Hobbs, Stauber Headline Commodore Finale
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Sophomore Aleia Hobbs and freshman Ruby Stauber certainly made the most of their season debuts in Saturday’s finale at the Commodore Invitational as both turned in personal bests rankings No. 2 in the NCAA in their events to lead the LSU Track & Field teams at the Vanderbilt Multipurpose Facility.
Hobbs smashed her previous best with a winning time of 7.25 seconds to claim the Commodore Invitational title in the women’s 60-meter dash, while Stauber slashed exactly one second off of her indoor PR in the 800 meters with a run of 2 minutes, 4.56 seconds in her collegiate debut to score the silver medal.
Hobbs made her long-awaited return from injury while taking part in full team training this week and delivered her best indoor performance as a Lady Tiger with a comfortable victory in Saturday’s event.
After qualifying first with a sprint of 7.32 seconds in her first race on the season in the preliminary round, Hobbs ran the fastest 60 meters of her career at 7.25 in the final to finish nearly a full tenth of a second ahead of sophomore teammate Kortnei Johnson for the victory. Hobbs eclipsed her previous best of 7.29 set during her freshman season with the Lady Tigers in 2015.
It gave the New Orleans native the second-fastest time in the country among performances entering the weekend as she is already positioned for NCAA Championship qualification in the early stages of the season.
Hobbs suffered through an injury-plagued sophomore season a year ago in which she managed a seasonal best of 7.40 in the 60 meters during the 2016 indoor season. She twice earned All-America honors as a rookie, placing sixth nationally in the 100-meter final while also running on the Lady Tigers 4x100-meter relay at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Johnson crossed the finish line with a personal best of her own as she finished runner-up with a run of 7.32, breaking her previous best of 7.33 set twice before at the SEC Indoor Championships as a freshman last year and in her win at the Purple Tiger Invitational a week ago. Freshman Cassondra Hall also lined up in the women’s 60-meter final on Saturday, finishing eighth at 7.49 after qualifying with a time of 7.45.
Stauber later stepped onto the track for her collegiate debut in the 800 meters after signing her National Letter of Intent with the Lady Tigers as one of top middle distance recruits in the entire country in 2016.
And she pushed Middle Tennessee State sophomore Abike Egbeniyi all the way to the finish line in one of the exciting events of the afternoon as both crossed the finish line with times below the previous facility mark at the Vanderbilt Multipurpose Facility. Stauber was less than one tenth of a second behind Egbeniyi’s winning time of 2:04.47 with an indoor PR of 2:04.56 in her debut performance.
They were the two fastest times run in the NCAA this season as Stauber became the seventh-fastest Lady Tiger to ever run the 800 meters indoors in team history. Her season opener also dropped her previous indoor PR by exactly one second as she last ran 2:05.56 at the 2016 New Balance Indoor Nationals in her senior season at Wayzata (Minn.) High School.
Top 10 Debut
Stauber wasn’t the only Lady Tiger freshman to make her collegiate debut during Saturday’s finale at the Commodore Invitational as highly-touted shot put recruit Nickolette Dunbar stepped into the shot put circle for the first time. Like her teammate, Dunbar also cracked the school’s all-time Top 10 performance list with a series-best of 51 feet, 4 ¼ inches on her sixth and final throw of the afternoon.
Dunbar qualified sixth in the preliminary rounds with a throw of 50-7 ¼ on her third attempt before improving in the final with marks of 50-8 ¼ on her fourth attempt and 51-4 ¼ on her sixth attempt for sixth place.
That effort saw Dunbar slot into the No. 6 spot on LSU’s all-time indoor performance list following her collegiate debut in the women’s shot put. She signed with the Lady Tigers as one of the nation’s top throw recruits a year ago with a PR of 54-7 ½ when she won the New Balance Indoor Nationals title as a high school senior at Whippany Park High School in New Jersey.
Ole Miss’ Bowerman Award finalist Raven Saunders won the women’s shot put Saturday with the top mark in the competition at 62-8, while Dunbar also trailed unattached putter Jessica Ramsey (54-8 ¼), Tennessee’s Stamatia Scarvelis (53-6 ¼), Alabama’s Haley Teel (51-9) and Ole Miss’ Jeneah Stewart (51-5) in the final.
Top 10 Tigers
Two Tigers also became top-10 performers in school history with their efforts on Saturday afternoon as senior Keane Bland ran a personal best of 7.91 in the 60-meter hurdles and sophomore Dajour Braxton posted an indoor PR of 8:12.78 in the 3,000 meters on the final day of the competition.
Bland actually set back-to-back personal bests as he followed a time of 8.05 in the prelims with his 7.91 for second place in the final to tie for the No. 9 spot on LSU’s all-time indoor performance list in the 60 hurdles.
Braxton clocked a 3k best for the second-straight week after opening his sophomore season with a winning 8:21.12 at the Purple Tiger Invitational on Jan. 6. He slashed more than eight seconds off that time by posting 8:12.78 for eighth place overall. That time also ranked the Las Vegas native and Centennial High School product No. 8 in school history in the indoor 3,000 meters.
Other LSU athletes setting new indoor PRs during Saturday’s action were freshman Christian Miller with a jump of 50-10 ¾ for second place in the men’s triple jump, as well as sophomores Oksana Lawrence (54.93) and Rachel Misher (55.09) in the women’s 400 meters.
The Lady Tigers swept silver and bronze medals in two events as senior Travia Jones (54.00) edged senior Jada Martin (54.01) for second place in the women’s 400 meters final and freshman Brittley Humphrey posted a seasonal best of 8.34 for second place ahead of fellow freshman Tonea Marshall’s 8.36 for third place in the women’s 60 hurdles.
Senior Morgan Schuetz added a bronze-medal-winning third place finish in the women’s mile with a season-opening run of 4:45.01 while junior Bria Druilhet posted her second-best jump as a Lady Tiger at 40-3 ½ in her first triple jump of the year for fourth place overall.
In other action, junior Jack Wilkes was the top Tiger in the men’s 800 meters as he crossed the finish line in 1:50.50 for fifth place and senior Blair Henderson ran the mile in 4:10.34 for 12th place in the men’s final.
With the 2017 indoor season now well and truly underway, the Tigers and Lady Tigers head back on the road next weekend with a trip to Birmingham, Alabama, to compete at the Auburn Invitational running 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 at the Randal Tyson Track Center.