FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A primary target for the LSU Track & Field teams competing at the Tyson Invitational this weekend was to improve their NCAA qualifying position in both the men’s and women’s 4x400-meter relays, and that is exactly what they did while racing to a pair of seasonal bests in Saturday’s finale at Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Center.
The Tigers took home the men’s relay title with a top time this season of 3 minutes, 4.60 seconds, while the Lady Tigers also dropped their seasonal best to 3:34.89 in the final women’s event of the meet.
The Tigers especially made their presence known in the final event of the meet as LSU’s team of sophomore Darrell Bush, junior Quincy Downing, sophomore Cyril Grayson and junior Vernon Norwood sprinted into the national championship race with the No. 2-ranked relay time in the NCAA this season while running against Florida State, Nebraska and South Plains in the final heat.
After Bush led off the relay with a 46.97-second split out of the blocks, Downing took the stick and kept the Tigers in front with a strong 46.41-second split on the second leg before giving way to Grayson at the second exchange. Grayson then reeled off a career-best indoor split of 46.15 to extend LSU’s lead before handing the baton to Norwood on the anchor leg.
Just one day after he won the men’s 400-meter dash with an indoor personal best of 45.81, Norwood clocked 45.09 on the anchor leg for the Tigers as he crossed the finish line with the clock stopping at 3:04.60.
It was certainly a weekend to remember for the junior from Morgan City, La., as he left the Randal Tyson Track Center on Friday night as the NCAA’s No. 3-ranked 400-meter sprinter this year before anchoring the LSU foursome to the NCAA’s No. 2-ranked relay time of the 2014 indoor season. They now trail only a national-leading 3:04.46 by the Florida Gators set on the same track at the Razorback Invitational two weeks ago.
Not only does their time rank No. 2 nationally for 2014, but the Tigers clocked the third-fastest relay time indoors in school history after entering the meet with a strong seasonal best of 3:06.62.
The Lady Tigers also cracked the Top 10 of the NCAA rankings in the women’s 4x400-meter relay with their performance on Saturday night while slashing more than three seconds off their previous seasonal best while entering the meet with a top time of 3:38.22 set at the New Mexico Team Invitational on Feb. 1.
After freshman Jada Martin led off the squad with a 54.20-second split on the leadoff leg, senior Nikita Tracey took the stick and turned in one of her most impressive races indoors as a Lady Tiger with a 53.08 effort for the second leg. Freshman Bealoved Brown followed with a 54.35-second split on the third leg before sophomore Chanice Chase anchored in 53.28 as the Lady Tigers crossed the finish line in 3:34.89 for second place for their heat and sixth place overall in the final event standings with the NCAA’s No. 9-ranked performance this season.
Texas won the women’s relay title with a time of 3:30.12 in the following heat, followed by Texas Tech (3:34.15), Kentucky (3:34.41), Southern California (3:34.51), Arkansas (3:34.70) and LSU (3:34.89) in the event.
“We could not have anticipated a better ending to this meet this weekend,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “Our athletes knew one of our main objectives in coming to this meet was to run a little faster in both of our (4x400) relays than we have to this point of the season, and I thought they gave it everything they had to get the job done for us here today.”
The Tigers were also impressive with their performance in the distance medley relay as they ran one of the 10 fastest times in school history for the second time in as many weeks.
Running with a foursome of freshman Blair Henderson (1,200 meters), freshman Matthew Rhorer (400 meters), junior Julian Parker (800 meters) and junior Philip Primeaux (mile), the Tigers raced to the finish line with a time of 9:49.26 for fifth place in the race with the sixth-fastest time in school history. Arkansas won the race in 9:44.22, followed by Houston (9:44.97), Nebraska (9:45.01) and Mississippi State (9:47.41).
Parker actually ran the fastest 800-meter split in the field as he was clocked at 1:49.04 on the third leg as the Tigers finished just over one second above their seasonal best of 9:48.01 set at Texas A&M last week.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers were also led on Saturday by a trio of event champions in the college division as senior Joseph Caraway (pole vault), senior Keri Emanuel (triple jump) and sophomore Shanice Hall (high jump) each set seasonal bests with their performances during the finale at this year’s Tyson Invitational.
Caraway entered Saturday’s college pole vault having cleared 17 feet twice this season in a pair of meets held at Texas A&M’s Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium with an indoor personal best of 17 feet, 1 ½ inches to take the event title at the Texas A&M Triangular on Jan. 25 before also clearing 17-0 in a third-place finish at the Aggie Invitational last weekend.
