April 5, 2012
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - An excursion to Gainesville is usually enough to motivate any Florida State athlete, but it's especially exciting for the Seminoles track & field teams, who will send a large contingent to compete in the annual Florida Relays, Saturday and Sunday at Percy Beard Stadium.
A group of 42 FSU men and women will be put to the test over the two-day meet, facing quality competition, especially in the sprints and field events. This weekend will mark the individual event outdoor season debuts of defending NCAA 200-meter champion Maurice Mitchell, who will be joined by All-American senior transfer Horatio Williams in the same race, as well as Kemar Hymanin the 100 meters.
That trio, to this point, has been limited to a 4x100-meter relay performance at the FSU Relays, which ended in disqualification. Hyman and Mitchell, who were on last season's national championship 4x100 quartet, will be joined by Williams and freshman Rachmil van Lamoenin Saturday's race.
"We've been training really good," said Mitchell. "Training's going well and everybody's healthy. We're just excited to go in there and compete against some of the top schools in the nation. Hopefully we can get a couple W's and maybe get some good season-opening (times)."
Mitchell will have plenty of competition in the 200, with his heat including Mississippi's Isiah Young, who currently holds the nation's second-fastest time among collegians at 20.49. It will be Mitchell's first competitive 200 since he placed fourth at the US World Championship Trials last June with a blistering 20.31 out of lane 1.
"I'm healthy and eager to see what I can run out there," Mitchell said. "Hopefully it will be a collegiate leader. ... I'm a year stronger and a year more physically and mentally stronger, so I should definitely run a lot faster."
Williams hasn't run a 200 since he placed third at the 2011 NCAA Championships - two spots behind Mitchell - in 20.41, while running for LSU. He will have ample competition in the second heat, which includes Indiana's Kind Butler and Georgia's Torrin Lawrence.
Hyman, who is coming off an All-American indoor season in the 60-meter dash, is eager to test himself against the best over the longer outdoor distance. He will line up in lane 8 of the first heat, which features Florida star and top-ranked 100-meter sprinter Jeff Demps and 2008 Olympian Travis Padgett.
"I've been looking good in training and practice," said Hyman, who will also run the leadoff leg on Saturday's 4x100 team. "Coach [Ken Harnden] told me I have a high possibility of running a good time - possibly a PR - so I just want to go into the race being confident and staying relaxed."
Hyman's all-time best mark is 10.26.
Saturday's 4x100 showdown will pit the Seminoles and Gators in a head-to-head match-up in the first heat. Florida currently ranks fifth nationally with a season-best time of 39.26.
"The relay is definitely something we want to develop throughout the year," Mitchell said. "We want to go there and post a really good, fast time, so people know that we're here and we can still run fast without Ngoni Makusha. It's definitely exciting to go up against our rivals and all of the other schools."
Of course the key to putting a low number on the clock will be the baton exchange.
"We're just looking to get the stick around to get a time on the board," Williams said. "If we get the stick around, we'll run pretty fast."
" The fastest time out there right now is Auburn - 38.3," Hyman said. "I'm pretty sure we can look on that and run even faster. ... It will be a high (level) of competition at Florida, so we should do well."
The men won't have all of the fun in Gainesville. Sophomore 400-meter standout Elizabeth Ichiteopened her season a month ago with a huge breakthrough performance at the USF Bulls Invitational, winning in 53.91. Friday will mark her first competition at that distance since the trip to Tampa, where she annihilated her previous best mark of 55.19.
"I'm pretty excited to get some competition," Ichite said. "Before I was running with smaller schools, I guess you could say, so I'm pretty excited to have a chance to PR again this weekend."
Ichite will also join forces with Jande Pierce, Sarah Chandler and Marsha Ariolin Saturday's 4x400 relay event. It's the first time that quartet has been together since their fifth-place finish at the ACC Indoor Championship locked up FSU's runner-up team finish.
This time around they'll try and post a time that will secure a spot at the NCAA East Region.
"It will be our first time (outdoors) - me, Jane, Sarah and Marsha," Ichite said. "We should be able to drop a pretty good time. We're trying to get a regional mark early, so hopefully we can do that this weekend as well."
Sophomore Chelsea Whalenhas already posted career-best marks in the shot put and javelin this season, but will be looking to raise the bar against a traditionally strong field in those events at UF.
"This season has gone really well so far and I'm really happy with where it has been," Whalen said. "I still feel like there's lots of room to improve and coach [Harlis Meaders] and I feel like this weekend is going to be a real good weekend for me in the shot and the javelin. We've been training hard and things are going well, so hopefully they pay off."
Michelle Jenije, who boasts the nation-leading triple jump this season, will compete against a solid field at the school where she began her collegiate career.
While the `Noles will have a large contingent in Gainesville, a strong group of men's and women's distance runners are in Palo Alto, Calif. to compete at the Stanford Invitational, which traditionally produces the nation's best early-season distance performances.
Michael Fout, Breandan O Neill and Seth Proctor will make their first competitive outdoor debuts in the 10,000 meters, while Jennifer Dunn will go at the same distance for the FSU women. Jackie Drouin and Kayleigh Tyerman will compete in the 5,000 meters, while heralded freshman Colleen Quigley will make her 3,000-meter steeplechase debut along with senior Astrid Leutert.
You can keep up with all of the action on the Seminoles' performances this weekend by following Twitter @FSU_Track or logging in to Seminoles.com for complete reports at the conclusion of each day.