BATON ROUGE -- The LSU track and field teams are riding a wave of momentum heading into their regular season finale as they make the trip to Philadelphia to compete in the 114th running of the Penn Relays beginning Thursday at historic Franklin Field.
The collegiate action at this year’s relay carnival will kick off Thursday at 9 a.m. CDT and come to an end with the running of the men’s 4x400-meter relay on Saturday at 5 p.m.
The Penn Relays will feature perhaps the most impressive field in collegiate track and field outside of the NCAA Championships as 26 teams enter the meet ranked in the latest U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Top 25 power ranking.
The Lady Tigers enter the meet as the nation’s top-ranked squad for the second straight week, and the Tigers also boast their highest ranking of the outdoor season as they have reached No. 2.
“We always look forward to competing in this meet every year,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “It’s a really exciting carnival atmosphere, and it’s something you have to experience if you’re a fan of track and field. It’s exciting for our athletes to have the chance to compete in front of 50,000 people, and we’re expecting that kind crowd with great weather in the forecast.”
The relay events are among the most exciting in the sport of track and field, and LSU will bring three of the nation’s top-ranked relay teams to the Penn Relays this weekend, including the men’s 4x100, the women’s 4x100 and the women’s 4x400-meter relay teams.
The Lady Tigers were impressive in setting a pair of NCAA leading times at the LSU Alumni Gold this past weekend as they set a new Bernie Moore Track Stadium record in the 4x100 with a winning time of 42.84 seconds, while they also lowered their already established NCAA leading time in the 4x400 by crossing the finish line in 3 minutes, 29.28 seconds.
Their time in the 4x100 erased the 6-year-old stadium record of 43.12 set by South Carolina at the NCAA Outdoor Championships when the meet was last held in Baton Rouge in 2002.
The Tigers also boast the nation’s top-ranked 4x100-meter relay team as the foursome of Armanti Hayes, Richard Thompson, Gabriel Mvumvure and Trindon Holliday recorded an NCAA leading time of 38.74 in winning their fifth-straight title at the Texas Relays three weeks ago.
In all, the squads have combined to win a total of 51 Championship of America relay titles and 45 individual event titles in the illustrious history of the Penn Relays.
LSU looks to continue its success from a year ago when the teams combined to win a total of four Championship of America relay titles. The Tigers wrapped up the meet by winning the 4x100 and 4x400-meter relays in front of 49,363 fans on the final day, while the Lady Tigers added a pair of titles in the 4x100 and sprint medley relays.
The men are the three-time defending champions in the 4x100-meter relay and have won 16 relay titles all-time, while the women have added 35 titles of their own as they have dominated the sprint relays with 11 Championship of America titles in both the 4x100 and 4x200 relays.
“We’re going to continue to try to develop some consistency in our relay teams as we prepare for the championship season coming up in a few weeks,” Shaver said. “That’s something that will be important for the success of our teams as we get ready for the SEC and NCAA meets. This meet always attracts the best teams in the country, and we’re looking forward to a great weekend.”
Senior Kelly Baptiste is the only Lady Tiger in history to be named the Women’s College Athlete of the Meet for Individual Events as she earned the title in 2006 after winning the 100-meter dash.
Baptiste is in a select group of Lady Tigers who have enjoyed great success at the Penn Relays as former LSU greats Cheryl Taplin (1994), D’Andre Hill (1996) and Muna Lee (2003) have been recognized as the meet’s Most Outstanding Female Relay Runner for their efforts.
After returning to Baton Rouge, the squads will break for finals before returning to the track with the start of the championship season as they will compete in the 2008 SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Auburn, Ala., from May 15-18. The Lady Tigers will look to defend their crown, while the Tigers hope to win the team title after finishing runner-up a year ago.