May 2, 2013
By Ryan Syrkus
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Growing up in the small town of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, freshman Sage Watson rarely heard about the prestigious Florida State track and field program. There was little talk of past FSU greats such as Ngoni Makusha, Lacy Janson, or Walter Dix. At the same time, Watson knew that regardless of where she would end up, she wanted to make sure she was in the best place to progress her career as she focused on long sprints and long hurdles.
"I wasn't planning on coming to Florida. Originally I was planning on going to California," Watson said. "I think the biggest pull at first was Coach Ken [Harnden]. Who wouldn't want to train with a two-time Olympic runner? He did my event so he is knowledgeable in the 400 [meter] hurdles. What really drew me to Tallahassee is when I came here and I met the athletes. I saw the background. I saw all the athletes. I saw the school and I saw the athletes that had come here. I met the team and it just felt like home when I came for my visit."
Coming out as Canada's the top youth 400-meter hurdler, Watson has excelled early in her career prior to the transition to college. Watson finished eighth in the 2011 IAAF World Youth Games for the 400 hurdles as well as ninth in the 2012 World Junior Championships.
"It is a big transition [to college competition]," said Watson. "Athletes in the NCAA are amazing and it can be intimidating. I think what prepared me the most [for the transition] was competing at world competitions." No matter where Watson is, she does not shy away from competition. With less than a full year under her belt, she has already shown what she is capable of at a college level.
She currently ranks No. 18 among all NCAA Division I athletes in the 400-meter hurdles after clocking a 58.20 at the Florida Relays last month. That standard also ranks No. 8 among NCAA East Preliminary competitors. The young Canadian is well-positioned to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships, providing she finishes in the top 24 at the NCAA East Preliminary meet, May 23-25 in Greensboro, N.C.
Watson will have a chance to improve on those rankings Friday when Florida State closes out its home schedule with the Seminole Twilight meet at Mike Long Track. The Seminole women are currently ranked No. 15 nationally, while the FSU men climbed to No. 3 this past week in the USTFCCCA Computer Rankings.
Watson posted the Seminoles' fastest times this past indoor season in both the 200 (24.59) and 400 (53.72) sprints, which she established at the Razorback Invitational. She was also a major contributor to FSU's distance medley relay team, providing a 53.72 second 400 split in the ACC Indoor Championships, when she teamed with Amanda Winslow, Georgia Peel, and Colleen Quigley to set a school and conference record finishing at 10:57.41. At the time, it ranked among the top distance medley relay times in NCAA history.
The relay team advanced to the NCAA Indoor Championships, where Watson contributed a 53.10 split to the Seminoles' fourth-place finish to earn her first All-American honor as a collegian.
The indoor season, however, was merely a tune-up for the season at hand.
"I would say outdoors is the official track and field season," Watson continued. "Outdoors is where it counts. Outdoors is how you make big world competitions. I enjoy outdoors more just because of the atmosphere and my favorite race is the 400 hurdles so I get to run that now."
She made her 400 hurdles debut at the Texas Relays earlier this spring. Despite running out of the difficult lane 1, Watson still managed a fifth-place finish in 58.66 during the Texas Relays.
"I've never run out of lane 1 in the hurdles," Watson said of her performance. "But I knew there wasn't a lot of pressure on me because it was my opener. I just wanted to go out there and see how good I can do. I just tried to stick with the girls. Me and Coach Ken are still doing a lot of work on the hurdles and I think it's coming along good."
Last month, she brought home a silver medal from the ACC Outdoor Championships. Watson is also part of FSU's 4x400 relay team.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Watson said, as the season rolls toward on toward the NCAA Championship meet. "These meets are kind of preparing us for the big ones, so they're good steppingstones. It's exciting to be able to run at your school."
The Seminole Twilight meet will feature both the Seminole men and women, as well as competitors from 13 other schools, including nationally-ranked Florida and UCF.
Action gets underway at the track with field events kicking off a 3 p.m. The first running event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Admission is free and fans can follow the action via Twitter @FSU_Track.