BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Denatrius Locke was solid in his long-awaited Florida State track & field debut, and a pair of women registered all-time bests in the shot put, highlighting the Seminoles’ season-opening indoor performances Saturday at the Crimson Tide Opener.
Locke capped his first performance for the Seminoles with a narrow runner-up finish in the section B final of the 60-meter dash. The Tampa native, who was forced to sit out last season after transferring from Tennessee, hit the finish line in 6.67 seconds and was just .001 behind Stillman’s Jeffery Henderson for the win.
Chelsea Whalen opener her junior season with a bang in the shot put, uncorking an all-time best throw of 15.57 meters (51-1) on her sixth and final throw of the day at the Birmingham CrossPlex facility. Whalen’s career-best effort – indoors and outdoors – was good for a second-place finish. Sophomore Lakitta Johnson also delivered an all-time best throw of 14.26m (46-9.50) to finish fourth.
“Considering how little work we’ve been able to do on the track, to open the season with a PR or an indoor best, that’s pretty impressive,” FSU associate head coach Ken Harnden. “It was a little frustrating, because as coaches we knew we didn’t have enough reps under our belt.”
The field for the Seminoles’ opening meet was stout, to be sure. The 16th-ranked FSU faced off against competitors from No. 2 Florida, No. 10 LSU, No. 11 Auburn and No. 20 Mississippi State, among others. The unranked FSU women squared off against athletes from No. 4 LSU, No. 5 Florida, No. 14 Texas and No. 24 Auburn.
Among the more pleasant developments, junior sprinter Marecia Pemberton was impressive in her first competition since undergoing surgery that prematurely ended her 2012 outdoor season. The 2011 All-American advanced to the finals of the women’s 60-meter dash with a preliminary round time of 7.51, then followed up with a 7.49 in the final, finished second to 2012 Bowerman Award winner Kimberlyn Duncan of LSU (7.39).
“That was Marecia’s fastest opener,” Harnden said. “Before the meet she said she was just happy to be running. To be healthy through the meet, I was really happy about that.”
More than a dozen Seminoles made their collegiate debuts in garnet and gold and among the newcomers, junior college transfer Alonzo Russell posted the best finish. Last year’s NJCAA national champion in the 400 meters for Essex (Md.) Community College turned in an indoor personal-best of 47.75 to finish second in the 400-meter dash.
In all, it was a solid performance by the FSU men and women to build on.
“There were some good things,” Harnden said. “We showed in a couple places we needed reps, but we showed some fight. This was certainly a better meet than when we came here a year ago.”
Florida State will return to the Birmingham CrossPlex next Saturday with a larger contingent, including some men’s and women’s distance runners, for the Auburn Invitational.