Armed To Make Run To NCAA Championships
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The path to the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships runs through the Bluegrass State and there will be no shortage of Seminoles attempting to blaze that trail at next week's NCAA East Preliminary.
The 15th-ranked FSU women boast 15 qualifiers in 11 individual events, while the men claimed 16 individual event qualifying slots and two relay teams for the opening rounds of the NCAA postseason, which will be contested May 25-27 at the University of Kentucky Track & Field Facility.
“The women have 15 advancing opportunities,” Florida State coach Bob Braman said. “That's why we've been a top-15 team all year. We have some truly strong women's athletes. That number, 13 people, could be one of our largest numbers, without a relay team, ever. That's a big, big number of non-relay qualifiers for anybody's team nationwide. There are teams out there that are going to have 20 people, but how many aren't a part of a relay.”
And those Noles aren't just qualifiers. With the qualifying fields of 48 individuals in each of the individual events – 24 on the relays – whittled to 12 NCAA Championships qualifiers by the end of the weekend, Florida State should be well-represented in Eugene, Ore. for the June 8-11 competition. Nine of the 15 event qualifiers are ranked within the top 12, led by top-seeded Kellion Knibb, the 2016 NCAA runner-up in the discus.
“With that group you have some people ranked extraordinarily high, like our discus throwers and hurdlers, but you also have a lot of people with experience that have already been there like JoJo [Jogaile Petrokaite],” Braman said. “And, even though she is not in the region cohort, we've already punched one ticket to nationals with Melissa-Maree Farrington.”
Farrington has already qualified for the NCAA Championships in the heptathlon by virtue of her No. 11 national ranking, established with her ACC Championships victory last weekend.
“We've never had more than eight individuals, to my knowledge, qualify for nationals not counting relays,” Braman said. “We have a chance to have a historically strong group going to nationals.”
In addition to Knibb, Gleneve Grange is seeded No. 3 in the discus and No. 6 in the shot put. ACC 100-meter hurdles champion Peta-Gay Williams is the No. 3 seed and freshman Cortney Jones checks in at No. 6. ACC hammer champion and freshman Veronika Kanuchova is the No. 3 seed, while fellow conference champion Shauna Helps checks in at No. 9 in the 100-meter dash. Redshirt freshman Shaquania Dorsett is the No. 10 seed in the 400-meter dash and true freshman Eleonora Omoregie, the ACC high jump champ and an NCAA Indoor qualifier, checks in at No. 11.
“We have some super-talented folks where this is going to be their first NCAA meet and the first round is a great, high-pressure, do-or-die preparation for the national meet,” Braman added, noting that the NCAA East Preliminary is a meet, “where it doesn't matter if you're finishing 1 or 12.”
FSU's men don't have has many top-12 seeds, but they do have qualifiers in 18 slots, which includes the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams.
Overall, the Seminole men will be represented in 13 of 20 events at the meet. Leading the way among the qualifiers seeded among the top 12 in their respective events are: ACC co-Field MVP Armani Wallace (No. 3, triple jump); Ed'Ricus Williams (No. 5, high jump); Austin Droogsma (No. 6, shot put); Emmanuel Onyia (No. 8, discus), James Rhoden (No. 10, 400 hurdles) and Keniel Grant (No. 12, long jump).
While Braman noted that the women's round most often follows the seed line, that there have historically been far more surprises on the men's side.
“The men, historically, have had those big swings much more,” Braman said. “There's are a lot of tactical races on the men's side. Hopefully that will project a few people in.”
Among those seeded outside the top 12, Braman is especially optimistic about the qualifying opportunities of Montel Nevers (No. 13, triple jump), Jake Burton (No. 27, 800) and Michael Hall (No. 17, 1500).
“The challenge is to get them there and this experience will build them, where they'll feel much more comfortable at the national meet,” Braman said. “I feel pretty good about the group. We're healthier than a lot of our teams, historically, coming into it. We're not all dinged up.”
The Seminoles plan to depart from Tallahassee on Tuesday.
Competition begins Thursday, with all three days of action being streamed live via SEC Network+.