JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Led by a quartet of heat-winning performances in Friday’s quarterfinals on the track, the LSU Track & Field teams added eight semifinalists to their squad making the trip to Eugene, Oregon, two weeks from now to highlight another successful day of qualifying at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds being held at North Florida’s Hodges Stadium.
Adding their names to LSU’s NCAA contingent were Tigers Quincy Downing (400 hurdles), Aaron Ernest (100 meters), Vernon Norwood (400 meters) and Jeremy Tuttle (hammer throw); and Lady Tigers Chanice Chase (400 hurdles), Rushell Harvey (100 meters), Lynnika Pitts (high jump) and Nikita Tracey (400 hurdles) with their efforts.
The Top 12 finishers in each event earn the right to compete in the semifinals at the 2014 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships being held June 11-14 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
LSU’s 400-meter hurdlers highlighted the qualifying on the track for the second-straight day as Downing, Chase and Tracey each won their quarterfinal heats to earn their trip to Eugene.
Downing, who qualified with a personal best of 50.54 seconds for the fastest time in Thursday’s opening round, crossed the finish line with a PR for the second-straight day as he took the tape in the second heat with a time of 50.49. Downing was running second and closing on North Carolina’s Javonte Lipsey coming down the homestretch when the Tar Heel standout hit the final hurdle to pave the way for Downing’s victory.
Downing’s winning run of 50.49 in the second heat held up for the second-fastest time of the day behind a 50.11 turned in by North Carolina’s Rilwan Alowonle to win the first of the three quarterfinal heats. Downing’s effort also outdistanced the field in his heat by nearly one full second as he was followed by Kent State’s Miles Dunlap (51.41) and Lipsey (51.42).
“My only thought process was attacking the last hurdle and being aggressive. I knew I would win it if I did that,” Downing said. “All through the race, I was just focusing on keeping my form because I know I have speed and endurance to be able to close strong. I was hoping for 49 (seconds) today, but you don’t always get what you want. I just have to get back to practice and put it together at nationals.”
Chase then kicked off the quarterfinal round of the women’s 400-meter hurdles by winning the first of three heats with an impressive run of 56.40 that stood as the fourth-fastest time of the day. Chase was locked up with Ohio State’s Alexis Franklin and Harvard’s Jade Miller in a three-horse race for the win, and surged over the eighth and ninth hurdles to outlast Franklin (56.55) and Miller (57.22) to the finish line.
Chase even advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinal round in women’s the 100-meter hurdles after turning in a personal best of 13.20 (+1.6) to win the sixth qualifying heat. Joining Chase in the quarterfinals of the hurdles will be Lady Tiger senior Jasmin Stowers, who won the fifth qualifying heat with the second-fastest time of the day at 13.02 (+0.6).
“I could see them beside me out of the corner of my eye, so I knew that I had to keep pushing all the way to the finish line,” Chase said. “Usually, I tend to have a better end to the race, but this time I got our a little bit harder than usual, so probably didn’t have as much left at the end. I still finished strong though. I felt like I was in good position the whole time, but seeing them beside me motivated me to get through it.”
Tracey then added her name to LSU’s roster heading to Eugene when she blasted the field in the third quarterfinal heat of the women’s 400 hurdles with a time of 56.23 as she has her sights set on earning All-America honors in the event for the second-straight season. Following Tracey across the finish line was freshman teammate Bryiana Richardson, who nearly matched her personal best of 58.63 from Thursday’s qualifying round with another strong run of 58.64 for sixth place in the heat and 20th place in the quarterfinal.
While LSU’s 400-meter hurdlers headlined Friday’s qualifying on the track, Norwood nearly stole the show with his performance in the quarterfinal round of the men’s 400-meter dash while matching his lifetime PR for the event at 45.17 to finish runner-up to Pittsburgh’s Brycen Spratling (45.09) in the first of three heats with the second-fastest time of the afternoon.
Norwood also ran 45.17 in a silver-medal-winning performance at the SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships just two weeks ago as he is the NCAA’s No. 4-ranked performer in the event this season.
“I didn’t execute as well as I should have today, but it was enough to get me to the next round,” Norwood said following his race. “That was the plan coming here, to get to Eugene. I did that, so I’ll take it. Coming close to the end, I think I slowed down a little bit because I knew I had (Arman) Hall beat, but I didn’t see (Brycen Spratling) coming up behind me on the inside. He got me a little bit there.
“I just want to get back to training and work on fixing my mistakes over the next couple of weeks so those things don’t happen again when I get to Eugene. I’m looking forward to competing again.”
