TORRANCE, Calif. – Continuing her ascent as one of the nation’s elite discus throwers, Florida State sophomore Shanice Love registered her fourth personal-best mark in as many meets this season, Saturday at the Mt. SAC Relays.
Love’s opening throw of 57.77 meters (189-6) stood up for a second-place finish in the invitational field; edged out by fellow Jamaican Tarasue Barnett from Grand Canyon, who delivered a winning throw of 58.27 meters (191-2). Though she suffered her first setback of the season, Love solidified her No. 9 ranking in NCAA Division I this season.
At No. 10 on the national list?
That would be FSU graduate transfer Ieva Zarankaite, who put together the finest series of her collegiate career, capped by a final round hurl of 57.15m (187-6). That secured a third-place finish in the competition at El Camino Community College.
It also moved her to No. 3 on FSU’s all-time list behind record-holder Kellion Knibb and sandwiched between teammates Love and Gleneve Grange.
“My warm-ups were pretty good and yesterday we did our pre-meet and I felt really good technically,” Zarankaite said. “Today I was just relaxed. We were standing down there and didn’t know what results we were throwing, so we were really confused. When I hit the last throw and it was 57 (meters), I was like, ‘Whoa.’”
With the event scoreboard turned away from the competitors at the discus cage, Love had no idea she opened with a lifetime-best. Nor did Zarankaite, who came into the meet with a season-best of 54.00 meters, but proceeded to produce four throws (54.06m, 54.31, 55.29 and 57.15) better than that mark.
Saturday was major breakthrough for the former Oklahoma State standout from Lithuania, whose previous best throw was 54.62 meters (179-2) in a fifth-place finish at the 2017 Big 12 Outdoor Championships.
FSU Director of Field Events and Throws coach Dorian Scott has been working with Zarankaite, a three-time Lithuania national silver medalist, to refine her technique throughout the past three months.
“I think now we came up with a technique that fits me well,” she said. “I feel comfortable and strong using it.”
Zarankaite has thoroughly enjoyed her experience as a Seminole, which began in January, when the three-time All-Big 12 Academic selection and management degree holder enrolled in graduate school. Not only has she excelled in the discus, but she placed second in the shot put at the ACC Indoor Championships and already ranks third all-time in that event as well.
“It’s been amazing,” Zarankaite said. “I love the team. I love the coach. I’m improving. Practices are hard, obviously, but I like it. I like being a Seminole. I came here to succeed and be better at what I do and that’s what I’m doing.
“The team, the throwers – Shanice, GG, Austin and Coach – are helping me a lot and that means a lot to me.”
The discus wasn’t the sole domain of the Noles women on Saturday. Senior Austin Droogsma strung together a fine series, capped by a fifth-round mark of 57.07 meters (187-3) – just six centimeters off his lifetime-best – to grab a silver medal as well.
“That’s a good mid-season mark for Austin,” said FSU coach Bob Braman. “The big man is capable of being at double throws threat at nationals. He’s certainly capable of throwing 60 meters by the championship season.”
In addition to the discus, Grange and Zarankaite finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the invitational shot put. Grange popped a sixth-round toss of 16.08 meters (52-9.25), while Zarankaite – the lone Nole to compete in two events over four days in California – checked in with a mark of 15.46m (50-8.75).
Scott held Grange out of the discus and Droogsma, the NCAA leader, out of the shot put in preparation for next weekend.
The Seminoles will split up and hit the road with the throwers making their annual pilgrimage to Philadelphia, Pa. for the 124th Penn Relays, while FSU will be represented primarily by men’s and women’s sprints and hurdles, as well as the jumps group in Fayetteville, Ark. at the inaugural National Relays.