June 12, 2014
EUGENE, Ore. - Handling their business like seasoned veterans, Florida State seniors Dentarius Locke and James Harris will be chasing individual national titles thanks to their semifinal round work on the opening day of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Locke is moving on to the finals in the 100-meter dash, winning his heat in 10.13 for a spot in the finals. Harris is advancing automatically as the second-place heat finisher in the 400, posting a time of 45.75.
It was a good day to have previous championship experience at Historic Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus.
"Locke looked very good in a well-executed heat win," FSU coach Bob Braman said." "He looked like the veteran that he is.
"I was really impressed with James Harris' race. He was in a do-or-die situation and dug deep to secure an automatic spot in the 400".
There were plenty of ups and downs for the Seminoles throughout the sun-splashed day, but nothing rivaled the performance of the women's 4x100 relay. The quartet of Marecia Pemberton, Anne Zagre, Jande Pierce and Kali Davis-White are heading to the finals after posting a season-best time of 44.17. It's a place the Seminoles have not been since Pemberton, now a fifth-year senior, was a sophomore on the sixth-place team in 2011.
"I'm extremely happy," associate head coach Ken Harnden said of his relay group. "Any time you run a season-best at the biggest meet of the year you have to be thrilled. The ladies executed the plan to a T."
And advancing is the name of the game in championship competition.
"I just wanted to execute," said Locke, whose legal time of 10.13 was the slowest winning mark of the three heats. "A few things went wrong but the race went the way it was supposed. I'll go back, work on a few things and be ready for the final on Friday."
Baylor freshman Trayvon Brommell - who like Locke is from the Tampa Bay area - was the beneficiary of a heavily wind-aided 9.92 for the fastest qualifying mark of the day. Locke's heat was the only one that did not have the benefit of illegal tailwind, and consequently, he is the seventh-fastest qualifier for Friday's final.
The NCAA runner-up a year ago in the 100, Locke was asked if experience will be an advantage in the final.
"Advantages? If I was five meters closer to the finish line, but it's 100 meters for everybody, so there's no advantage," Locke said. "Once you line up - freshmen, seniors, juniors - it doesn't matter. Now everybody is in the same race, lanes 1 through 8. The wind is the same. We're going to see who is the fastest guy.
"It's a new race; top eight and a new ballgame."
Harris was also an automatic qualifier by finishing second in his heat to Oregon's Michael Berry (45.51), and will enter Friday's final - like Locke - was the seventh-fastest time with the aim on improving last year's fifth-place finish.
It was an especially daunting day for a host of Seminoles making their first NCAA Outdoor Championships appearance, and nothing brought that to the fore more clearly than sophomore Pippa Woolven's misfortune in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Despite laboring to a seventh-place finish in a loaded first heat, her time of 10:07.99 was well within range of advancing to finals, based on past years.
By the narrowest of margins - .01 seconds - Woolven wound up one spot shy of advancing, losing out to the sixth-place finisher in heat two (10:07.98).
"Pippa has had a great season highlighted by an outstanding first-round NCAA performance," Braman said. "I've never seen a qualifying distance race at the national championship separated by one-hundredth of second in all of my years of coaching, and with it coming from the second heat she didn't have a chance to protect it."
Sophomore Der'Renae Freeman did not make it to the finals in the women's long jump, with a best mark of 5.97 meters (19-7). Fellow sophomore Otniel Teixeira's NCAA debut in the 800 meters ended with a semifinal round exit after running 1:49.59, which ranked 13th in the field of 24. The USF transfer came into the meet with the slowest qualifying mark.
Sophomore Katja Vangsnes, competing in her first championship since joining the Seminoles from Norway in January, failed to post a mark in three attempts in the hammer.
Entering the meet with the fourth-fastest time following the NCAA Preliminary qualifying meet, the men's 4x100 left with a disappointing early exit as the team of Alonzo Russell, Harris, Greene and Locke, could not overcome one tentative baton exchange, leading to a sub-par time of 39.56.
"I felt really bad for our 4x100 relay and the three seniors who've lived and died for our program," Braman said. "But that's the nature of the event. The margin of error is razor thin at that speed.
"Highlight of the day is the women's 4x100 relay. They had great exchanges and upset some extremely accomplished teams to make the final."
The `Noles will get at it again tomorrow, including fourth-seeded freshman Grete Sadeiko in the heptathlon, sophomore discus star Kellion Knibb and junior Paul Madzivire in the long jump. Junior Linden Hall will try and make her way back to the 1500-meter finals for a second consecutive year, while junior Anne Zagre is aiming for a finals spot in the 100-meter hurdles. Hannah Walker will close out Thursday's competition in the 10,000-meter final.
"We missed some scoring opportunities on both sides but that's what the national meet is all about," Braman said. "We have some great scoring opportunities in front of us and we need to snag as many of them as we can over the next three days."
While Thursday's action at the track begins at 1:00 p.m. (ET), ESPN3 will begin streaming its live coverage starting at 6:55 p.m.
You can monitor the Seminoles in action by following @FSU_Track on Twitter throughout the meet. A complete recap of each day, including video highlights, will be posted to Seminoles.com.
Live results can be tracked at: http://results.flashresults.com/2014_Meets/outdoor/06-09-NCAA/