AUSTIN, Texas – LSU’s Rodney Brown could have never imagined that he would top last year’s homecoming when he returned to the discus ring at Mike A. Myers Stadium for Saturday’s competition, but he did just that on his opening throw by unleashing a personal best of 206 feet, 4 inches to lead LSU Track & Field in the finale at the 87th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.
A native of nearby Navasota, Texas, Brown threw a 2013 seasonal best of 206-3 in a runner-up finish at the Texas Relays a year ago to propel himself to an All-American sophomore season with the Tigers.
It only took one throw in the Saturday’s qualifying rounds for Brown to cement his status as a national championship contender again this season while moving into the No. 3 spot in the NCAA Division I rankings in 2014. It was a mark that earned Brown a fourth-place finish in a discus final that is certainly a preview of what he will face at the 2014 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in June.
Fedrick Dacres of the University of the West Indies took the title by nearly six feet with a monster throw of 219-0 in the fifth round, while UCLA’s defending NCAA champion Julian Wruck followed in second place with his series-best for 213-3 in the sixth and final round of the competition. Brown also trailed Nebraska’s Chad Wright, who took third place with his top mark of the day at 208-3 in the sixth round.
Rounding out the Top 5 of the men’s discus standings was Texas’ Ryan Crouser as the Longhorn standout just missed the 200-foot mark with a best of 199-4 in the fifth round for fifth place overall.
“This always one of my favorite meets to come to because it’s a comfortable meet for me,” Brown said of coming back to his home state to compete. “I never feel like I need to do anything differently when I compete here, and that’s something I should do in each meet. I competed here all throughout high school. I’m used to the atmosphere. I’m used to the people who I know are going to be here watching me. It’s a competition I always look forward to. That definitely helps my performance.
“I hit a big mark to start with, but I don’t feel like it was as good as I could have done. There’s a lot left for me this year, and I’m going to work hard to achieve that. I’m looking forward to what this season has for me.”
Brown certainly hopes that his performance Saturday propels him to another All-American season with the Tigers after he won his first career All-America honor in the discus throw a season ago by earning fourth place nationally in his debut at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. His PR of 206-4 trails only the national-leading mark of 212-1 in the NCAA rankings this season.
Just two weeks after winning the national championship in the 4x400-meter relay in their last appearance at the NCAA Indoor Championships, the Tigers made their outdoor season debut in the event Saturday with an appearance in the Cleburne Price, Jr. 4x400-Meter Relay Invitational to wrap up this year’s meet.
After junior Quincy Downing led the team off in 46.71 seconds out of the blocks, sophomore Darrell Bush ripped off his 44.94-second split on the second leg before handing off to sophomore Cyril Grayson for his 46.21-second split on the third leg. They were running third in the race behind Florida and Texas A&M when junior Vernon Norwood took the stick from Grayson on the anchor leg.
Norwood got the Tigers back into second place when Texas A&M’s Deon Lendore stepped off the track with 100 meters to go with an apparent injury, and that’s where he would stay as he crossed the finish line for an opening run of 3 minutes, 2.81 seconds in their debut for the second-fastest time in the NCAA. Florida took the tape with a collegiate-leading time of 3:01.26.
Texas A&M was one of three teams not to finish the race as Baylor and Texas Tech also gave way early on. Cornell followed more than five seconds behind the Tigers in third place overall with a time of 3:07.98.
“That was a great way for us to end our Texas Relays for this year,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “You’ve got Rodney throwing at about the same time we’re getting ready to run the relay, and both did very well here at the end of the track meet. The main thing to take away from their performance is how well they competed. You never really know what’s going to happen out there, and they did a great job of battling through the very end. We need to see more performances like that from both our teams in the weeks ahead.”
The Lady Tigers certainly made their mark nationally in the hurdle events over the last two days at the Texas Relays, and senior Jasmin Stowers continued their momentum in Saturday’s final of the 100-meter hurdles.
After qualifying with a season-opening run of 13.01 (+0.6) as the second-fastest qualifier in Friday’s preliminary round, Stowers finished runner-up to Kentucky’s Kendra Harrison for the second day in a row as each ran seasonal-best wind-aided times in an exciting sprint hurdle final on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Stowers earned her best finish in four career appearances at the Texas Relays as she crossed the finish line with a wind-aided time of 12.87 (+2.1) behind Harrison’s winning 12.68w as the two SEC rivals posted the two fastest times in the NCAA this season under all conditions. Florida’s Bridgette Owens followed in third place at 12.96w, while Texas’ Morgan Snow also broke 13 seconds at 12.97w for fourth place.
