May 28, 2014
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Thirty-four Florida State track & field athletes - 18 women and 16 men - will take their first steps on the trail to Oregon over the next three days at the NCAA East Preliminary meet, with the top 12 finishers in each event advancing to the NCAA Championships.
For the second time in three years, Hodges Stadium on the University of North Florida campus, will serve as the host site for one of what are essentially two first-round meets nationally, bringing together the top 48 athletes in each individual event along with the top 24 relay teams.
"It is truly the first round," FSU coach Bob Braman said. "It's not a separate meet. This is do-or-die, or survive-and-advance. All the clichés are in place in this round in Jacksonville.
"We love the close proximity to home; the facility at the track. A lot of people have competed over there and were at regionals there two years ago. And of course the weather is the same conditions we deal with day-in and day-out."
All of those factors are favorable for a Florida State program which will be represented by one of the largest combined teams when the action gets underway Thursday at 12 p.m. with school record-holder Katja Vangsnes competing in the women's hammer.
"With 34 qualifiers men and women, that's elite," Braman said "I think we've been bigger, but not often and not by much."
Size aside, the Seminoles will also send nine women and nine men into NCAA East Preliminary competition for the first time.
Still, FSU has its share of proven and elite competitors vying for spots at the June 11-14 NCAA Championships in Eugene. Seniors Dentarius Locke, the 2013 NCAA runner-up in the 100 and the reigning indoor 60-meter champion, and 2013 400-meter All-American James Harris will lead the FSU men.
"It's a young group," Braman said. "The difference on the men's side is you've got guys that have been on USA teams in Dentarius Locke and James Harris, who provide that leadership. Both of them are on the 4x100 and highly seeded in their individual events, the 100 and 400. ... We're riding our horses pretty hard there. Then there are other older guys like Paul Madzivire, who have been down this path a bunch of times and we're going to count on in the national meet."
A total of 19 Seminoles will compete on the opening day.
The fifth seed in the long jump, Madzivire will be joined by freshman two-sport star Jalen Ramsey, who is seeded 20th. Austin Droogsma, one of six Seminole freshmen men, will throw the shott. In addition to Vangsnes, a sophomore transfer from Norway who is seeded 11th, ninth-seeded senior Chelsea Whalen will be joined by freshman Grete Sadeiko in the javelin competition. Sophomore Der'Renae Freeman, who was seventh at the NCAA Indoor Championships, is the ninth seed in the long jump.
In all of the field events, the competition will be concluded in one day, with the starting fields of 48 trimmed to 16 for the finals, with the top 12 advancing after three more attempts.
On the track, all events except the 5,000 meters, 10,000 and steeplechase, will be contested in two rounds.
Locke, the No. 3 seed in the 100, will be joined in Thursday's first round by freshman Cejhae Greene, as the field is trimmed to 24. Senior Marecia Pemberton, the 11th seed, will compete in the women's 100. Harris will be joined by teammates Michael Cherry and Alonzo Russell in the first round of men's 400-meter dash as the eighth, 11th and 14th seeds, respectively.
Junior Linden Hall and sophomore Georgia Peel, the eighth and 26th seeds, will try and keep FSU's streak of NCAA Championships women's 1500 qualifiers alive in first-round action, while senior Jakub Zivec will be vying for his final crack at a 1500 berth. Sophomore and ACC champion Otniel Teixeira will be joined by redshirt freshman Jake Burton in the first round of 800-meter qualifying.
Junior Hannah Walker will pull the curtain on FSU's opening day as the No. 5 seed in the women's 10,000 meter run.
The Seminoles will be without their most decorated NCAA Championships performer for the meet as junior Colleen Quigley had her season cut short last week with an injury. Between cross country, indoor and outdoor track, Quigley had strung together six consecutive All-American seasons. She was the NCAA Championships runner-up in the steeplechase last year.
After capturing matching ACC Indoor and Outdoor team titles this year, the Florida State men and women are ready to put a cap on outstanding seasons in pursuit of the ultimate goal.
"We've got some pieces there; a lot of people that can make it to nationals," Braman said. "And you can't score if you're not there.
"That's the next step - getting a bunch of people to the national meet, because you never know when somebody is going to have their breakout day. It's obvious two years later, but it's not obvious when you're at that national meet with what looks like a longshot and an Otniel Teixeira or Jakub Zivec scores."
Live results to the NCAA East Preliminary competition can be tracked here: http://results.flashresults.com/2014_Meets/outdoor/05-29-NCAAEast/
Up-to-the-minute updates can be found via Twitter @FSU_Track, with a complete wrap-up of each day posted to www.seminoles.com.