|High School:||Westbury HS|
The LSU Track & Field program was proud to welcome back one of its all-time greats as an assistant coach prior to the 2012 season as former Tiger two-sport national champion Bennie Brazell joined the coaching staff as Dennis Shaver’s assistant for the men’s sprints, hurdles and relays.
Brazell now enters his seventh season coaching at his alma mater as his addition to the staff has paid big dividends for the Tigers with their performance at the SEC and NCAA Championships.
Brazell was himself part of five NCAA Champion relay teams during his collegiate career with the Tigers from 2002-05, and he helped build upon that proud tradition in 2016 by coaching the Tigers to NCAA titles in three of the four relay events contested at the NCAA Championships. Not only were the Tigers crowned NCAA Champions in the 4x100-meter relay during the outdoor season, but they also won both NCAA Indoor and NCAA Outdoor titles in the 4x400-meter relay to prove themselves as the deepest sprint squad in the country that season.
LSU lined up one of the most prolific sprint relay teams in collegiate history two seasons ago, culminating with a record-setting victory at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships where Jaron Flournoy, Renard Howell, Tremayne Acy and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake teamed for a then Hayward Field stadium record at the University of Oregon with a winning time of 38.42 seconds in the NCAA final.
Their victory at the NCAA Championships came just weeks after smashing the SEC Championships meet record where they ran the eighth-fastest time in collegiate history at 38.33 in the conference final.
The 2016 SEC Outdoor Championships at the University of Alabama was also the site of one of the most impressive displays in the history of the meet as Mitchell-Blake also swept SEC 100-meter and 200-meter titles while emerging as one of the world’s bright young stars with his performance.
It was his victory in the 200-meter final that sent shockwaves across the country and around the world as he crushed the field with a wind-legal 19.95 to become the seventh-fastest sprinter in collegiate history in the event. Mitchell-Blake, who was just a split-second shy of John Regis’ British record of 19.94, used his performance during the collegiate season as catalyst for making his Olympics debut with Team GB where he lined up in the 200-meter semifinals in Rio de Janeiro.
Mitchell-Blake made history again as a senior in 2017 when he earned the distinction as the first LSU Tiger in program history to run sub-10 seconds in the 100 meters and sub-20 seconds in the 200 meters with a 9.99 PR in the 100-meter final at the SEC Championships while scoring the SEC Outdoor silver medal as an All-SEC performer in the event once again. That performance highlighted a senior season in which he added four more All-America honors to his resume, including the title of NCAA Outdoor Silver Medalist in the 200-meter dash.
An NCAA Champion, nine-time All-American, six-time SEC Champion and 10-time All-SEC sprinter, Mitchell-Blake is one of the most decorated athletes to proudly wear the purple and gold during his collegiate career.
Mitchell-Blake would later set the world of track and field alight when he anchored Great Britain to the World Championship in the 4x100 relay on his nation’s home track at the London Stadium last summer. Storming to the finish line in 37.47, he cemented a national record for his country and earned a special place in history as the World Champion in what was the final race of Usain Bolt’s legendary career. He also placed fourth in his first World final of the 200-meter dash.
The Tigers have also fielded a deep stable of 400-meter runners in recent seasons as Fitzroy Dunkley, Michael Cherry, LaMar Bruton and Cyril Grayson won NCAA titles during both the indoor and outdoor seasons as the nation’s leading 4x400-meter relay team in 2016. They even established themselves as one of the top teams in collegiate history with a seasonal best of 3 minutes, 0.38 seconds that season.
Like Mitchell-Blake, Dunkley later made his Olympics debut with Jamaica as he added an Olympic silver medal in the relay to his title as 2016 NCAA Outdoor Silver Medalist in the 400-meter dash.
Cherry proved to be one of the NCAA’s leading 400-meter sprinters in his own right in his debut season in 2016 as he was the NCAA Indoor and NCAA Outdoor Bronze Medalist in the event with his performance. He followed as a senior in 2017 by earning the title of NCAA Indoor Silver Medalist and defending his bronze medal at the NCAA Outdoor Championships while going out as a two-time NCAA Champion and eight-time All-American in his two seasons in Baton Rouge.
Cherry clocked his personal best of 44.67 in the 400-meter final at the USA Track & Field Championships last summer to earn his spot on Team USA at the World Championships in London. That’s where he climbed the medal podium as a World silver medalist in the 4x400-meter relay.
LSU’s sprinters, hurdlers and relay teams provided the foundation of a squad that earned a pair of top-five team finishes at the NCAA Championships during the 2016 season as the Tigers placed fourth indoors and fifth outdoors in national competition. In all, nine Tigers combined for 20 All-American honors at the NCAA Championships while also being crowned SEC Champions that season.
While LSU has featured many of the nation’s top 400-meter sprinters in recent years, Vernon Norwood is certainly the class of the field as he wrapped up his collegiate career in 2015 with a sweep of NCAA 400-meter titles while also anchoring the Tigers to the NCAA Outdoor Championship in the 4x400 relay. It’s a career in which Norwood won four NCAA titles and eight All-America honors in his two seasons.
While emerging as one of the world’s top young 400-meter runners with a lifetime best of 44.44 set in his senior season, Norwood also represented the United States at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing that summer where he was crowned a World Champion as part of Team USA’s 4x400-meter relay team in his championship debut.
Brazell was one of the world’s leading 400-meter hurdlers throughout his own athletic career as an LSU Tiger, and he helped coach Quincy Downing to a pair of All-America honors in the event during his career in Baton Rouge. After finishing his junior season in 2014 as the NCAA Outdoor Bronze Medalist, Downing went out as an All-American in the 400 hurdles once again by finishing fourth nationally to cap his senior season in 2015 in which he set a personal best of 49.63 in the event.
