Cunningham wins 60 hurdles; Seymour third in 200 meters

Top-ranked Florida State’s strength in the men’s 60-meter hurdles is key to the Seminoles’ aspirations for the first NCAA indoor track & field title in program history.

The Noles drove that point home emphatically Friday night at the Sports Performance Center, sweeping the top four spots in the final to cap an impressive, three-round day.

Junior Trey Cunningham stands alone as the Florida State, Atlantic Coast Conference and facility record-holder, lowering his lifetime-best to 7.52 to lead the way. Progressively faster through each of the rounds, he closed the night by putting his name alongside Ron Bramlett and Terrence Trammell as the eighth-fastest hurdler in collegiate history.

“It’s extremely encouraging because our practices are much more rigorous than the five hurdles that are in front of us in our 60 meters,” Cunningham said, summing up his big day at the Texas Tech Invitational. “Running the three rounds is actually quite easy because it’s only a total of 15 hurdles, compared to our usual 40-plus hurdles in practice.

“It’s showing consistency as well, that I can keep my times going down.”

Seniors and first-year Noles Caleb Parker and Braxton Canady followed in 7.63 and 7.74, while junior Tyricke Highman was fourth in 7.90. Parker put together three sub-7.70 rounds, including a preliminary round 7.61 that was not only a personal-best, but solidified his position as the nation’s best collegian not named Cunningham.

Junior Ka’Tia Seymour laid down the fastest 200-meter opener of her career to finish third overall, while classmate Jayla Kirkland placed fifth overall.

Competing in the fastest section which produced three of the nation’s top four times, Seymour finished third in 23.13 behind NCAA leader Anavia Battle of Ohio State (22.86) and North Carolina A&T’s Cambrea Sturgis (23.10).  In the process of blasting her previous-best opening 200 – 23.39 last year at Clemson – Seymour took over the No. 4 spot nationally, and likely sealed her second trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 200 after narrowly missing a qualifying mark as sophomore.

“I feel really good, mostly because I knew that I had great training this entire fall and getting toward the [start of] the season,” Seymour said. “I knew I was going to run something pretty good. The lane [four] was tough, mostly because this track is completely different than other tracks we run on for the 200, but I’m really proud of what I’ve done.”

Kirkland was even more of a disadvantage running out of lane 3 in the second heat, but she didn’t let that phase her, charging past a field that including defending NCAA 60-meter champion Twanisha Terry of USC off the final curve, she won in 23.38 and ranks No. 8 nationally in the event.

“I feel the strongest that I’ve ever felt in my whole college career,” Kirkland said. “I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been, so I’ve been working pretty hard and having awesome workouts…

“I came out for my first race – and could have done better getting out – but I made it up in the end and felt pretty good. I’m excited for the next 200.”

All of the fireworks for the FSU men came in the seeded long jump flight and the Noles didn’t disappoint.

Junior transfer Isaac Grimes won his third consecutive event title in as many attempts this season, and did so in impressive fashion. Battling teammate Fabian Edoki for the top spot from the first round through the finals, Grimes closed the day with back-to-back, career-best 8.00 meter marks (26-3). 

Though he narrowly missed picking up the Noles’ second Sports Performance Center facility record (26-5) of the weekend, he solidified his No. 2 national standing and grabbed sole possession of fourth on FSU’s all-time list.

“It was what I was looking for in my run-up and approach and it kind of came together,” Grimes said.

Edoki actually led the competition after the first round, landing a season-best mark of 7.82 meters (25-8) – the first of two on the day – setting the tone for the day and motivating Grimes.

Milers secure ACC marks at Indiana Relays

Neither Kasey Knevelbaard nor Bert Freire quite got the result they wanted in Saturday’s mile run at the Indiana Relays, though they both got what they minimally needed from their respective efforts.

Knevelbaard wasn’t able to crack the four-minute mile, but his third-place finish in the seeded race, where he was the second collegian, qualified him automatically for the ACC Indoor Championships. Knevelbaard ran 4:03.99; well off his target but still the No. 4 time in FSU history.

Freire followed a heat later with a lifetime-best of 4:07.83, a four-second improvement over his previous best, and also posted an automatic qualifying time for the conference meet.

Five other Noles competed in the 3000-meter run with mixed results with Jacob Holmes (8:20.69) and Silas Griffith (8:23.01) posting the best marks.

“Jacob and Silas ran personal bests, but the other three went for broke and had rough races,” Braman said. “We’ll be much better at Boston in two weeks and today’s races are just part of the process.”

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