Feb. 6, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Just two months ago, Track & Field News bestowed the honor of the nation's No. 1 recruiting class in 2012 on coach Bob Braman's Florida State men's track & field team. The esteemed publication may want to use that headline all over again in 2013.
The Seminoles celebrated the start of the spring signing period Wednesday by landing the nation's No. 1 high school 400-meter runner in Michael Cherry, and the No. 2 discus thrower in Austin Droogsma on the men's side. Kali Davis-White, who is ranked No. 2 nationally among high school seniors in the 100- and 200-meter sprints signed her national letter of intent to join the Seminole women.
Florida State's bountiful haul also includes Trevor Mackey, who represented the Bahamas at the 2012 London Olympic Games and is a junior college All-American at South Plains (Texas). He will join a sprint corps that stacks up with the very best in the country. The Seminole women also added South Windsor (Conn.) 800-meter standout Sydnee Over, who was the runner-up at the New Balance Outdoor Championships as a junior, and 100-meter hurdler Nicole Setterington, who was the runner-up at the Canadian Junior National Championships in July.
And those signings don't begin to paint the entire picture.
"You've got a couple of things in play here," Braman said. "No. 1, we got what we wanted. Our goal was to sign those target scholarship people; those top 3-5 in the country. That's who we went after and our assistant coaches did a phenomenal job of landing those athletes.
"The thing that's exciting about it is that some of the people who we are going to sign in the next couple of days, they may be top five by the end of the year, because we're an odd sport in that we've still got a season."
In addition to the signed track & field athletes, Florida State's consensus top 10 football recruiting class includes two more athletes who will compete on the track for the Seminoles as well. Wide receiver Levonte Whitfield's national letter of intent was the first to arrive in the football office Wednesday, which isn't surprising, considering his front-running status as a sprint star. Whitfield, the cousin of FSU freshman football/track standout Marvin Bracy, holds the nation's fastest time in the 100-meter dash among high school seniors and is ranked fourth in the 200-meter dash. He will be joined by fellow football signee Jalen Ramsey, a five-star cornerback who doubles as a 24-foot long jumper.
"I'm really excited about the class," said Braman. "We've still got more to come in and still have work to do, but since I've been here, this is probably the biggest February 6th we've had."
Traditionally, the Seminoles' track signing classes come together much later due to an influx of international student-athletes and mid-year arrivals.
"For the second year in a row on both sides we've landed a signing day class that puts us in a good position," he added.
Braman wasn't the only member of the FSU staff abuzz as the fax machine spit out the names of athletes who figure to substantially bolster the national championship aspirations of the men's and women's programs in 2014. Associate head coach Ken Harnden, who spear-heads the Seminole recruiting efforts, was equally ecstatic.
"The group that we've signed, is not a giant group," Harnden said. "It's all quality. You get two football players who come in and immediately help the program. Levonte is an instant impact and certainly Jalen can help us big-time. "Michael Cherry is just special. He ran the fourth-fastest time (in high school history) in the indoor 500 last week. For a 6-foot-4 guy on a flat track, that's just special."
Special was an oft-used word by Harnden, describing the group.
"I've never seen a guy more excited about Florida State than Austin Droogsma," Harnden said. "The kid is just over the moon. ...
"Then you add in Trevor Mackey, a junior college kid who has been to the Olympic Games and that next level, and had offers from about 10 different schools - just about the whole SEC - and he signs with Florida State. That's pretty special."
There are a multitude of storylines with each of the Seminoles' first-day signees. Cherry, who is from Chesapeake, Va., won the New Balance Outdoor Nationals last June in the 400-meter dash in 46.37. He is the defending state champion in the 200 and 400, but demonstrated tremendous range by winning the 800-meter run at the Junior Olympic Regional Championships last summer.
Mackey, a seasoned sprinter with experience on the world stage, was coveted by nearly every major sprint program in the country but had dreamed of wearing garnet and gold dating to his early high school days back in Nassau.
Over has already achieved at a high level on the track, even though she spends her winters starring for her high school basketball team. Her mother, former Villanova middle distance star Celeste (Halliday) Over, is part of a distance medley relay team that set the world record in 1988 which still stands.
Setterington is another in a long line of proven Canadian stars who have migrated to Tallahassee, following immediately in the footsteps of freshman 400-meter hurdler Sage Watson.
