Aug. 3, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - While all but the most fervent track & field fans were still in bed Friday morning, a pair of former Florida State stars were stepping into the Olympic spotlight on the opening day of athletics competition at London's Olympic Stadium.
It was 5 a.m. ET when Seminoles Dorian Scott and Kimberly Williams, each representing their native Jamaica, began competition in the shot put and triple jump, respectively. They were the first of 12 athletes with Seminole ties - a number that shares the lead among US colleges - to get things started.
And they didn't disappoint.
A year ago Kimberly Williams was wrapping up her Seminole career as the most decorated women's athlete in FSU track & field history. The first-time Olympian didn't waste any time finding her comfort zone on the runaway.
Williams needed just one attempt to establish a new lifetime best - 14.53m (47-8) - and earn a spot in Sunday's final. That one attempt also the second-best mark from the field of 35 triple jumpers, bested only by Kazikstan's Olga Rypakova (14.79m/48-6.25).
"It was a great start for Kim," said FSU assistant coach Dennis Nobles, who is also Williams' personal coach. "Qualifying rounds are always nerve-wracking for everyone, more so in your first Olympic Games. But Kim is a fierce competitor and she handled it like a seasoned pro.
"Ideally, you want to take one jump and achieve the automatic qualifying mark and she did that to perfection. I don't know that the qualifying round establishes her as a medal favorite - the marks don't carry over - but it definitely serves notice that she can contend for a medal."
Scott, making his second Olympic appearance, earned his first trip to the finals later Friday night with a morning qualification round throw of 20.31m (66-7.75). It was a big step forward for the 2005 FSU graduate, who spent this past year as a first-year throws coach at San Diego State.
"Dorian was really on his game," FSU head coach Bob Braman said. "To make an Olympic Final at nearly his best is a fantastic accomplishment."
Entering the finals seeded 11th out of 12 throwers, Scott got off his meet-best toss of 20.61m (67-7.50) on his second attempt, but came up just .08 out of eighth place, to earn three more throws in the finals. He finished 10th overall.
Unfortunately for the Seminoles, Ciaran O'Lionaird was unable to join those advancing past the opening round. The Irish 1500-meter runner, whose training has been limited by an Achilles injury suffered during the indoor track season, finished 13th in the third of three heats.
"Ciaran got bumped badly with 500 meters to go and never recovered," Braman said. "Still, it's been a great comeback for him from Achilles injury."
O'Lionaird earned his first Olympic berth by reaching the finals of the 2011 World Championship in the 1500 with a brilliant A-standard time of 3:34.46. He was well off that standard Friday afternoon, finishing in 3:48.35.
There will be plenty of Seminoles in action on the track Saturday as well, with USA pole vaulter Lacy Janson leading things off at 5:20 a.m. (ET). Janson, a 2006 FSU graduate in her first Olympic Games, will be competing in Group B and hunting a spot in Monday's finals. The top 12 vaulters - or anyone who clears 4.60m (15-1) - will move on from the qualifying rounds totaling 39 athletes.
Janson who has cleared a season-best 4.65m (15-3) this season.
Belgium twins Jonathan and Kevin Borlee will go to work in the 400-meter qualifying heats at 10:35 a.m.. Jonathan, who boasts a season-best time of 44.74, has drawn lane six of the third heat. Kevin, who was third at the 2011 World Championships and has a season-best time of 44.56, drew lane two in the seventh and final qualifying heat.
The top three runners in each heat and the next three fastest times overall will advance.
Great Britain's Barbara Parker will make her second Olympic appearance - this time in front of the home crowd - while competing in the qualifying round of the 3000-meter steeplechase. Parker, whose all-time best of 9:24.24 earlier this summer ranks 16th out of 44 runners in the field, is heavily favored to move on. She can do that by finishing fourth or better in her heat, which is scheduled to go off at 11:35 a.m.
Kemar Hyman, the 2012 ACC 100-meter champion and an All-American, earned a pass through the morning preliminary round but will compete in the second round of the 100, set for 12:30 p.m. Hyman, whose 9.95 time earlier this summer ranks among the top 10 in the world, is a heavy favorite to move on to the semifinal round.
All of the events can be accessed via live video at www.nbcolympics.com at the time they are scheduled.