Ernest followed Norwood by earning a trip back to the NCAA semifinals for the third-straight season in the men’s 100-meter dash as he sprinted to victory in the first quarterfinal heat with a wind-legal seasonal-best of 10.19 (+1.5) that stood as the third-fastest time in the field. He later returned to the track to win the first of six qualifying heats in the 200-meter dash with a time of 20.74 (+0.4) to earn a lane in Saturday’s quarterfinals in the event. Ernest has earned All-America honors in both sprints at the NCAA Championships over the last two seasons.
Joining Ernest in the 200-meter quarterfinals will be Tiger sophomore Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, who impressed with a wind-legal seasonal best of 20.84 (+0.8) to take second place in the sixth heat and 13th place in the field. Mitchell-Blake was an NCAA semifinalist in the 200-meter dash in his debut season with the Tigers a year ago as he looks to make a return trip to Eugene for the event.
The Lady Tigers will feature a semifinalist of their own in the 100-meter dash as freshman Rushell Harvey qualified on time with a career-best wind-aided run of 11.46 (+2.5) for fourth place in the first quarterfinals heat and the ninth place overall in the field. Like Ernest, Harvey later returned to the track to qualify for the quarterfinals in the 200 meters with a run of 23.77 (+1.1).
Three Lady Tigers will feature in Saturday’s quarterfinals of the women’s 200 meters as Harvey will line up alongside sophomore Kiersten Duncan (23.66) and senior Toshika Sylvester (23.72) who also advanced.
Freshman Jada Martin also lined up in both sprint races during Friday’s competition, but finished in 15th place overall in the quarterfinal round of the 100 meters with a time of 11.57 (+1.0) and in 28th place overall for the first round of the 200 meters with a time of 23.82 (+1.1) as she now looks toward the qualifying round of the 4x100-meter relay on Saturday.
While Lady Tiger senior Denise Hinton kicked off Thursday’s action as LSU’s first NCAA semifinalist in the women’s hammer throw, Tuttle opened up Friday’s competition as the team’s first athlete to secure his ticket in Eugene, Oregon, with a qualifying performance in the men’s hammer throw in the first event of the morning session.
Tuttle opened the competition with a mark of 213 feet, 10 inches on his very first attempt to take an early lead in the third flight before finishing in ninth place overall in the quarterfinal round. Tuttle, who was an NCAA semifinalist in the javelin throw as a freshman in 2012, will throw the hammer in the national semifinals for the first time in his career when the collegiate season continues in Eugene.
Also qualifying for the NCAA semifinals in Friday’s field events was Lady Tiger senior Lynnika Pitts, who cleared 5-5 ¾, 5-7 ¾ and 5-9 ¾ on her first attempt to tie for eighth place in the women’s high jump.
Four of LSU’s five athletes lining up in the qualifying round of the sprint hurdles advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinals as Stowers and Chase were joined by junior Joshua Thompson and sophomore Joshua Lamers after opening up the qualifying in the first event on the track. Lamers qualified automatically with a third-place finish of the second heat of the men’s 110-meter hurdles as he clocked 14.03 (+0.2), while Thompson advanced on time with his fastest time as an LSU Tiger at 13.86 (+0.6) for fourth place in the first quarterfinal heat.
In other quarterfinal action, sophomore Fitzroy Dunkley finished in 14th place in the men’s triple jump with a mark of 50-9 ¼, junior Tori Bliss finished in 16th place in the women’s discus throw with a personal best throw of 171-1 and sophomore Cyril Grayson crossed the finish line in 21st place in the men’s 400-meter dash with a time of 47.01 for eighth place in the first heat.
In addition, junior Mariah Georgetown ran 13.70 (+0.6) for 31st place in the women’s 100-meter hurdles and senior Shermund Allsop clocked 21.26 (+0.8) for 32nd place in the first round of the men’s 200 meters.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers will have 19 more opportunities to add to their rosters heading to Eugene in two weeks when they return to Hodges Stadium on Saturday to finish off the 2014 NCAA East Preliminary Rounds. The action begins at 11 a.m. CT with the first field events of the day, followed by the first quarterfinals on the track at 5 p.m.
LSU’s Qualifiers for the NCAA Championships Semifinals in Eugene, Oregon
Note: All marks and times were achieved this weekend at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds.
Name, Event, Time/Mark (Place)
Chanice Chase, 400 Hurdles, 56.40 (4)
Nataliyah Friar, Long Jump, 20-5 ¾ (8)
Rushell Harvey, 100 Meters, 11.46w (9)
Denise Hinton, Hammer Throw, 202-2 (5)
Lynnika Pitts, High Jump, 5-9 ¾ (T8)
Nikita Tracey, 400 Hurdles, 56.23 (3)
Rebekah Wales, Javelin, 162-9 (11)