TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Winning is always fun and the Florida State track & field teams had a whole lot of it Friday – collectively and individually – at the 38th running of the FSU Relays.
The Seminole men and women swept the team titles in the six-team, scored meet with Alabama, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Liberty and Southern Miss, with each squad piling up six individual victories.
“The hardest thing about being at home is do you stay on schedule? Do you eat the right time? Do you sleep at the right time? Do you check in? Do you go get treatment? Do you take care of those things?” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “We talked about that on Wednesday at our team meeting and I think our kids did a phenomenal job…Effort-wise we were really focused.”
Between several personal highlights and breakthrough, and even more personal-best efforts on a near-perfect day at the Mike Long Track, the Noles got just what they wanted from early-season test of fitness and the competitive juices.
“The whole idea of a meet like this is to get momentum moving forward,” Braman said. “You don’t come to a meet in mid-March to hit PBs. If you do, that’s a huge bonus.
“We’re moving forward and huge results came out of this meet, but as a coach I want to be moving faster each week and into a better position and we’ve done that. Very few people went the wrong way. We got some answers this week.”
And as it has been throughout the indoor campaign and early into the outdoor season, FSU’s throws group was showing the way.
Brandon Tirado (59.31 meters/194-7) and Veronika Kanuchova (65.21m/213-11) pumped life into their respective men’s and women’s squads with victories in the hammer throw. Not to be outdone, Austin Droogsma and Gleneve Grange swept the shot put events.
Droogsma, coming off his first NCAA Championships appearance two weeks ago to close the indoor season, opened up his outdoor campaign with a massive sixth-attempt mark of 19.22 meters (63-0.75). The redshirt junior improved on his previous outdoor best by nearly a foot by becoming just the third Seminole in school history to eclipse 19 meters outdoors. Naturally, he locked down a trip to the NCAA East Preliminary round in his opening competition of the season.
Grange followed suit a short time later, winning with a personal-best fifth attempt of 15.58 meters (52-1.25), which out-distanced her nearest competitor by more than two feet.
“The throws continue to be a leading group for us; men and women,” Braman said. “They are competing fantastically well and feeding off each other. They’re doing a great job of leading us.”
Breaking up the throwers’ sweep show, if only temporarily, freshman hurdler Cortney Jones covered her 100-meter event faster than any first-year Seminole in school history. The Georgia native edged Olympian and 2016 FSU standout Meme Jean in 13.06. That tied her with former FSU great Kim Batten for the fourth-fastest time in school history.
As the action on the track began to warm, FSU graduate transfer Ed’Ricus Williams and former Seminole All-American and indoor national champion James Harris, were entertaining the fans on the high jump apron. Playing to the crowd, the two dueled to a share of first place, with each clearing 2.20 meters (7-2.50), and no one was happier than Williams, the Bethune-Cookman graduate who had never competed in a home meet before collegiately. In the process, he came within .01cm of his lifetime best.
Perhaps no one in the Seminole camp was more excited to get the outdoor season going than sophomore Edward Clarke, who put an unsatisfying indoor campaign in the rear-view mirror with his 100-meter dash victory. The powerful Jamaican won in a collegiate-best 10.34, easily within what it will take the 2016 NCAA Championships qualifier back to the first round of the NCAA postseason.
“Eddie Clarke did a good job,” Braman said. “He was struggling in the indoor season and didn’t have a good opener in the 200 last week [at USF] and that 10.34 he just dominated. He got a good start, didn’t panic and executed. That bodes really well for the 100 and 4x100.”
It wasn’t long before the throwers regained their spot in the bright sun as Emmanuel Onyia posted his second consecutive personal-best discus mark (56.86m/186-6) of the outdoor season to claim the men’s title.
Kellion Knibb put together a performance fitting of a focused athlete following a setback last week with a sterling series in the women’s discus, capped by her sixth-attempt Mike Long Track record throw of 60.85 meters (199-7). One week after being edged by teammate Gleneve Grange – who was the runner-up this time – Knibb launched the leading throw on the national descending order list to break her own track mark set last season.
FSU’s men got their final win of the day from 400-meter hurdler James Rhoden. Competing in his event for the first time since the 2015 season, Rhoden narrowly missed a personal-best mark to win in 52.17.
While the men were pulling away in the team competition – the Noles finished with a 177.5-119.5 advantage over runner-up Liberty – the women still had some work to do.
Sophomore Shaquania Dorsett did her part, pulling away in front of a packed home grandstand to 400-meter dash victory in 53.47.
In danger of falling further behind Auburn with just two track events remaining, graduate transfer Catherine Blaney summoned up a big, two-lap finish in the 5000-meter run, rallying from third to first for the win in 17:25.24. That pushed the Noles in front of Auburn, and behind Dorsett’s big leg on the closing 4x400 relay for a second place finish, they prevailed 146.25-134.
There were plenty of strong non-winning efforts by the Noles as well, including decathlete Dante Newberg’s massive 100-meter personal-best (10.83), and sub-48 second runs by freshmen Steven Simpkins and Kyle Fearrington, and many more.
Friday’s high school competition also provided the Noles a glimpse of the future as signee Trey Cunningham smashed the meet record in the 110-meter hurdles in 13.51; one of three boys meet records to fall in four contested prep events. The girls toppled two more meet marks, pushing the total to five on the day heading into Saturday’s full slate of high school competition.
The action resumes at 7:30 a.m. with the consolation 3200 and field events starting at 10 a.m., with the first track final schedule for 12:30 p.m. and the meet culminating with the 4x400 at 5 p.m.