DES MOINES, Iowa – As first steps go, Florida State sprinters Dentarius Locke and James Harris are heading in the right direction. On the opening day of the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Locke and Harris more than held their own against star-studded fields, advancing to Friday’s semifinals in the 100 and 400, respectively.
Locke, the NCAA Championship runner-up in the 100 two weeks ago, further validated his breakthrough junior season by posting the fastest time from the four qualifying heats. With a big late-race push, Locke clipped former Florida star Jeff Demps at the line to win into a headwind at 10.19 in the fastest heat of the day at Drake Stadium.
To provide some perspective, Locke was faster than former Olympic medalists Tyson Gay (10.28), former Seminole Walter Dix (10.30), Michael Rodgers (10.35) and Justin Gatlin (10.37), all of whom advanced to the semifinals.
“He executed the race, he didn’t just run it,” FSU associate head coach Ken Hardnen said of Locke’s performance. “He was a little star-struck to begin with. He said, ‘I don’t know whether to ask for autographs or what.’
“Not that he knows he belongs, we can go to work tomorrow.”
Locke’s next step in pursuit of spot on the USA team at the World Championships in August will come in Friday’s semifinal round, which will be followed by the finals in the evening.
Harris also earned an automatic qualifying spot into the semifinal round of the 400, placing second in heat 3 in a solid 45.63. Harris’ time was fifth-fastest overall from the preliminary round and just off the heat-winning mark of 45.55 by Josh Mance. Mance was enrolled at FSU in the spring but ineligible to compete after transferring from USC.
“James slipped coming out of the blocks a little bit, but he ran really well coming home and looked good and strong,” said Harnden. “I’m excited on him to just being able to focus on running. I feel like he’s got a legitimate shot at least making the relay pool and going to Europe and running with the big boys. The same thing for Locke.”
Harris will try and make his way out of Friday evening’s semifinal round and snare a place in the eight-man final, which is set for Saturday evening.
While Locke and Harris stole the spotlight, they weren’t the only ones with FSU ties competing. Former NCAA champion and 2008 Olympian Rafeeq Curry placed sixth in the triple jump (16.77 meters/55-0.25).
Amanda Winslow, racing in her Florida State uniform for the final time, ran 4:17.70 to place seventh in the first of two 1500-meter heats, but was unable to advance on time. The seven-time Seminole All-American finished 16th overall from a field of 30.
Thursday’s nightcap – the men’s 10,000-meter final – also marked the last hurrah for another Seminole All-American. Michael Fout was running with world class company well past the midway mark of the race, climbing as high as fifth-place alongside the likes of eventual champion Galen Rupp, Dathan Ritzenheim and Chris Derrick on a hot and steamy night.
That trio separated from Fout and the rest of the pack over the final 2000 meters.
“Mike did a really nice job,” FSU head coach Bob Braman said. “He just couldn’t cover a 64 (second lap). It was really hot; hotter than Tallahassee. In his final time in a FSU singlet, he finished 15th and did us and himself proud.”
Fout, who was fourth at the NCAA Championship meet two weeks ago, finished third among Division I collegians in the field in 29:54.25.