In Brazell’s first season in 2012, the Tigers followed a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships with an impressive second-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships as they were just two points shy of winning a national championship in his inaugural campaign.
Their 2012 season was highlighted by claiming their eighth national championship all-time in the 4x100-meter relay. While running with a team of Barrett Nugent, Aaron Ernest, Keyth Talley and Shermund Allsop, the Tigers matched the seventh-fastest relay performance in collegiate history at the time with a winning 38.38 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Nugent wrapped up his collegiate career in 2012 as the most decorated hurdler in the history of the LSU men’s program with a pair of NCAA titles and four SEC titles to go along with 10 All-America honors in his four seasons in Baton Rouge. After breaking his own indoor school record in the 60 hurdles with a run of 7.55 to claim the NCAA Indoor bronze medal, Nugent captured his third-straight SEC crown in the 110 hurdles and ended his career with All-America honors during the outdoor season.
Nugent owns the distinction of being the only LSU Tiger to win three-straight SEC Outdoor titles in the 110-meter hurdles in the history of the SEC Outdoor Championships.
The 2012 season also saw former Tigers Ade Alleyne-Forte (Trinidad & Tobago) and Riker Hylton (Jamaica) make their Olympics debut in London while running the mile relay for their countries. Alleyne-Forte certainly made the most of his first Olympic Games as he led Trinidad & Tobago to a bronze medal in the relay as a third leg on the team that set a national record of 2:59.40 in the Olympic final.
The Tigers have followed Brazell’s inaugural season as an assistant coach in 2012 with seven more top-10 team finishes at the NCAA Championships, including ties for eighth and seventh at the NCAA Indoor Championships and finishes of seventh, tie for fourth and fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively.
A member of the program from 2002-05, Brazell helped the Tigers claim five NCAA relay titles while earning 14 All-America honors as one of the NCAA’s leading 400-meter hurdlers during his four seasons in Baton Rouge. By earning 14 All-America accolades for his career, Brazell is the No. 2-ranked Tiger all-time behind only the 19 All-America honors won by Kelly Willie from 2003-06.
Brazell actually owns the unique distinction of being the university’s first student-athlete to win national championships with two different sports teams during his LSU career.
In four seasons as a member of national championship football and track programs at LSU, Brazell became one of the school’s most recognizable two-sport stars during his career that featured national titles in track and field outdoors in 2002 and indoors in 2004 and on the football field in 2003.
Brazell even represented the United States on an international stage during his junior season at LSU as he advanced to the Olympic final in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. In his Olympics debut, he finished in eighth place in the final at the centennial games.
A product of Westbury High School in Houston, Brazell made an immediate impact on the LSU Track & Field program as the nation’s No. 1-ranked high school prospect in the 400-meter hurdles.
During his freshman season, Brazell scored eight points as the NCAA Outdoor runner-up in the 400-meter hurdles while breaking the school record in the event with a time of 48.80. He also anchored LSU to a national title in the 4x100-meter relay that ran the fourth-fastest time in NCAA history at 38.32, while also running the third leg on the Tigers’ bronze-medal winning 4x400-meter relay team.
Brazell’s 14 points helped led LSU to a national championship in its own backyard with the 2002 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships being held at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium.
Brazell helped guide LSU to a second NCAA team title at the onset of his junior season in 2004 with their victory at the NCAA Indoor Championships. With the Lady Tigers also winning the team championship, LSU made history as the first program to sweep both the men’s and women’s team titles at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Brazell certainly went out with a bang as a senior in 2005 at the NCAA Championships as he enjoyed performances in both the 400 hurdles and 4x400 relay that eclipsed previous collegiate records.
In the most exciting NCAA final in the 400-meter hurdles in NCAA Championships history, Brazell and Florida’s Kerron Clement each shattered the collegiate record as Clement struck gold in 47.56 and Brazell took home the silver in 47.67, a time that remains LSU’s school record in the event.
While Brazell came up just short of owning the collegiate record in the 400-meter hurdles with his second place to Clement in the national final, he would not be denied in the final of the 4x400-meter relay. That’s where he ran a 44.8-second split on the third leg to set the collegiate record at 2:59.59 with Reggie Dardar (46.4), Willie (44.4) and Xavier Carter (44.0) in winning the NCAA crown.
The Houston native also enjoyed a successful career on the football field while appearing in 43 contests in his four seasons as a wide receiver and special teams standout. Brazell appeared in 11 games for the Tigers during their national championship season in 2003, including the 2004 Sugar Bowl.
Brazell concluded his football career at LSU with 17 catches for 341 yards and three touchdowns before being picked in the seventh round of the 2006 NFL Draft as the 231st overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Brazell File
5-time NCAA Champion
14-time NCAA All-American
Collegiate Record Holder (4x400 Relay)
LSU School Record Holder (400 Hurdles, 4x400 Relay)
231st overall pick (7th Round) of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals
Member of LSU’s 2002 NCAA Outdoor and 2004 NCAA Indoor championship teams on the track.
Member of LSU’s 2003 national championship team on the football field.
Coaching Records at LSU
2 Olympic Medalists
2 World Champions
3 World Championship Medalists
2 World Junior Championships Medalists
14 NCAA Champion athletes winning 8 NCAA event titles
18 SEC Champion athletes winning 13 SEC event titles
20 All-American athletes winning 85 All-America honors
22 All-SEC athletes winning 68 All-SEC honors