May 30, 2014
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- As batting averages go, the Florida State track & field teams knocked Thursday's opening NCAA East Preliminary meet competition out of the park.
Of the 19 Seminoles competing in 15 events at Hodges Stadium on the University of North Florida campus, four secured trips to the NCAA Outdoor Championships and 10 others advanced to quarterfinal round action. That's a .737 success race in 19 at-bats, and the reason why spirits were high around the Seminoles' team camp.
"We've had a really good day," Braman said, after nearly 12 hours at the track, thanks to a three-hour meet delay for lightning. "I was really pleased with the way everybody came really focused. This is a tough competition and we didn't take anybody for granted and competed well. We had a lot of personal or season-bests, like Michael Cherry in the 400, and even when we didn't, we looked good in qualifying."
Katja Vangsnes (hammer), Paul Madzivire and Der'Renae Freeman (long jump), and Hannah Walker (10,000) are all headed to Eugene, Ore. for the June 11-14 NCAA Championships after the first of three days of competition. Perhaps even more noteworthy, all four will be making the trip to the spring finale for the first time in their specialty events.
Vangsnes was the first to breakthrough and in the process, set a bit of history, becoming the first NCAA Championships qualifier in the hammer in the history of the women's program. The Oslo, Norway native and first-year Seminole did that by placing sixth with a top mark of 60.63 meters (198-11)
"I felt pretty confident because my practices have been good lately, but it's always nerve-wracking, thinking you have to do it this day on those three throws," said Vangsnes, who quieted her early nerves and proceeded to improve with each round. "It was a really long day, waiting on the weather delay.
"I'm happy with how I progressed, that I started off with a 58 (meter throw), relaxed a little bit and threw 59.53. I knew I had to throw farther to make it to nationals in the finals, but when I threw 60 meters [on her fifth throw], I was pretty sure that I made it."
Not long after Vangsnes secure her plane ticket to Eugene, Madzivire delivered on the long jump runway. Needing a strong third attempt just to secure a place in the finals, the junior from Zimbabwe nailed a mark of 7.56m (24-9.75), which carried him from out of the hunt and on to nationals with a seventh-place finish.
While the lengthy lightning delay pushed the competition late into the night, it did not prevent junior Hannah Walker from delivering in the final track event of the night. Walker comfortably worked her way up to the front of the 10,000-meter run, then pulled away from the 48-runner pack in a breakaway group, finishing fifth in 33:41.
Sophomore Der'Renae Freeman was the last Seminole to punch her ticket to the June 11-14 championship meet on the opening day, overcoming a wildly erratic performance on the runway to nail a second attempt mark of 6.30 meters (20-8) to place fifth. It was her only legal jump of the day.
In addition to the completed events, the Seminoles moved 10 runners on to the quarterfinal round of their respective events, including the top qualifying marks in three events.
Senior Dentarius Locke rolled to his 100-meter heat win in 10.17, which was .24 seconds faster than the No. 2 qualifier., a also performed admirably in preliminary heats. Fellow senior James Harris impressively led a trio of Seminole quarterfinals qualifiers, checking in with a meet-best time of 45.58. On the women's side, Georgia Peel wiped six seconds off her season-best time to claim the top qualifying spot in the 1500 (4:15.88).
"Locke was dominant," Braman said. "Georgia (Peel) didn't PR, but that was probably the best we've seen her race and her second-best time at Florida State."
Harris will be joined in Friday's quarterfinals by teammates Michael Cherry (45.96) and Alonzo Russell (46.65), who qualified sixth and 16th, respectively. Cejhae Greene will join Locke in the 100 quarterfinals after qualifying on time (10.53) Senior Marecia Pemberton also advanced on time in the women's 100 (11.79).
Linden Hall, who was ninth at the NCAA Championships last season, advanced to the 1500 quarterfinals with a time of 4:22.98. On the men's side, senior Jakub Zivec took the first step toward making his first NCAA Championships appearance in the 1500, placing second in his heat (3:50.69).
ACC 800-meter champion Otniel Teixeira in the 800 patiently waited to make his final move, and automatically qualified in 1:49.60.
Not only did the qualifying and advancing athletes perform at a high level, refshirt freshman Jake Burton posted an 800 PR (1:49.40) in his season finale. Austin Droogsma needed a late scratch to be accepted as the 48th entrant in the shot put and promptly finished 11 spots ahead of where he was seeded.
"Now what we've got to do is come back the next day, for those who have to compete again, and really put the nail in the coffin and make sure we can get on the plane and get going," Braman said. "It feels like we're going to the right way, but we've still got two long days of competition left with some weather challenges that we're going to have to overcome like we did today."
Friday's schedule will feature 18 Seminoles in action and begins with Markindey Sineus competing in the men's hammer at 10 a.m.