June 6, 2013
EUGENE, Ore.- The Florida State track & field teams enjoyed some incredible early highs off-set by a few heart-wrenching lows late on the opening day of the NCAA Outdoor Championships at Oregon's historic Hayward Field.
Sprinters James Harris and Dentarius Locke advanced to the finals in the 400 and 100, respectively, with career-best marks. They also teamed with Alonzo Russell and Stefan Brits to secure a spot in the 4x100 relay finals with a season-best performance.
"It was a pretty typical Florida State national meet, where we come in here really aggressive like we talked about yesterday," Florida State coach Bob Braman said. "We set the tone and did a great, great job with the 4x100, then 400 and the 100. Those two guys were really special."
The Seminoles' relay team got the day going, despite some less-than-efficient baton handling, getting around the track in a season-best 39.14. Harris played no small role as the `Noles grabbed an automatic qualifying spot for the final, moving from fourth to second on the anchor leg of the third heat.
"Get to the next race - that was the inspiration to run faster," Harris said, when what was going through his mind when he took the baton from Brits in fourth place. "Nobody expected a 400 runner and high jumper to walk down Arkansas and nearly LSU in the 4x100. ... That was the perfect prep for the 400 for me. When I heard the crowd getting loud, it was one of the best feelings ever."
The fifth-fastest time of the day among relay teams, despite a lineup change as Russell was inserted into the leadoff leg for the first time this season.
Harris didn't have much time to recover from his heroic anchor effort. The junior transfer from Mississippi State was on deck in the first heat of the 400-meter semifinals. Similar to his late surge on the relay, Harris powered off the final turn and up the homestretch to grab the second place automatic qualifying spot in a career-best 45.23. George Mason's David Verburg won the heat in 45.19.
Those were the two fastest times on a spectacular, albeit, breezy opening day.
"I got out way slower than I planned to and when I came off the curve it was make-or-break time," Harris said. "I just put it all out there on the track and came through with a PR time. Knowing I could have run faster, I'm just excited to see what happens on Friday."
Locke kept the momentum going by winning the first heat of the 100-meter semifinal in 9.97; the fastest legal time by a collegian this season and tied for the fourth-fastest time in the World in 2013. It is also tied for the eighth-fastest time in NCAA history. Bursting from the blocks, the redshirt junior ran away from the field in the acceleration phase, outdistancing runner-up Aaron Brown from USC (10.05).
It was a monumental breakthrough for the Tampa native, who was making his first NCAA Outdoor Championship appearance since 2011 when he ran at Tennessee. Locke came into the race with a career-best of 10.05 set at the NCAA East Preliminary meet, and his breakthrough moved him to No. 4 on FSU's all-time list behind NCAA record-holder Ngoni Makusha (9.89), Walter Dix (9.91) and Kemar Hyman (9.95).
"I'm blessed," said Locke, who was forced to sit out last season after transferring. "It's been a long three or four years. It's a dream come true to me. When the time came up and it was 9.97, I was like, `Oh, Lord, tell me it was legal.' It was 1.9 (wind) - barely legal - and it was a blessing. ...
"It hasn't felt this good since high school."
Harris and Locke will compete in the finals of their respective events on Friday, while the 4x100 relay will get Saturday's final day of competition started.
"They both ran great legs on the 4x100," FSU associate head coach Ken Harnden said. "We didn't have very good exchanges. James went to sleep in the first 150 meters, but made up for it and ran really good coming home. Locke absolutely executed a race today and did what he was meant to do and got the reward. It was an unbelievable day."
Several other Seminoles saw their collegiate seasons come to a close Wednesday. Senior Andrew LaHaye cleared his first two heights in the pole vault but finished tied for 15th with his last clearance (5.25m/17-2.75). Junior Chelsea Whalen finished 13th in the javelin (47.74m/156-7) but will be back in action Saturday in the shot put. Freshman Sage Watson placed 12th in the 400 hurdles (58.71).
Freshman Zak Seddon came into the meet with the nation's second-fastest time in the steeplechase this season. The Great Britain native was running at the front in a pack of three when he lost his footing and took a head-first dive into the water jump with just under 1,000 meters to go. Seddon finished in 9:14.92 to place 22nd.
Junior Kayleigh Tyerman placed 19th in the 10,000 meters (35:06.75).
Among the Seminoles set to compete Thursday are sophomore and No. 3 seed Stefan Brits in the long jump, sophomore and No. 2 seed Colleen Quigley in the steeplechase, junior Anne Zagre in the 100-meter hurdle and seniors Mike Fout and Breandan O Neill in the 10,000. They are joined by women's 1500 semifinalists Amanda Winslow, a senior with the nation's third-fastest time, and sophomore Linden Hall.
"We've got to pick back up tomorrow, make up some points if we can and compete like we've been competing," Braman said.
You can follow the Seminoles in action live via Twitter @FSU_Track and get complete daily recaps at www.seminoles.com.
Additionally, you can follow the action live in a variety of ways:
Live Results: http://www.flashresults.com/2013_Meets/outdoor/06-05-NCAA/live/
Broadcast Schedule: http://www.ustfccca.org/infozone/broadcast-schedule.php
Watch ESPN: http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index