July 4, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A little over a month ago Florida State freshman Michael Cherry arrived in Eugene, Ore. with an upper leg injury that rendered him a spectator at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Barring some unforeseen late disaster, he will pull on his Florida State singlet Saturday at Historic Hayward Field at the USATF Junior Championships and take dead-aim for a national title and a chance to represent his country in the 400-meter dash at the World Junior Championships later this month.
Cherry is one of five Florida State athletes who will compete in the two-day meet with designs on an encore appearance at the IAAF World Juniors (July 22-27) back on the University of Oregon campus. Fellow FSU freshman Sydnee Over will compete in the women's 800, joining incoming freshmen sprinters Trentavis Friday and Kendal Williams, who will compete in the 100 and 200. Classmate Zyaire Clemes will join Cherry in the 400 field.
Friday, Williams and Clemes are already enrolled in summer classes at FSU, along with fellow classmates Mustaqeem Williams and Ben Bonhurst, both of whom have the credentials to compete in the field as well.
"We have a very talented group headed out to Eugene, and honestly it could be far deeper," said FSU associate head coach Ken Harnden, who will be on hand for the meet. "The three newcomers all have legitimate chances not just to make the US team, but to medal and factor big on US relays.
"Michael and Sydnee are in the hunt. Obviously, Michael is the favorite going in and rightly so."
Cherry owns three of the top seven times in the 400 among Americans this season and comes into the meet ranked No. 1, thanks to the 45.37 he laid down at the NCAA East Preliminary meet in Jacksonville on May 30. That's the No. 2 time in the world for athletes in the U20 age bracket, trailing only Machel Cedenio (45.23) of Trinidad & Tobago.
"Mentally, I'm good," Cherry said, following his last practice at Mike Long Track before departing for Oreon. "I just want to go out there and execute so I can make it through the rounds and try to go to World Juniors and try and prove what I should have done at NCAA's.
"I feel like it's a little bit of redemption. I get a little of payback. Sitting out and watching my teammates run was really bad. I know I should have been in the [NCAA] finals. I ran good the whole season, but the injury came up too late. This time I'm healthy. I feel good and I want to go out and show everyone what I can do."
The top two finishers in each event this weekend will secure spots on the US team for World Juniors. Additional roster spots will be at stake for the US sprint relay teams.
Cherry isn't the only Seminole among the favorites. Friday is ranked No. 1 in the 200 (20.33) and No. 2 in the 100 (10.17), trailing only Baylor's Trayvon Bromell in the shorter event. The recently-crowned Gatorade Boys National Track and Field Athlete of the Year, who hails from Cherryville, N.C., is ranked No. 2 in the world in the 200 among U20 athletes, right behind Anguilla's Zharnel Hughes (20.32) and sits at No. 5 on the world list in the 100.
Jacksonville native Kendal Williams boasts the No. 2 time in the 200 (20.55) - No. 5 on the world list - and ranks No. 6 in the US in the 100 (10.28).
Clemes checks in tied for seventh in the US in the 400 at 46.57, which he recorded with his runner-up finish at the recent New Balance Outdoor Nationals.
In short, the meet will give Harnden, the rest of the Seminole coaching staff and the nation, a preview of what to expect from FSU in the coming years.
"FSU track and field is in a great place," said Harnden. "There are five American athletes with a chance to represent their country at Worlds. Cejhae Greene has been picked for his country (Antigua & Barbuda) and potentially five additional newcomers who will join our program in August or January could also represent their countries at Worlds. It speaks volumes to the recruiting efforts of Dorian and Brandon, as well as the level of the program as a whole."
In addition to the potential US qualifiers and Greene for the World Juniors, FSU freshman Nicole Setterington (Canada, 100 hurdles) and signees Chelsea Jarvis (Great Britain, 800), Jogaile Petrokaite (Lithuania, long jump) and Helene Swanepoel (South Africa, 400 hurdles) are among the favorites to represent their respective countries later this month.
The action gets underway Saturday in Eugene with preliminary 100-meter races, including Friday and Williams, at 6:35 p.m. (ET). Cherry and Clemes will compete in the 400 preliminary rounds at 7 p.m. Over will try and get through the 800 preliminary at 8:50 p.m., with the men's 100-meter final set for 9:40 p.m.
Sunday's schedule for the `Noles will kick off with the first round of the men's 200 at 6:10 p.m. (ET), which will be followed by the 400-meter final at 7. The women's 800 final is set for 7:35 and the men's 200-meter final will go off at 9:10 p.m.
You can keep tabs on the Seminoles in action by following on Twitter @FSU_Track. The entire meet will be streamed on the USATF site at http://www.usatf.tv/gprofile.php?do=view_event&event_id=7289&mgroup_id=45365&year=2014.