Jacksonville Sports Day

ACC: FSU Long Jumpers’ Sweep Puts Men In Front; Mircheva Leads Women

CLEMSON, S.C. – After sweeping the first four places in the long jump, Florida State’s sixth-ranked men are carrying an eight-point lead into the final day of ACC Indoor Track & Field Championship competition at Clemson.

Graduate transfer Kenneth Fisher’s victory in 7.79 meters (25-6.75) was the crowning piece as the Noles turned the long jump pit into their own sand box of fun. Corion Knight (7.75m/25-5.25), Armani Wallace (7.57/24-10) and Jakub Andrzejczak (7.54/24-9) were right behind Fisher, contributing to a 29-point haul which gives the Noles a two-day total of 43 points.

Florida State’s women are a little further back in the standings, sitting sixth with 18 points, following a silver medal performance by Militsa Mircheva in the 5000-meter run and Eleonora Omoregie’s bronze in the high jump. Their hopes for a title will rest on nine qualifiers for Saturday’s final between the sprints and middle distance races, as well as Gleneve Grange and Ieva Zarankaite in the shot put, and Mircheva coming back for the 3000 final.

Friday’s buzz, however, centered around the remarkable sweep of the men’s long jump.

“This means a lot to me,” Fisher said, following his victory. “It was big. I just wanted to come out here, do what we’ve been doing in practice and dominate. Every day it’s a competition in practice and to come out and go 1-2-3-4…We had one plan in mind coming into this championship.”

The sweeping performance was just the boost the Noles needed in pursuit of their 11th ACC Indoor team title, which will require unseating defending champion Virginia Tech, which is lurking in fifth-place with 23 points.

The 17th-ranked Hokies, like the Noles, are well-positioned through Friday’s qualifying events to put up big numbers in what will likely be a shootout for the team trophy.

“That’s how Virginia Tech has beaten us [before], going 1-4 in the pole vault,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “I knew we’d do well in the long jump. I picked up for 21 points and 29 points is just fantastic. We competed well.

“Corion didn’t have the best high jump and we challenged him a bit. ‘You didn’t come here to be a fifth-place scorer.’ He stepped it up…They just went out there, had fun and they really, really charged our program going into tomorrow.”

Knight also provided the Noles with fifth-place points in the high jump, though his 2.12-meter (6-11.5) clearance left him shy of his fourth-place seeding.

“After the high jump I was on a new level of angry because I didn’t perform as I was supposed to perform,” Knight said. “It was a necessity from me to do my best and try to put the team on my back for the long jump.”

Knight did that well enough to leave defending champion Chris McBride fifth, in a wake of Garnet & Gold.

Junior Dante Newberg rode a huge personal-best in the pole vault (4.20m/13-9.25) and a gutty 1000-meter run to finish off a bronze medal finish in the heptathlon with a new career-best of 5,291 points. It was a significant contribution for the Tampa native, who hasn’t been able to practice for three weeks.

“He’s been in a boot with a really angry Achilles for three weeks, and he comes out and has that confidence about him,” Braman said. “He doesn’t look at his limitations. He says, ‘What do I have to get done?’

“I’m really proud of him because we needed him to gut-check it…If everybody fights like Dante it will definitely increase our chances of winning the trophy on Saturday.”

Brandon Tirado delivered a sixth-place finish in the weight throw (19.20m/63-0), but the Noles’ hopes for their first indoor title since 2014 were enhanced by a strong day of qualifying, led by junior sprinter Andre Ewers.

Ewers led a trio of Seminole qualifiers for the 60-meter dash finals in 6.69 – fastest in the field – and will have teammates, junior Edward Clarke (6.75) and freshman Darryl Gay (6.78) at his side. But he was only warming up. Ewers’ 20.72 qualifying mark for the 200-meter dash not only led everyone in the field, but moved him to No. 8 in the nation. It’s the fifth-fastest 200 in Florida State’s rich sprint history.

“Man, it’s going to take a big man to beat Andre Ewers in either race tomorrow,” Braman said. “And that looked like freshman Ed; like national qualifying, old Ed…and Darryl Gay did a great job.”

