TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Though the work is never done in the world of recruiting, the Florida State men’s and women’s track & field/cross country programs, continue to bolster their respective stables with signees for the 2013-14 school year.
The Seminoles have not been sitting quietly since the first batch of signees was announced shortly after signing day. Since then, 11 others have signed either National Letters of Intent or Grants In Aid to join the program for the 2013-14 academic year.
While the initial members of the class spanned a wide array of event areas, Florida State’s latest round of signees specifically addresses areas of need on the distance side, which will be critical to the rebuilding efforts of cross country coaches Bob Braman and Karen Harvey.
“We’ve brought in some good pieces this past year that helped help us get better,” said Braman, FSU’s head coach for both men’s and women’s track & field. “I think we’ve improved our teams massively. The great challenge on both teams is going to be cross country.”
That’s not to say other event areas are not represented. The Seminole coaching staff is excited about the potential of newcomers Chadrick DaCosta, Cejhae Greene and Jonathan Reid, whose talents span the throws, sprints and jumps, respectively.
DaCosta is the No. 2 ranked junior from Jamaica out of high school in both the shot put and discus. His personal best marks of 19.23m (63-1.25) in the shot put and 55.61 (182-5) in the discus came in runner-up finishes at the 2013 Penn Relays and 2013 Carifta Games, respectively.
“DaCosta is going to be the bookend to [February signee] Austin Droogsma,” Braman said. “You’ve got two freshmen that are going to cornerstone coach Dorian Scott’s throwing posse for the next four or five years. We’re real excited.”
Greene, who hails from Antigua & Barbuda, enjoyed a breakout 2012 season in the sprint ranks as a 16-year-old with personal bests of 10.46 (100) and 20.90 (200), which should put him in the sprint relay mix immediately. Greene represented his country at the 2011 World Youth Games and the 2012 World Juniors.
Reid comes to FSU as a graduate student from Alabama, where he earned indoor All-American honors in the triple jump this past March and has been a three-year scorer at the SEC Championships. He put together an all-time best mark of 15.98m (52-5.25) to place fifth at the NCAA Indoor Championships and will have a year of indoor and outdoor eligibility remaining. He was a four-time Jamaican Junior National Champion in the high jump – once in the triple jump - and helped his Kingston College team to four national titles.
On the women’s track & field side, incoming freshman Hannah Welsh will be a second-generation Seminole. Her parents, Jason and Ann (Girvan) Welsh, were hurdlers in the late 1980s at FSU. A standout athlete from Dunedin High in sand volleyball, soccer and track, Welsh is slated to compete in multi-events as well as the high jump.
Harvey’s women’s distance team has added yet another standout from Great Britain and the University of Birmingham, which has produced a wealth of talent for the ‘Noles over the year. Transfer Pippa Woolven, who is currently ranked No. 3 in the UK under-20 age group for the 3000-meter steeplechase (10:11.86), will provide the ‘Noles with some seasoned depth to the cross country lineup. Woolven joins another Birmingham transfer, Hannah Walker, who signed in February.
With personal-bests of 33:09.50 for 10,000 meters and 15:48.69 over 5,000 meters, Walker has ranked among the top five in the UK under-23 age group each of the past two seasons.
Collectively, Walker and Woolven will help fill a cross country void created by the departure of Violah Lagat, Amanda Winslow and Kayleigh Tyerman.
Like the women’s distance squad, the men will get a big lift from a strong group of transfers who should provide immediate assistance in cross country and on the track.
Australian Glen Yarham has significant international experience, having placed 15th and the World University Cross Country Championships and 42nd at the IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships. Earlier this spring Yarham posted a personal-best of 14:07.34 for 5,000 meters on the track.
“We expect that he’ll be ready to run among our top three [in cross country],” Braman said, noting that Yarham has three years of cross country and two years of track eligibility remaining.
Bryant Blahnik comes to the Seminoles as a transfer from Missouri, where he placed 11th at the SEC Cross Country Championships last fall and was 10th at the USATF Junior National Championships. A native of Red Wing, Minn., Blahnik has track PR’s of 14:25.39 (5000) and 30:09.15 (10,000).
