COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Senior Denise Hinton, junior Vernon Norwood and the men’s 4x400-meter relay each cracked the Top 10 of the NCAA rankings this season, while the Tigers and Lady Tigers took home three event titles and set 13 indoor personal bests during Saturday’s finale at the Aggie Invitational at Texas A&M’s Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium.
Hinton cracked the nation’s Top 5 with a throw of 70 feet, 1 inch in the weight throw, while Norwood raced into the Top 10 with a time of 46.31 seconds in his LSU debut in the 400 meters before anchoring the Tigers to a seasonal best of 3 minutes, 6.62 seconds in the 4x400-meter relay to headline the top performing Tigers and Lady Tigers during the meet’s finale.
Senior Jasmin Stowers also set a meet record in winning the 60-meter hurdles, while junior Tori Bliss won the shot put and freshman Nataliyah Friar claimed the long jump title on the women’s side on Saturday.
Their efforts helped LSU sweep runner-up spots in the final team standings on both the men’s and women’s sides as the Tigers scored 91 points and the Lady Tigers scored 96.5 points for a pair of second-place finishes behind the homestanding Texas A&M Aggies. The Aggies scored 150 points on the men’s side and 172 points on the women’s side to take the top spots in the final standings.
Rounding out the men’s teams in the event were Tennessee (88) in third place with 88 points, UCLA (59) in fourth place, Baylor (58) and Houston (58) in a tie for fifth place, UTEP (55) in seventh place, Arizona State (20) in eighth place and TCU (15) in ninth place. Following Texas A&M and LSU in the final women’s standings were Tennessee (90) in third place, Baylor (88) in fourth place, UCLA (72) in fifth place, Houston (68.5) in sixth place, UTEP (32) in seventh place, TCU (18) in eighth place and Arizona State (17) in ninth place.
“We got some things done here today that will help us in the championship meets, but there is still a lot of work to be done by both our teams,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “I continue to be very impressed by how our teams compete week in and week out. Now the performances are starting to come along with how hard we’re competing right now.
“We look forward to another opportunity to compete next weekend when we head to Arkansas for the first time this season. We’ll have a great chance to add a few more qualifying marks at the Tyson Invitational.”
Hinton entered her senior season with All-America aspirations as a two-time NCAA Championships qualifier in the women’s weight throw over the past two seasons, and she emerged from Saturday’s event among an elite company as the nation’s No. 5-ranked performer in the weight throw with one of the top marks of her collegiate career.
Hinton took an early when she uncorked a seasonal-best throw of 70-1 on her second attempt for a narrow advantage over the mark of 69-10 ¾ by Texas A&M’s Brea Garrett in the second round. Garrett then grabbed the lead with a throw of 72-9 ¼ in the third round before raising her best to a national-leading 74-4 ¼ on her sixth and final throw. Hinton finished runner-up with her best of 70-1.
A senior from Peachtree City, Ga., Hinton is the reigning SEC Indoor champion in the women’s weight throw and is poised to make her third career NCAA Championships appearance in the event this spring. She owns a school-record mark of 70-9 ¼ set last season as her top performance as a Lady Tiger.
Norwood made his long-awaited debut for the Tigers in the 400-meter dash on Saturday after joining the program as one of the top quartermilers in the junior college ranks in two seasons at South Plains College.
Running out of lane No. 6 in the first of seven heats, Norwood finished runner-up to Texas A&M All-American Aldrich Bailey, Jr. with the second-fastest indoor 400 meters of his collegiate career. Norwood took second place in the race with a season-opening time of 46.31 to finish just a split-second behind Bailey, Jr. (46.25) with the No. 7-ranked 400-meter time in the NCAA during the 2014 indoor season.
Norwood also finished just one one-hundredth outside the Top 10 of the school’s all-time rankings in the men’s 400-meter dash as he is off to a flying start to his collegiate career with the Tigers.