Freshman Trey Cunningham qualified second-fastest in the 60-meter hurdles in 7.79, and he too will have a teammate accompanying him in the final. Tye Dickens picked the perfect time to drop a huge personal-best, qualifying in 7.91, which moves him to No. 8 on FSU’s all-time list.

“Tyricke in the hurdles with that huge PR from 8.04 to 7.91 may be our biggest upset of the day which really helps,” Braman said. “That’s the best Trey has looked since week one. I like where those guys are. We checked the box in terms of putting ourselves in position to win.”

Mircheva was at her very best in what proved to be a tactical 5000-meter final, demonstrating the same savvy that middle distances qualifiers Madison Harris, Maudie Skyring and Jodie Judd showed earlier in the day.

“Militsa has been on her game,” Braman said. “She’s so strong now, she’ll come back and race like that tomorrow [in the 3000]. You kind of felt like a tactical race might not work for her, but she was spectacular. She was up to it and did a phenomenal job.”

The sit and kick race with a pack of a half-dozen was whittled down to two over the final two laps with Mircheva crossing in 16:34.93; less than a second behind Louisville’s Dorcas Wasike.

“I wish I could have finished first and brought the full 10 points for the team, but unfortunately I couldn’t,” Mircheva said. “At least I have a small contribution. I hope that tomorrow I can bring some more points to the team.”

Mircheva wasn’t the only member of the women’s middle distance group to show up big on moving day.

Judd (4:45.85) and Skyring (4:46.04) nabbed auto qualifying finishes with expertly-navigated second-place heat finishes. They qualified third and fourth overall on time for the 10-woman final. Emily Edwards was equally game, missing the final by one spot in 4:49.88.

“They were phenomenal,” Braman raved.

Two hours later, Harris and Ginelle DeMone were mimicking their teammates in the opening qualifying heat of the 800. Despite drawing the fastest heat of the day they delivered monster personal-bests of 2:07.57 and 2:08.70, respectively. Harris’ time was a near three-second personal-best and gave her sole possession of No. 6 on FSU’s all-time list. DeMone suffered Edwards’ cruel fate when she was bumped from the eighth and final qualifying spot on time by the last heat.

“Madison has been stuck on 2:10 for years and she kicked the door down today,” Braman said. “She never dies. She will not be eighth place, I promise you.”

Sophomore Cortney Jones set the tone earlier in the day for the women hurdlers and sprinters, blasting out a lifetime-best of 8.12 in the 60-meter hurdles. That’s not only good for a share of the top seed with Georgia Tech’s Jeanine Williams, but likely clinched a trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships for the first time.

It was clearly the highlight of a tough week for Jones, whose grandfather passed away.

“You go up there to Philadelphia for the funeral, fly in here on Wednesday night and less than 48 hours later and you may have punched your ticket to nationals,” Braman said, shaking his head. “And she’s going to run faster.”

Junior Shauna Helps and her precocious freshmen sprint mates Ka’Tia Seymour and Jayla Kirkland bolstered the women’s title hopes with outstanding performances in the 60- and 200-meter dashes.

All three moved on to the 60-meter final, with Kirkland leading the charge in 7.31, followed by Seymour (7.34) and Helps (7.36). Kirkland’s collegiate-best time was just two one-thousandths of a second off the top seed.

“The final is going to be a blanket finish at an elite level that this conference has never seen before,” Braman surmised.

Seymour and Helps were even closer in the 200-meter qualifying rounds – rocking nearly-identical 23.43s – in 23.422 and 23.423, from separate heats to lock up the Nos. 1-2 qualifying times.

“We’ve got a shot,” Braman said of the ladies. “The women put themselves in position.”

Saturday’s action gets underway with the men’s triple jump and women’s shot put – pivotal events for both teams’ title hopes – at 10:30 a.m. Gleneve Grange is the top seed in the women’s shot put, as in Austin Droogsma in the men’s shot put (1:30 p.m.). Wallace will be joined by Montel Never and Ashton Butler in the triple jump.

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