Jacksonville, FL – With brilliant performances across the board capping three days of action at the NCAA East Preliminary Round, Florida State’s track & field teams will head to the NCAA Championship meet with 21 athletes and high hopes.
The Seminoles completed their impressive romp at Hodges Stadium on the UNF campus Saturday by adding national qualifiers in seven more events, with the FSU men’s sprinters and women’s distance corps leading the charge.
“I think we carried the momentum from yesterday to today,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “I don’t know that it was a better day, but how could you be better than yesterday.”
That’s hard to quantify, but the Seminoles were no less impressive.
Maurice Mitchell earned the top qualifying mark in the 200-meter dash, racing past the field in 20.13, then contributed a leg to the Seminoles’ 4x100 relay team, which also posted the top qualifying time in the East (39.05). Horatio Williams qualified sixth in the 200 with a season-best of 20.47, and also contributed to the relay unit.
Michelle Jenije was the top qualifier on the women’s side, notching the No. 2 mark in the triple jump – a career-best legal leap of 13.59 meters (44-7) – which was never overshadowed by the continued dominance of distance coach Karen Harvey’s crew.
Hannah Brooks (4:18.72), Amanda Winslow (4:19.47) and Violah Lagat (4:19.49) made their reservations for the June 6-9 championship meet at Drake University by grabbing three of the top five spots in the second heat of the 1500-meter run. Kayleigh Tyerman closed the night by finishing second in her qualifying heat – third overall – in the 5000 meters with a personal-best time of 16:06.28, made sweeter when she zoomed past three-time NCAA cross country champion Sheila Reid of Villanova with 600 meters to go.
“I can’t believe it,” said Tyerman, one of six FSU women’s distance runners headed to the championship meet.. “I love FSU. … I have all these girls around me just running at an amazing level. It puts so much confidence in you. That’s the team I run with and I want to be a part of this and you just go with it for these girls. These girls are amazing. I’m wearing this jersey and that’s what gets me across the line.”
It was an emotional day all around for the Seminoles, which began with junior Andrew LaHaye qualifying in the pole vault. LaHaye tied for sixth after clearing a personal-best 5.32m (17-5.50) to help keep the ball rolling after FSU’s brilliant Friday performance.
“Every year the regional meet is nerve-wracking for me,” LaHaye said. “It brings out really good jumping because you’ve got to perform that day no matter what the conditions are. I’m glad I stepped up today and did that, because it definitely did validate [my season]. …
“Making it to nationals is very important for me and for the team, because we’re going to be very tight this year. If I can contribute, I’d be very, very happy to do that.”
Perhaps the best story of the day was turned in by senior Michael Putman. After narrowly qualifying for the NCAA East round following March thumb surgery, Putman unleashed a throw of 18.54 meters (60-8.75) on his second attempt, which qualified him ninth.
“It’s a good feeling to just give myself another opportunity to throw; another week-and-half to get stronger and my technique wasn’t as crisp as I want it to be,” Putman said. “I told the coaches if anybody can break their thumb, come back and make it to nationals it would be me.”
Associate head coach Harlis Meaders couldn’t be happier for Putman.
“It was an emotional and physical setback, but Mike stayed focused and bounced back,” Meaders said. “We did things the correct way, letting him rest. The medical staff did a fantastic job. But in the end it’s really Mike. He’s always been an extremely good competitor and he’s got an internal drive, an internal passion, that really makes our team stronger.”
That passion – team-wide – was never more evident than the scene at the finish line when Brooks, Winslow and Lagat realized they were headed to the championship in the 1500 meters together. They shared a long embrace that captured the scene perfectly.
“It’s very, very exciting,” said Winslow, who is headed to outdoor nationals for the first time. “I couldn’t be happier. Going into the race it’s kind of nerve-wracking to have three from the team and only five make it, but we did it. It’s so much cooler to do it with your teammates.”
“Ahh, it’s so special,” Brooks said. “We’re all so, so happy the three of us made it. We were almost more worried about not all three of us making it than each individually making it. It’s really cool to have the three of us get there, especially coming out of the same heat.”
“The women were really awesome – three autos in the 1500 from the same heat – Kayleigh Tyerman was a beast. Michelle Jenije, what a beast,” Braman said. “The women stepped up. The women said, ‘Hey, we want to be top 10 [at nationals] and they’ve got a shot.’ We qualified six distance runners, two very, very capable jumpers and a thrower who is making her first trip.”
The prospects are even higher on the men’s side, who will take aim at a national championship in Des Moines.
“We really put ourselves in position while others opened the door a little bit – [Texas] A&M, Florida and Arkansas,” Braman said. “We were super in the 4x100, great in the 200 – Horatio almost had a personal-best – and Maurice may have had a legal PB,” Braman said. “Mike Putman getting in was huge. He’s a great wild card; a guy that’s scored the last two years. He’s the kind of guy you want to have with a shot at a national championship. And LaHaye had a PB and tied for sixth. He might well score.”