I thought 67 meters would be top-four.”
As it turned out, two throwers eclipsed 71 meters and two others exceeded 69.
Senior Militsa Mircheva was the only other Nole to compete in a final Thursday, placing 18th in the 10,000-meter run (34:29.41).
Lauri Paredes’ javelin final was moved to Friday (3:30 p.m., ET) after a pair of weather delays forced meet officials to reschedule the event.
On the track, the Noles’ qualifying efforts started fast and finished even faster.
FSU’s 4×100 relay team of Karimah Davis, Jayla Kirkland, Shauna Helps and Seymour automatically advanced with a second-place finish in the third heat to get the day going. Their time of 43.23 ranked seventh-fastest on the day, but ranks third in Seminole history.
“I’m just grateful to be here, back from being injured all year long,” said Helps, who rejoined the team and will now get one final race to close her career. “I’m just thankful to be able to come here and compete with FSU across my chest for the last time. I’m overwhelmed.”
Davis, a freshman competing in her first NCAA Championships, was noticeably nervous before climbing into the starting blocks as the leadoff runner.
“Honestly my nerves were all over the place,” Davis said. “I was like, ‘Refocus,’ because at the beginning I didn’t get out, and I wanted to refocus so I could get the baton to Jayla and not have any mess-ups. The pass was good.”
And so was the finish. Helps took the stick from Kirkland then handed it to Seymour, who was just getting warmed up with her anchor leg.
One year after missing the 100-meter final by one spot, the Palatka, Fla. native was determined not to let history repeat itself. By breaking her own school record with a dash of 11.11, Seymour grabbed the first of two qualifying spots on time, finished third in heat 1.
Kirkland, competing in heat 2, very nearly joined her classmate. The Birmingham, Ala. native smashed her previous-best (11.34) by running 11.20, which equals the second-fastest time in program history. It would be the 10th-fastest time of the day, good for second-team All-American honors.
“Jayla ran really well,” Braman said. “That’s a USA qualifier and a lifetime best. The competition here is like an Olympic Games prelim.”
Before the 100-meter dash, Jones climbed into the blocks for her 100-meter hurdle semifinal, determined to get back to the final for a second consecutive year after placing third in 2018. Overcoming a slow start, she closed with a fury, finishing second in the third heat (12.76) to qualify automatically.
“Cortney was clutch as always,” Braman said. “She got out slow and ran past people. She’ll have something special for the final.”
Seymour had one last race – the 200-meter semifinal – to complete her quest for a three-final Saturday. Facing easily the strongest and deepest heat of the day, Seymour was on a mission.
“I actually felt it coming,” Seymour said, after dropping a career-best 22.55 – the fastest time by a Nole since 1983 – and finishing second to defending NCAA champion Anglerne Annelus (22.35) of USC. “I knew I had to run some PBs just to get to the finals. I had to go out there and execute as best as I could. I’m just grateful and happy that everything came out the way it was supposed to. It was a great day.”
As it turned out, Seymour’s heat produced four of the eight finalists.
“That’s an incredible day for Ka’Tia,” Braman said. “She competes like she’s supposed to win every race and doesn’t let the fast times of other affect her. That’s a special mindset.”
“Having the opportunity to be in all three finals, hopefully something happens Saturday and we do what we need to do; I do what we I need to do,” Seymour said. “Somebody is going to win a national title. Hopefully it’s me.”
With the exception of Paredes’ javelin final, Friday’s schedule will belong to the men.
FSU’s 4×100 relay team, fresh off its school-record semifinal performance (38.43), will get things started at 8:32 p.m. (ET). Senior Armani Wallace will put his No. 2 triple jump ranking on the line at 8:40, followed by freshman Bryan Rincher in the 100-meter final at 9:22.
ESPN will carry the action live beginning at 8:30 p.m. and Wallace’s triple jump competition will be streamed on ESPN3.
You can follow the Noles through a variety of mediums,including Twitter @FSU_Track and Instagram @fsu_track.
Live results can be found at https://dt8v5llb2dwhs.cloudfront.net/NCAA/index.htm