Track & Field Completes Day 1 in Nashville
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Sophomore Jordan McClendon kicked off Friday’s action at the Commodore Invitational with a personal-best performance in the women’s weight throw, while fellow sophomores Rachel Misher and Kortnei Johnson were strong in their season-opening 200 meters to highlight the opening day of the event.
McClendon stepped into the circle at the Vanderbilt Multipurpose Facility looking to build on her season-opening win at the Purple Tiger Invitational where she threw 58 feet, 6 ¾ inches a week ago.
She raised the bar in Friday’s preliminary rounds with a throw of 61-0 ¾ in the first round before clinching her spot in the final with an improved mark of 61-10 ½ in the second round. McClendon then became the No. 3-ranked Lady Tiger in program history with a personal-best throw of 62-10 ¾ in the fifth round of the final to lock up sixth place in a loaded field.
Ole Miss’ Jeneah Stewart was the top collegian with a mark of 71-7 ½, followed by Ole Miss teammate Raven Saunders (66-4 ¼), Auburn’s Jasmine Manigault (64-10) and Tennessee’s Stamatia Scarvelis (64-8 ¾).
McClendon eclipsed her previous personal best of 62-1 in the event that she set in an eighth-place finish at the American Athletic Conference Indoor Championships as a freshman a year ago while competing at Tulane University. She led a trio of Lady Tigers in the event on Friday as junior Marvalyn Vernon followed in ninth at 57-6 ½ and junior Sidnie Wilder opened her season at 50-2 ¾ for 18th place overall.
While McClendon led the way in the first field events of the day, the Lady Tigers set the pace in the first event on the track as Misher edged Johnson at the finish line for the win in the first section of the 200 meters.
Misher took the tape in a photo finish as she crossed the finish line in 23.86 seconds in her first 200-meter race of the season. Johnson finished a split-second later with a season-opening time of her own at 23.87. LSU’s sophomores finished second and third, respectively, in the final event standings with Tennessee’s Shania Collins winning the second heat with a time of 23.70.
Six Lady Tigers broke 25 seconds in their first 200 meters of 2017 with freshman Cassondra Hall (24.25), senior Travia Jones (24.52), senior Rushell Harvey (24.65) and freshman Brittley Humphrey (24.70) in the field.
Worth The Wait
It’s been nearly two years since Brittany Kelly appeared in a collegiate event when she last competed in the heptathlon at the 2015 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships to cap her freshman season for Ole Miss. The sophomore transfer certainly made the most of her LSU debut on Friday afternoon by winning the women’s high jump title for her team’s first win at the Commodore Invitational.
Having already cleared the bar at 5-3 ¼ on her second attempt, 5-5 ¼ on her first attempt and 5-7 ¼ on her second attempt, Kelly secured her first win as a Lady Tiger with a third-attempt clearance at 5-8 ¾. She proved to be the only jumper in the field to clear 5-8 ¾ as Auburn’s Sara Almen finished runner-up with a jump of her own at 5-7 ¼.
Go The Distance
The Lady Tigers picked up their third win of the evening when their distance medley relay team finished more than five seconds ahead of the field with a season-opening time of 11 minutes, 33.67 seconds.
Freshman Ruby Stauber (1,200 meters), junior Keterra Harris (400 meters), senior Morgan Schuetz (800 meters) and sophomore Hollie Parker (mile) were well ahead of the Atlanta Track Club in second place with a run of 11:38.88, while SEC rival Missouri trailed in third place at 12:00.22, UT-Martin followed in fourth at 12:18.87 and Georgia Tech rounded out the Top 5 in fifth place at 12:21.69.
The Tigers followed with a runner-up finish in the men’s distance medley relay as they were edged at the finish line by the Michigan Wolverines by less than three tenths of a second. Junior Jack Wilkes (1,200 meters), senior Marcus Tiner (400 meters), senior Blair Henderson (800 meters) and sophomore Dajour Braxton (mile) teamed to run 9:54.42 for second place behind Michigan’s winning time of 9:54.14. Missouri finished back in third place more than 14 seconds behind the leaders at 10:08.88.
Friday’s action also saw redshirt freshman Hannah Bourque become the ninth-fastest Lady Tiger to ever run the 5,000 meters indoors when she clocked a personal best of 17:58.67 in the women’s final. Junior Christian Johnson was the top Tiger in the men’s 5,000 meters as he followed Bourque’s performance by running 15:09.69 for third place in his first collegiate indoor 5k.
Also finishing their first 5k this season for the Tigers were freshman Harrison Martingayle in eighth place overall with a time of 15:18.25 and junior DC Lipani in 11th place with a time of 15:26.57 on the night.
Among LSU’s athletes also making season debuts on Friday afternoon were three Tigers in the men’s 200-meter dash as senior Tinashe Mutanga led the way with a time of 21.41 for third place in the first heat and third place overall. Senior Michael Cherry followed in fifth in the first heat with a time of 21.60 for sixth place in the field, while senior LaMar Bruton opened at 21.87 for third place in the second heat and ninth place overall.
Edging the first heat was Auburn’s Teray Smith as he finished just ahead of Tennessee’s Mustaqeem Williams (21.23) and Mutanga (21.41) to take home the event title at the Commodore Invitational.
In the field events, former NCAA Indoor Bronze Medalist and two-time All-American Nataliyah Friar opened her senior season by jumping 19-6 on both her third and fourth attempts to place sixth in the women’s long jump competition. Junior teammate Danielle Phillips followed in eighth place in the event with a mark of 18-8 in her first long jump of the season.
Freshman Jace Attuso bookended his appearance in Friday’s men’s long jump event with his two farthest jumps of the young season as he opened with a mark of 23-3 ½ on his first attempt and finished with a jump of 23-4 ¾ on his sixth and final attempt of the day to lock up seventh place overall. Attuso jumped 23-0 ¾ in his collegiate debut at the Purple Tiger Invitational a week ago.
Saturday’s finale at the Commodore Invitational is scheduled to get underway for LSU at 10:20 a.m. CT with the unseeded events on the track followed by the first field events of the day at 10:30 a.m. Afternoon prelim races are set to begin at 1 p.m. as the competition runs through the 4x400-meter relays beginning at 4:55 p.m.
After wrapping up the Commodore Invitational on Saturday afternoon, the Tigers and Lady Tigers will head back on the road next weekend with a trip to Birmingham, Alabama, to compete at the Auburn Invitational to run Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Birmingham Crossplex. They end the month of January in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with an appearance at the Razorback Invitational running Jan. 27-28.