Stowers had taken home third-place finishes in the 100 hurdles final at the Texas Relays twice before when she ran a wind-aided 12.86 as a freshman in 2011 and a wind-aided 12.88 as a junior a season ago.
Stowers was not the only Lady Tiger to line up in Saturday’s sprint hurdle final as junior Mariah Georgetown finished the race in ninth place with her wind-aided run of 13.46. Georgetown qualified for the final on Friday when she raced to a wind-legal personal best of 13.39 in the preliminary round.
The Lady Tigers emerged from this year’s Texas Relays with three hurdlers ranking among the NCAA’s Top 3 early in the 2014 outdoor season after senior Nikita Tracey ran 57.53 for second and junior Chanice Chase ran a personal best of 57.67 for third in Friday’s university final in the 400-meter hurdles. Their times rank No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in the NCAA rankings this spring.
After Stowers and Georgetown lined up in the final of the women’s 100-meter hurdles, senior Takeia Pinckney took her mark in the final of the women’s university 100-meter dash after qualifying on Friday with a 2014 season opener of 11.42 (+0.7) in the preliminary round. Pinckney took ninth place in the final with a wind-aided clocking of 11.99 (+2.7).
The Tigers and Lady Tigers kicked off Saturday’s action with a pair of third-place finishes in the 4x200-meter relays as the two powers from the state of Texas traded titles in the opening event on the track.
The Tigers were the first to step onto the track in the second heat of the men’s 4x200-meter relay, and their foursome of sophomore Cyril Grayson, senior Shermund Allsop, sophomore Darrell Bush and junior Vernon Norwood crossed were the third team to cross the finish line with a time of 1 minute, 22.87 seconds trailing only Texas A&M (1:20.78) and Florida (1:21.35).
It seemed as though the Tigers were destined for a fifth-place finish as Norwood trailed both Auburn and Arkansas coming around the final turn, but the 400-meter specialist closed strong down the stretch to nip both teams with Auburn following just six one-hundredths of a second behind the Tigers in fourth place at 1:22.93 and Arkansas rounding out the top five in fifth place at 1:23.10.
The Lady Tigers followed with a third-place finish of their own in the women’s 4x200-meter relay final as their team of junior Chanice Chase, sophomore Kiersten Duncan, freshman Jada Martin and freshman Bealoved Brown carried the stick two laps around the track in 1:34.23 to follow Texas (1:31.38) and Texas A&M (1:31.82) across the finish line.
Following the 4x200-meter relay, Stowers, Duncan, Martin and Pinckney teamed up on the track for the final of the women’s 4x100-meter relay just one day after running a season-opening 44.17 in Friday’s qualifier.
They passed the baton around the track in 44.41 to take home a fifth-place effort in the race, finishing behind the likes of Florida (43.60), Texas (43.64), Kentucky (44.12) and Houston (44.22) in their first final during the 2014 outdoor season. The Lady Tigers will look forward to more opportunities to run together in the 4x100-meter relay in the coming weeks as Saturday’s race marked only the second career appearance for the duo of Duncan and Martin on the second and third legs in their brief careers as Lady Tigers.
“We were able to come here and get some things done that are going to help our team going forward,” Shaver said. “We really wanted a good start to our season more than anything. The Texas Relays this year was so much different for us than in years past being the season opener for so many of our athletes. I think they approached it the right way, and competed very well all the way through those final events.”
After wrapping up Friday night’s events for the LSU Track & Field teams with a strong season-opening performance of 53-6 ¼ for fourth place in the “A” section final of the women’s shot put, junior Tori Bliss stepped in the ring for the “B” section of the women’s discus throw on Saturday morning as she kicked off the day’s action for the Tigers and Lady Tigers.
Bliss finished just eight inches short of her lifetime best in the discus throw after unleashing a series-best of 162-3 on her sixth and final throw of the competition to earn fifth place in the event.
After winning the women’s “A” shot put ahead of Bliss on Friday night, Missouri’s Jill Rushin saved her best for last again in Saturday’s “B” discus with a top throw of 169-0 in the final round to win her second event in as many days. Bliss also trailed Liberty’s Jennifer Nicholson (164-11), Baylor’s Cion Hicks (164-8) and Texas Tech’s Hannah Carson (162-10) in the final discus standings to end her Texas Relays appearance for 2014.