But he soared to new heights at the Randal Tyson Track Center on Saturday afternoon with a pair of second-attempt clearances with an indoor PR of 17-3 and lifetime best of 17-7 to take the college division. Houston’s Michael Mahnke was the only other competitor to clear 17 feet in the event while finishing runner-up with his clearance at 17-3.
With his performance, Caraway cracked the Top 15 of the NCAA rankings this season in the No. 13 spot, while also moving into a tie for the No. 7 position on LSU’s all-time performance list in the event.
Hall also cracked LSU’s all-time Top 10 list with her victory in the women’s college high jump as she soared to an indoor personal best of 5-9 ¾ on her second attempt to share the event title with Baylor’s Lauren Cook. It was a neck-and-neck competition throughout as both Hall and Cook posted first-attempt clearances at 5-3 ¾, 5-5 ¾ and 5-7 ¾ before fouling out with three misses at 5-11 ½.
Hall’s clearance of 5-9 ¾ eclipsed her previous indoor best of 5-8 set at the New Mexico Team Invitational two weeks ago and tied her for the No. 10 spot on LSU’s all-time indoor list in the women’s high jump.
Emanuel made her season debut in the event that earned her All-America honors a season ago as she took home the women’s college triple jump crown with a series-best jump of 41-7 ¾ in the fourth round to end up just over an inch farther than the mark of 41-6 ½ by Tennessee’s Allison Outerbridge in second place in the final standings. Lady Tiger teammate Nataliyah Friar also followed in fourth place overall with her best jump of 41-1 ½ on her first attempt after she set a lifetime PR of 20-8 to win the women’s college long jump on Friday night.
Emanuel, who was the sixth-place finisher in the triple jump at the NCAA Indoor Championships a year ago, is looking to regain her All-America form following surgery in the fall to repair a torn meniscus in both knees.
In the women’s championship triple jump, Lady Tiger senior Lynnika Pitts eclipsed the 42-foot mark for the second time in as many triple jump appearances as she posted a top jump of 42-0 ½ for the day with her third attempt to take second place into the final. She ended the competition in third place, trailing only Arkansas’ Tamara Myers (42-8) and Nebraska’s Ellie Ewere (42-4) for the bronze medal.
“I feel like this is as good a team performance as we’ve had at the Tyson Invitational over the past few seasons,” Shaver said. “We came here with some specific goals of things we wanted to get done to really put us in a better position to compete when we go to the SEC and NCAA meets, and I thought our athletes did a good job of that this weekend. They competed very well for themselves and one another at this meet.”
Saturday’s action at the Tyson Invitational kicked off with the 200-meter dash on the track as a pair of freshmen proved to be the top Tiger and Lady Tiger in the event.
Just one week after running an indoor personal best of 23.85 at the Aggie Invitational, Lady Tiger rookie Jada Martin nearly matched her seasonal-best performance when she sprinted to the finish line in 23.87 seconds to take second place in the eighth heat and 12th place overall in one of the most anticipated events of the afternoon. Southern California’s Tynia Gaither won the women’s 200 meters in 23.31.
A trio of Lady Tigers followed Martin with indoor PRs in the 200 meters as sophomore Kiersten Duncan clocked 24.02 for 16th place, sophomore Aliyah Davis ran 24.30 for 24th place and freshman Rushell Harvey posted a time of 24.43 for 30th place out of 79 competitors in the final event standings after 22 contested heats.
Freshman Tremayne Acy was the top Tiger in the men’s 200-meter dash as he won the sixth heat with a time of 21.09 to take fifth place in the final standing. He led a quartet of Tigers in the event as sophomore Darrell Bush trailed in 14th place overall with an lifetime PR of 21.27, followed by junior Aaron Ernest in 16th place with a time of 21.28 in his season debut and senior Shermund Allsop in 18th place with a time of 21.32.
Other LSU athletes setting indoor PRs Saturday include freshman Joseph St. Cyr (8:46.19) and sophomore Travis Pope (8:46.66) in the 3,000 meters and freshman Bryiana Richardson (24.94) in the 200 meters.
With the Tyson Invitational now in the books, the Tigers and Lady Tigers will return home next weekend for their one and only home meet of the 2014 indoor season as they play host to the LSU Twilight on Friday, Feb. 21, with finals scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. CT at the Carl Maddox Field House. They then kick off the championship season by competing at the 2014 SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships being held Feb. 27-March 1 at Texas A&M’s Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station.