Kevin Johnson, a graduate student transfer from Cornell, was a high school teammate of recent FSU graduate Wes Rickman. Johnson starred at Falcon High in Colorado, where he helped his team claim the state cross country championship with a third place finish as a senior. Despite battling injuries throughout his collegiate career, he brings personal-bests of 14:26.63 (5,000) and 30:10.78 (10,000) to the Seminoles.
“These are cross country dudes that are really going to help us in a rebuilding year,” said Braman, who must replace five runners from last season’s fifth-place NCAA Championships team.
Braman also added one of the most decorated Florida high school distance runners from the 2013 graduating class. Avery Lopez, who starred for 3A distance powerhouse Miami Belen Jesuit, helped his team to three consecutive state cross country titles. Lopez finished fourth individually each of the past two years in cross country and is a two-time runner-up in the 1600 on the track, where he has also doubled up fourth-place finishes in the 3200.
“We think he is a little bit like Grant Nykaza,” Braman said, referring to the two-time Foot Locker finalist who signed in February.
Lopez boasts PR’s of 4:17.68 (1600) and 9:10.34 (3200).
The Seminoles have also added three middle-distance runners, led by USF transfer Otniel Teixeira, who arrives as a sophomore. Teixeira was the 2012 Florida 4A state champion in the 800 (1:51.43) and last weekend placed 10th in the 1500 at the USA Junior Track & Field Championships.
“He went to Lake Brantley High School and at the FSU Relays he doubled 1:51 and 4:14,” Braman said. “He’s a guy who is going to be a DMR player, a conference player and a good training partner with [sophomore] Jacob Burton.”
Bryce Kelley, and incoming freshman from Cariho Regional High School in Rhode Island, enjoyed a distinguished prep career. Kelley was runner-up at the Rhode Island State Cross Country Championships in the fall and followed up by winning the 1500 meter title in the spring. He was second in the 800; a distance where he has logged an indoor-best of 1:53.77 at New Balance Nationals.
Kemper Morton, a graduate student and transfer from Troy University, rounds out the group of middle distance newcomers. The Macon, Ga. native scored each of the past three seasons in the 800 at the Sunbelt Conference Outdoor Championships, highlighted by his personal-best (1:52.89) this spring. Morton also ran cross country for the Trojans and has a 1500 personal-best of 3:52.85.
“The idea is to create a deeper, more talented Miler’s Club that could be using the fall productively,” Braman said. “Historically we’ve done well with those guys.”
‘Noles Solid In Final McDonnell, Crawford Standings
Florida State was unable to add a third consecutive John McDonnell Award to the trophy case this year, but the Seminole men still measure up as one of the top, comprehensive cross country and track & field programs in the nation.
The Seminoles placed fourth overall in the 2012-13 scoring with 33 points, trailing Arkansas (14), Wisconsin (21) and Oregon (30.5). FSU is the lone Division I program in the country to have placed in the top five of the award each of the five years the McDonnell Trophy has been awarded. The point totals are based on NCAA Championships finishes in cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field, with the lowest total winning.
On the women’s side, the Seminoles placed sixth in the Terry Crawford Award standings. Oregon won its fifth consecutive title for comprehensive excellence. FSU and Oregon are the only two schools to have placed sixth or better each year the award as been presented by the USTFCCCA.
“The great thing about the McDonnell Award and the Terry Crawford Award is they really do tell the truth and defines your program,” Bob Braman said. “It says, ‘What is you cross country and track program all about?’ …
“The bottom line is we are the consummate cross country and track program. We’re historically, proven over the five years that they’ve had this award, the best at it on the men’s side and one of the best on the women’s side, and we’re going to continue to be.
“I love this award, even when we don’t win it, because it does show commitment to the entire program. That’s what the award measures. … It shows that the principles of this program are sound and even in a hiccup year we’re still excellent across the board.”