Perhaps most exciting of all is the Seminoles have managed to strengthen their foothold in the Sunshine State, despite stiff competition from a Florida track program that is currently riding quite a high. FSU did more than hold its own.
Droogsma, whose father Mike was the Metro Conference runner-up in the discus for the `Noles in 1984, is the state's top-ranked discus and shot put thrower. The senior at Gulf Breeze High School wanted so badly to become a Seminole that he rebuked a handful of major college football offers to sign Wednesday.
Whitfield (Orlando Jones) and Davis-White (Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson) are the top-ranked sprinters in the state for both the 100 and 200. The `Noles also expect to receive the paperwork from the state's top girls distance runner as well.
"That's been a big focus for us the last couple of classes, Braman said. "It's nice to get (junior transfer) Dentarius Locke to come home to us; a former state record holder himself. ... That is a tribute to our assistant coaches who work the state hard. Did we get all of them? No, but we got some of the big ones that really everybody wanted. It's great to keep those kids home."
The current signing crop had Braman and Harnden reminiscing about the Seminoles first NCAA Championship team.
"It's been a few years, but if you look back on the 2006 team - Rafeeq Curry, Ricardo Chambers, Walter Dix and Garrett Johnson - that team, believe or not, wins the national championship by one point with just those four Florida high school stars."
"There's no question that if you look at that group we got three or four of the best five or six in track & field from Florida, overall," Harnden said. "Kali is one of the biggest recruits we've signed in America in the last what, 10 years? She's the best sprinter in America. ... To do that, to defend home court and beat out the Gators a little bit in some recruiting is really special for us and it's something we're trying to do more of.
With a little good luck, the end results may as well.
FSU TRACK & FIELD SIGNING CLASS BIOS
KALI DAVIS-WHITE - Lauderdale Lakes (Fla.) Boyd Anderson
Ranked No. 2 nationally from the 2013 graduating class in the 100 and 200
Posted the fastest 200 among Florida returnees with a 23.57w at the Golden South Classic
Is the top-ranked returning Florida runner in both the 200 and 100
Ran PB 11.45 to finish third at finish 3rd at adidas Grand Prix in June
Placed 4th in 100 and 6th in 2000 at 2012 USATF Junior Track & Field Championships
2012 4A State runner-up in 100 and 200
NICOLE SETTERINGTON - Ontario, Canada
100m Hurdles PR of 13.37 - set in June in OFSAA championships
Won Athletics Ontario Junior-Senior Championships in 13.98 in July
Runner-up at Canadian Junior National Championships in July
SYDNEE OVER - South Windsor (Conn.)
400m Indoor PR of 55.61 - at Brooks PR Invitational
300m Indoor PR of 41.62 - winning GBTC
800m PR of 2:08.66 - runner-up at New Balance Outdoor Nationals
MICHAEL CHERRY - Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith
No. 1 ranked high school senior in the country at 400m entering 2012
Just ran the fourth-fastest high school 500m time all-time 1:02.61
400m PR of 46.37 - Won New Balance Outdoor Nationals 200m PR of 21.47
800m PR of 1:55.88 - won Junior Olympics Region 3 demonstrating range
Defending Virginia High School state champion in 200 and 400
Indoor 400m PR of 46.88 - placing 3rd at New Balance Indoor Nationals in 2012
AUSTIN DROOGSMA - Gulf Breeze (Fla.)
Ranked No. 2 nationally from the 2013 class in the discus
Top-ranked Florida high school athlete in the shot put and discus
Discus PR of 193-0 (20-feet clear of next closest)
Shot Put PR of 56-7.5
Defending state 3A champion in shot put and discus
Turned down multiple Division I football offers to sign with FSU in track
Father Mike Droogsma was a thrower for the `Noles and was the 1984 Metro Conference discus runner-up
TREVOR MACKEY - Nassau, Bahamas/South Plains (Tex.) CC
Competed in 2012 Olympic Games in 200 representing Bahamas
PRs of 10.31 (100) and 20.52 (200)
2012 NJCAA third place in 100 and fourth in 200; also leadoff man on 2nd place 4x100 (39.94)
Won Bahamas Olympic trials in 200; 2nd in 100
2011 BAAA Jr/Sr National Championships first in 100
2010 BAAA National Championships - 2nd in 200
2010 BAAA Junior Nationals 100-200 champion
2010 Carifta Games bronze medalist in 100
2010 semifinalist in 200 at World Junior Championships