May 25, 2013
GREENSBORO, N.C.- The Florida State track & field teams will travel 17 athletes to the NCAA Championships after strong finish to Saturday's East Preliminary meet at Irwin Bell Track on the North Carolina A&T campus.
The Seminoles qualified in five more events on the final day of competition.
Junior Chelsea Whalen led the charge, qualifying for the June 5-8 trip to Eugene, Ore. in both the javelin and the shot put in events that ran virtually one right after the other. Whalen qualified sixth overall in the javelin with a new personal-best throw of 49.40 meters (162-1). She followed up in the shot put as the No. 5 qualifier with a throw of 16.26m (53-4.25).
"It felt really good," said Whalen, who will be making her second consecutive NCAA Championship appearance after placing 12th in the javelin last year. "Going into today I felt confident in both [events]. Going into the javelin I was going to go in there to have fun and just do what I came here to do. That worked for me. Then I just had to sit back and refocus for shot put and just get my mind right and trust my technique. That's what I did."
"Chelsea was a beast," FSU head coach Bob Braman said of Whalen, who has reached the ultimate destination after a record-setting season.
"I've actually gained a lot confidence this year with my performances," Whalen added. "The deciding factor is I think I've grown more mature and more understanding. If I have a bad day I don't go cry in a corner. I take it as a lesson."
The entire day was a lesson in perseverance for the Seminoles, who overcame slow starts, injuries and keen competition with sheer determination.
"We competed really well," Braman said.
Junior Anne Zagre overcame a poor start out of the blocks in the 100-meter hurdles with a powerful finish and a season-best time of 13.09 seconds, which moved her into a tie for second on FSU's all-time list. The 2012 Olympian from Belgium secured her spot automatically with a second-place heat finish to Clemson's Kendra Harrison.
"I don't think I've ever seen a worse start in the whole time she's been at Florida State," FSU associate head coach Ken Harnden said. "She didn't panic. She handled it well and came on late. If we can just get a consistent start she is going something to deal with. I was very happy for her."
Harnden, who oversees the sprinters, hurdlers and relay teams, didn't know what to expect from a men's 4x100 relay team that was dealing with a variety of ailments and was being held together with "band-aids, duct tape and masking tape."
"How we got through I don't really know," Harnden said. "They did exactly what we asked them to. We said, `get the stick around the track and it's going to take 39-anything to go,' and they did a good job."
Florida State's women's distance team did its part as well as senior Amanda Winslow and sophomore Linden Hall advanced to the championship from the 1500 meter quarterfinals, by placing fourth in their respective heats.
Winslow, who came into the meet with ranked third nationally, ran at the front most of the way and made a bold move for the lead going into the final lap in an attempt to keep the race honest.
"I knew there was a chance that even by making a move, they would be able to match it and still be right there and it would take a little bit out of me," said Winslow, who grabbed the fourth of five automatic berths by finishing in 4:16.29. "At the same time, I wanted to make it a real race - a real 1500 race, not a 50-meter race. It was better to take that chance to take the lead than sit back and have to make up ground. That hasn't worked for me in the past.
"All that matters is the end of NCAA's. ... I was really just trying to secure the top five."
One heat later, Hall completed a season-long comeback from a broken foot suffered during cross country season, with a heady approach to a tactical race that went out slow but finished with her running 2:11 over the final 800 meters.
"In my first race at USF I ran 4:41 and I didn't think I'd even get to run ACC's at that point," said Hall, who was fourth in heat two (4:19.55). "To make nationals? It hasn't really hit me yet.
"To be honest the whole race is a bit of a blur. I wanted to make sure I was in a good spot to go when it kicked down, and looking at the splits, we really kicked it down the last two laps."
"This has just been an incredible breakthrough season for her; a comeback season," Winslow said of Hall. "I'm just super proud of her. It was really inspiring because this meet can't be taken lightly. What she has accomplished is a really big thing."
The final individual qualifier Saturday was Harris, who tied for eighth with a leap of 2.14m (7-0.25).
Beyond the national qualifiers, sophomore Markindey Sineus and junior Owen Cain provided some drama in the hammer and triple jump. Sineus, who came into the meet as the No. 46 seed, unleashed a lifetime best throw of 60.47m (199-4) to reach the finals and ultimately finished one spot out from a trip to Eugene. His throw is the third-best in Seminole history.
Cain also reached the finals in the triple jump with a first flight mark of 15.23m (49-11.75); an impressive feat considering he was seeded 37th. He finished two spots away from an NCAA trip.
"We had another great day, absolutely," Braman said. "I look at things that everybody may not see, but Markindey - that was amazing. For what he's gone through this year, [to throw] a 2.50 meter lifetime best and finish 13th? Afterward I gave him hug and he wasn't in a conciliatory mood. He was mad. I love that. ... Owen Cain nearly had a lifetime best and gave himself a shot."
With two weeks to prepare, Braman has every reason to believe the Seminoles will put together a strong showing on the final stage.
"We didn't really lose any national scorers," he said. "I thought we had a really good meet."