Two other LSU Tigers joined Norwood with impressive performances of their own in the 400-meter dash as junior Quincy Downing and sophomore Darrell Bush each clocked indoor personal bests in the event with the fastest indoor races of their careers. Downing followed Norwood across the finish line in the first heat with the third-fastest time of the day at 46.61, which moved him into a tie for the No. 17 spot in the NCAA rankings this season. Bush won the second heat with an indoor PR of his own at 47.13 to finish just outside the Top 30 of the national rankings.
The Tiger trio later wrapped up the meet by joining sophomore Cyril Grayson in leading the squad to a seasonal best of 3:06.62 in the 4x400-meter relay while finishing runner-up to Texas A&M (3:06.18).
Bush (47.63), Downing (46.47), Grayson (46.43) and Norwood (46.12) lowered their seasonal best by nearly two seconds with the NCAA’s No. 4-ranked time this season at 3:06.62. In fact, each of the top four sports for the NCAA rankings in the men’s 4x400-meter relay feature SEC teams as the Tigers follow Florida (3:04.46), Arkansas (3:05.02) and Texas A&M (3:05.06) in the fastest conference in the country.
While Hinton and Norwood came up just short in taking the titles in their respective events, Stowers made it a perfect 4-for-4 on her senior season by claiming her fourth-straight victory in the 60-meter hurdles.
After clocking 8.22 for the top time in the qualifying round, Stowers smashed the Aggie Invitational meet record with a winning time of 8.08 in the final to beat UTEP’s Janice Jackson (8.12) to the finish line in the final to take the top spot on the podium. Stowers eclipsed the previous meet record of 8.16 set four years ago by Texas A&M’s Natasha Ruddock during the 2010 season.
Stowers has already staked her claim as a national championship contender in the event this season as the NCAA’s No. 2-ranked sprint hurdler with an 8.01 seasonal best set at the New Mexico Invitational a week ago. He has now won the 60-meter hurdles in each of her four appearances this year, which also includes the Auburn Indoor Invitational (8.16) and Texas A&M Triangular (8.18).
Junior Joshua Thompson was also impressive with his performance in the men’s 60-meter hurdles on Saturday as he ran the fastest hurdle race in his two seasons as an LSU Tiger while finishing runner-up in the event.
Thompson clocked a seasonal best of 7.84 in the final to follow only Texas A&M’s Wayne Davis III (7.81) across the finish line while finishing on the cusp of the Top 20 nationally in the event. Thompson’s 7.84 ties him at No. 21 on the NCAA performance list this season as he nears his personal best of 7.79 set as a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh in 2012.
Bliss and Friar joined Stowers as event champions during this year’s Aggie Invitational as Bliss threw a series-best of 51-3 ¾ to win the shot put and Friar jumped a series-best of 20-1 ¾ to win the long jump.
Sophomore David Collins led a host of Tigers and Lady Tigers setting indoor personal bests during Saturday’s competition as he set a personal best in the men’s weight throw for the fourth-straight meet with a mark of 59-2 ¼ to take sixth place in the event. Collins has been perhaps the most consistent Tiger in 2014 as he has raised his personal best in each of the last four meets, including marks of 57-3 at the Auburn Invitational, 57-8 ½ at the Texas A&M Triangular and 58-1 ¼ at the New Mexico Team Invitational.
Other Tigers setting indoor PRs on Saturday include senior Shermund Allsop with his time of 21.28 for sixth place in the 200 meters and freshman Joseph St. Cyr with his time of 4:16.28 for 12th place in the mile.
Other Lady Tigers setting indoor PRs during the meet include junior Mariah Georgetown (8.41) in the 60-meter hurdles, sophomore Aliyah Davis in both the 60 meters (7.64) and 200 meters (24.55) and freshmen Jada Martin (23.85) and Bealoved Brown (24.39) in the 200 meters, Travia Jones (56.72) in the 400 meters, Morgan Schuetz (2:10.39) in the 800 meters and Ashley Welborn (10:12.74) in the 3,000 meters.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers will continue their regular season next weekend when they make their annual trip to Fayetteville, Ark., to compete at the two-day Tyson Invitational being held from Feb. 14-15 at the Randal Tyson Track Center. They will then host their only home meet of the 2014 indoor season on Friday, Feb. 21, at the LSU Twilight being held at the newly-renovated Carl Maddox Field House.