Advertisement
  1. Sports

Lakewood High alumna Kala Funderburk finds 400-meter form at FSU

Former Lakewood High standout Kala Funderburk, now at Florida State, recently ran the 400 meters in a season-best 51.09 seconds. She's a favorite in the event at this week's NCAA Championships. (Courtesy of wlpearce.com)
Former Lakewood High standout Kala Funderburk, now at Florida State, recently ran the 400 meters in a season-best 51.09 seconds. She's a favorite in the event at this week's NCAA Championships. (Courtesy of wlpearce.com)
Published Jun. 11, 2015

Kala Funderburk shot out of the blocks in the 400 meters, surging to the lead at the NCAA East Preliminary Championships on May 29. Her start was good, her form was even better.

Gaining speed, the Florida State redshirt junior curled around the track comfortably ahead of the other competitors in her quarterfinal heat and won with ease.

Afterward, Funderburk raised her hands in disbelief, knowing the perfect race had just unfolded beneath her feet. It was a moment of unfiltered joy, not only for her win but for her time.

Funderburk ran a season-best 51.09 seconds, currently No. 3 among NCAA women, No. 5 in the United States and No. 7 in the world. It vaulted the former Lakewood High standout to the top seed in her signature event at the NCAA Track and Field Championships, which start today for the women in Eugene, Ore.

"I was probably the most shocked in the whole stadium after I hit that time," Funderburk said. "I didn't know if I could go that fast. I ran what was then a season-best 51.72 in my heat the day before. All I was trying to do was execute my race and win my heat.

"It's just amazing, especially to see my progression from high school to now."

At Lakewood, Funderburk was a solid runner who missed out on winning state titles. In 2011, she took third in the 400, her highest finish at a state meet.

Her college career started at Memphis, where she was a six-time Conference USA selection and set the school indoor (53.96) and outdoor (52.59) records in the 400. But after two years with the Tigers, Funderburk left following the 2013 season to transfer to FSU.

"The program and the coaches were great, but I was starting to get homesick," Funderburk said. "The location, being away from Florida, it started to weigh on me. Plus, the budget wasn't always there to go to some of the bigger meets in the summer that would allow me to run against strong competition and gain more exposure."

Because Funderburk transferred, she had to sit out last season. Still, she put in the work, running in a series of meets as an unattached athlete.

The results were encouraging. Funderburk reached the 400 semifinals at the USATF Championships in a then-best time of 51.87, her first time running under 52 seconds. She also was on Team USA's 4x400 relay team that took gold at the NACAC Under-23 Championships.

There were times in Funderburk's career when it seemed the finish she wanted so badly on the biggest stages was locked in a vault and no one would tell her the combination. There were injuries and illnesses, poor starts and imperfect form.

But after a summer filled with tough competition, Funderburk is starting to figure it out.

"I knew I was getting stronger," she said. "The more I was able to run, the more I was able to piece together each race, see how I was out of the blocks, where my arms were, those sort of things. That way I could learn and try to run more an even better race the next time out.

"But the biggest thing overall was having the confidence that I could win in big meets. It was something that was missing going back to high school. I would get nervous and the environment would overwhelm me. Being older and more mature, I've learned to gain composure and just run. Hopefully that gets me to an NCAA title."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Rookie linebacker Devin White is starting to have the kind of impact in Tampa Bay as he had at LSU. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Rick Stroud | Licht has virtually nothing left from his 2016 draft. But oh, those last two!
  2. Pasco County's seniors took to the field one last time on Friday night. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    River Ridge’s Anthony Roussos accounts for the final scores in a tight matchup.
  3. Bloomingdale's Gabriel Akpewero runs for a touchdown against Tampa Bay Tech on Oct. 4. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    The game will be held aat Raymond James Stadium
  4. Army vs. Navy, Heisman Trophy and more sports on the air.
  5. Former USF coach Charlie Strong was dismissed Dec. 1 following a 4-8 season. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The former coach’s notice of termination was provided on Friday
  6. Andrei Vasilevskiy was back to his usual acrobatic maneuvers while stopping 27 of 29 shots Thursday night, including this second period save on Boston Bruins center Joakim Nordstrom (20) with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak (81) helping. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    John Romano | Tampa Bay’s early-season struggles were matched by the goaltender, whose numbers were not as dominant as last season. In recent games, that seems to have changed.
  7. River Ridge's Travis Hawks is one of six Royal Knights playing in the all-star game. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    The fifth annual game will be held at Sunlake High.
  8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston smiles while on stage before meeting with the media during the Famous Jameis Jamboree at Raymond James stadium on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 in Tampa. The event, which recommended a new toy or non-perishable food item as the cost of admission, included games, beverages and a visit from Santa Claus. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Winston tested his injured right thumb by throwing a football for the first time this week on Friday.
  9. New USF football coach Jeff Scott will remain in town through the middle of next week before re-joining Clemson's staff. He'll then remain with the Tigers through their College Football Playoff run. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    With the early signing period starting Wednesday, USF has 14 non-binding pledges.
  10. Bucs career receptions leader Mike Evans (left) won't be available to help quarterback Jameis Winston and Tampa Bay for Sunday's 1 p.m. game at Detroit. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Bucs are without Mike Evans for the first time since 2017, but Ndamukong Suh is back in Motown.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement