March 2, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida State men's indoor track & field team did not emerge from the final weekend of the regular season unrewarded. The Seminoles locked up a pair of NCAA Indoor Championship berths at the Alex Wilson Invitational on the Notre Dame campus with a pair of big performances.
Facing "last-chance" opportunities to lock up one of the top 16 spot in individual events - and top 12 in the relays - the Seminoles cashed in.
Junior James Harris followed up his ACC Championship victory in the high jump with a new season-best - and an FSU indoor school record - by leaping 2.26 meters (7-5) for the win at Notre Dame on Saturday. Harris is now tied for sixth nationally in the high jump.
Perhaps even more impressively, associate head coach Ken Harnden watched as his 4x400 relay team of Alonzo Russell, Harris, Dentarius Locke and Stephen Newbold blasted their way through a stout field for a championship-qualifying - and winning - time of 3:06.55. By racing past top teams from LSU, Pitt, Illinois and Baylor, among others, the Seminoles are headed back to the NCAA Championship meet in the event for the first time since the 2009 squad set the school record with a time of 3:05.48.
"We can run," said Harnden, who decided to give the quartet a chance at a qualifying mark en route to South Bend, Ind. "There was really nothing to lose."
Russell led off with a 47.3 split and Harris, fresh off his high jump win, put the `Noles in the thick of the fight with a 46.2 leg. Locke, a late addition to the group, kept FSU in the hunt with a rock-solid 47.1, turning the baton over to Newbold, who brought it home in 45.8.
"I'm really excited about it," Harnden said of the qualifying mark. "They all competed really great."
Florida State will be well-represented at the NCAA Indoor Championships, which get underway Friday at Arkansas' Tyson Randall Track Complex in Fayetteville. Six Seminole men - Marvin Bracy and Locke (60-meter dash), Newbold (200), Harris (high jump), Stefan Brits (long jump) and Phillip Young (triple jump) - are currently ranked within the top 16 of their respective individual events, while the 4x400 relay is well within the top 12.
The Seminole women will be represented by senior Amanda Winslow (Mile, 3000) and the Distance Medley Relay, which will include Sage Watson, Georgia Peel, Colleen Quigley and Jessica Parry. Anne Zagre is right on the bubble of qualifying in the 60-meter hurdles and will learn her fate in the next two days.
The NCAA will post the qualifying field tomorrow and teams will have until late Monday to declare their athletes or make scratches.
Harris got Saturday's action going by bettering his ACC mark of 2.23.
"He bumped (the bar) with his hand," Harnden said of the winning leap. "Other than that, he cleared it by three or four inches. We stopped him there to get him ready for the 4x4."
`Noles win five events at UNF Spring Break Invitational
In addition to the weekend contingent that made "last chance" runs at NCAA Indoor Championship marks, a smaller group of Florida State men and women traveled to Jacksonville, Fla. to compete in the UNF Spring Break Invitational outdoors.
The Seminoles came away from the blustery season-opening event with five victories. Freshman Hannah Acton won the pole vault (3.85m/12-7.50), while classmate Kellion Knibb made her FSU debut with a win in the shot put (14.44m/47-4.50). On the men's side, Josh Gracia was victorious in the 5000-meter run (14:51.84) and freshman Cristobal Hurtado-Arteaga captured the high jump with a leap of 2.05m (6-8.75). Garrett Singletary unleashed his all-time best mark in the javelin to win the event with a mark of 57.50m (188-8).
Brittany Linder placed third in the discus with her lifetime best effort of 40.29m (132-2).