Competing like a team every bit as good as its No. 3 national ranking, the Florida State women’s track & field team opened its NCAA Championships competition Thursday by setting two school records and adding four other personal- or season-best performances.
While the Noles only managed four points – a career-best, fifth-place long jump finish from Rougui Sow – they set themselves up for a big finish.
Sophomore Ka’Tia Seymour qualified for Saturday’s 100- and 200-meter dash finals, and anchored the 4×100 relay to a second consecutive trip to the finals. Junior Cortney Jones also advanced to the 100-meter hurdles finals for the second consecutive year.
It was midnight when Sow stepped up on the podium to receive her hardware; the fruit of her season-best, sixth-round leap of 6.49 meters (21-3.5). The graduate transfer from South Carolina was both frustrated and relieved.
“I’m not going to lie, I’ve never felt that good and not being on the board was frustrating, because I could have gone way farther,” said Sow, France’s reigning national champion. “I’m very thankful that I made All-American, which I didn’t do during indoors.”
FSU’s 4×100 relay team of Karimah Davis, Jayla Kirkland, Shauna Helps and Seymour automatically advanced with a second-place finish in the third heat to get the day going. Their time of 43.23 ranked seventh-fastest on the day, but ranks third in Seminole history.
“I’m just grateful to be here, back from being injured all year long,” said Helps, who rejoined the team and will now get one final race to close her career. “I’m just thankful to be able to come here and compete with FSU across my chest for the last time. I’m overwhelmed.”
Davis, a freshman competing in her first NCAA Championships, was noticeably nervous before climbing into the starting blocks as the leadoff runner.
“Honestly my nerves were all over the place,” Davis said. “I was like, ‘Refocus,’ because at the beginning I didn’t get out, and I wanted to refocus so I could get the baton to Jayla and not have any mess-ups. The pass was good.”
And so was the finish. Helps took the stick from Kirkland then handed it to Seymour, who was just getting warmed up with her anchor leg.
One year after missing the 100-meter final by one spot, the Palatka, Fla. native was determined not to let history repeat itself. By breaking her own school record with a dash of 11.11, Seymour grabbed the first of two qualifying spots on time, finished third in heat 1.
Kirkland, competing in heat 2, very nearly joined her classmate. The Birmingham, Ala. native smashed her previous-best (11.34) by running 11.20, which equals the second-fastest time in program history. It would be the 10th-fastest time of the day, good for second-team All-American honors.
Before the 100-meter dash, Jones climbed into the blocks for her 100-meter hurdle semifinal, determined to get back to the final for a second consecutive year after placing third in 2018. Overcoming a slow start, she closed with a fury, finishing second in the third heat (12.76) to qualify automatically.
“Cortney was clutch as always,” Braman said. “She got out slow and ran past people. She’ll have something special for the final.”
Seymour had one last race – the 200-meter semifinal – to complete her quest for a three-final Saturday. Facing easily the strongest and deepest heat of the day, Seymour was on a mission.
“I actually felt it coming,” Seymour said, after dropping a career-best 22.55 – the fastest time by a Nole since 1983 – and finishing second to defending NCAA champion Anglerne Annelus (22.35) of USC. “I knew I had to run some PBs just to get to the finals. I had to go out there and execute as best as I could. I’m just grateful and happy that everything came out the way it was supposed to. It was a great day.”
As it turned out, Seymour’s heat produced four of the eight finalists.
“That’s an incredible day for Ka’Tia,” Braman said. “She competes like she’s supposed to win every race and doesn’t let the fast times of other affect her. That’s a special mindset.”
“Having the opportunity to be in all three finals, hopefully something happens Saturday and we do what we need to do; I do what we I need to do,” Seymour said. “Somebody is going to win a national title. Hopefully it’s me.”
Coming up Friday: FSU’s 4×100 relay team, fresh off its school-record semifinal performance (38.43), will get things started at 8:32 p.m. (ET). Senior Armani Wallace will put his No. 2 triple jump ranking on the line at 8:40, followed by freshman Bryan Rincher in the 100-meter final at 9:22.
Coverage online and on TV: ESPN will carry the action live beginning at 8:30 p.m. and Wallace’s triple jump competition will be streamed on ESPN3.
Courtesy of FSU sports information