May 31, 2014
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With seniors Dentarius Locke and James Harris handling the anchor legs on two NCAA Championship-qualifying relay teams, Florida State's track & field teams put an exclamation point on their three-day East Preliminary performance Saturday night.
"What a great way to close the first round with a season-best 4x400 relay," FSU coach Bob Braman said. "We have a chance to put some big points on the board at Nationals. ...
"We really didn't miss much the whole weekend, and when we did, it wasn't for lack of commitment or effort. As a coach I couldn't be more pleased with the whole three days."
The Seminoles came into the final day with 11 individual event qualifiers and added two more - Linden Hall in the 1500 and Anne Zagre in the 100-meter hurdles - to go along the men's and women's 4x100 relay teams and the nightcap men's 4x400 qualifying effort.
In all, the Seminoles will send 14 individuals and three relay teams on to the June 11-14 NCAA Championship meet at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. Grete Sadeiko had previously qualified in the heptathlon.
Locke helped get the day started off, lifting the Seminoles from sixth-place to second on the anchor leg of the 4x100, in a season-best time of 39.20, despite running out of lane 2 at Hodges Stadium. In the process, FSU's quartet of Cejhae Greene, Harris, Paul Madzivire and Locke, kicked a seemingly season-long relay jinx to the curb, recording the fourth-fastest time of the 24 teams assembled.
"It felt good to actually get the stick around," said Locke, who anchored his first relay since 2011. "We didn't think about time too much. We wanted to make sure we got the stick around and we placed in a good area. We were in lane 2 and our biggest competition [Florida] was in lane 9, so went out there focused on what we needed to do and executed."
Of course it took an extraordinary effort by Locke to complete that execution.
"It felt different being last," said Locke, who was the No. 1 qualifier in the 100 on Friday. "Having my mom in the stands really motivated me. I saw a few guys that posed a threat for us getting to nationals, so I had to give it my all and make sure the `Noles got there. That sets us up pretty well."
The FSU women's 4x100 quartet of lone senior Marecia Pemberton, along with Zagre, Der'Renae Freeman and Kali Davis-White followed right behind the men, qualifying with the seventh-fastest time (44.55) in the field.
"Our ladies did a great job," added Braman. "Once this group gets their rhythm down they can score at Nationals."
Hall advanced in the women's 1500 out of a stacked second heat, by finishing fourth (4:16.17) in a race that went out slowly and turned into a flat-out sprint over the final two laps.
"Linden was fantastic in that tactical race," Braman said of the junior, who is looking to improve on her ninth-place NCAA finish in 2013. "That'll serve her well in Eugene."
Zagre qualified automatically by placing third in her heat of the 100-meter hurdles in a season-best legal time of 13.03.
In the final event of the night, the Seminole men lined up in the 4x400 alongside ACC rivals North Carolina and Pitt. Solid legs by Alonzo Russell, Michael Cherry and Otniel Teixeira left the `Noles in fourth place, but Harris dropped a 44.91 split over the final 400, leading the quartet to a season-best time of 3:04.95. It is the seventh-fastest time in school history.
"Oh my gosh, it was a good race," Harris said, who dropped the fourth-fastest anchor split of the night to lead the `Noles to a third-place heat finish and an automatic berth. "It was really bunched up on the back straight. I overthought my move a little bit, but we just ran a season-best. It was Otniel's first time running with us and he got banged up, and we still came out third in our heat. I'm excited about what we're going to do when we get to Eugene."
So is Braman.
"I felt like we had a really good championship meet," Braman said. "We gained momentum. The month of May has been all about getting healthy and having momentum going forward. ... We had some really, really breakout things happen."