Jackson Throws NCAA Leader in Birmingham
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Johnnie Jackson had not stepped into the weight throw circle yet in his senior season before Saturday’s Auburn Indoor Invitational, but he emerged as the new NCAA leader with a personal-best throw of 77 feet, 3 ¾ inches to take the title and finish within striking distance of LSU’s school record in the event.
The former junior college national champion arrived at the Birmingham Crossplex with a personal best of 70-5 ¾ to his credit that earned him NCAA qualification as a junior with the Tigers a season ago.
He came within inches of that mark with a throw of 70-0 ¼ on his very first attempt of the 2017 season before setting a personal best for the first time Saturday with a mark of 72-3 on his third attempt to take over first place heading into the final round of throws. Jackson then unleashed his NCAA-leading personal best of 77-3 ¾ in the fourth round to become the No. 2-ranked Tiger in the event all-time.
Jackson, who also recorded a throw of 76-1 ¾ in the fifth round of his series, finished nearly 10 feet clear of the field as Alabama’s Elias Hakansson was runner-up with his best throw of the day at 67-4 ¾. The LSU senior also emerged with the NCAA lead by nearly four feet as he soared past the previous best of 73-8 ¼ set by Alabama’s Daniel Haugh at the Commodore Invitational last week.
Jackson even moved to within 10 inches of Walter Henning’s school record of 78-1 in the event that still stands as the meet record at the SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships in the men’s weight throw.
Jackson’s performance highlighted a banner Saturday for LSU’s throws group at the Auburn Indoor Invitational as freshman Nickolette Dunbar also cracked the Top 15 in the NCAA rankings with a seasonal-best mark of 52-6 ½ to finish as the top collegian in the women’s shot put. She trailed only unattached athlete Jeneva Stevens (60-10) in the overall standings for the event.
Dunbar raised her seasonal best from the 51-4 ¼ she set in her collegiate debut at Vanderbilt a week ago and became the No. 14-ranked shot putter in the NCAA this season with her performance. She also moved into the No. 4 spot on LSU’s all-time indoor performance list in Saturday’s competition.
Jackson wasn’t LSU’s only athlete to finish the day among the nation’s elite as seniors Blair Henderson and Morgan Schuetz swept 800-meter titles with top-five times nationally for their respective season debuts.
Schuetz was the first to step onto the track as she ran uncontested in the women’s 800 meters, winning with a season-opening time of 2 minutes, 4.79 seconds that ranked her No. 3 nationally among all times entering the weekend. Ohio State’s Rachel Weber was more than five seconds behind Schuetz in second place with a runner-up time of 2:10.49.
Henderson’s victory was also a decisive one as he crossed the finish line in 1:49.20 in his first 800 this season to take home the men’s title. Auburn junior Wesley Curles (1:51.12) edged LSU junior Jack Wilkes (1:51.20) at the line for second place behind Henderson, who came away with the NCAA’s No. 4-ranked time in 2017.
Freshman Ruby Stauber traveled to Birmingham with her teammates just one week removed from running the second-fastest time in the country this season in her collegiate debut in the 800 meters when she had an indoor PR of 2:04.56 in her first race as a Lady Tiger at the Commodore Invitational. She even earned SEC Women’s Freshman of the Week honors for her performance.
Stauber followed that performance by running one of the fastest miles in school history at the Auburn Indoor Invitational as she scored a four-second victory with a season-opening run of 4:43.17 in the event. That run made the Plymouth, Minnesota, native the No. 7-ranked performer on LSU’s all-time indoor performance list in the women’s mile.
Stauber was well in front of Auburn’s Veronica Eder, who finished runner-up with a time of 4:47.23. LSU sophomore Hollie Parker was also in the field, placing seventh overall with a run of 5:00.25.
Gold Medal Debuts
Two members of the Tiger’s No. 4-ranked recruiting class were crowned event champions while making their collegiate debuts at the Auburn Indoor Invitational as freshman Rayvon Grey won the men’s long jump and freshman Milton Harrell soared to victory in the men’s high jump to also lead the way in the field events.
Grey, the nation’s No. 1-ranked long jump recruit in the Class of 2016, jumped a series best of 24-1 ½ on his second attempt to lock up the long jump title ahead of Ohio State’s Davion Fisher (23-8 ¼). Harrell followed in the high jump by clearing the bar at 6-9 ¾ on his second attempt to eclipse Auburn’s Jaron Brooks (6-8 ¾) for the win in his first action as an LSU Tiger.
Grey owns an indoor PR of 26-0 ¼ that he set in winning the long jump at the New Balance Indoor Nationals a year ago, while Harrell jumped a lifetime personal best of 7-2 in the high jump during his prep career.
Other event champions included senior Travia Jones with a seasonal best of 53.95 in the women’s 400 meters, junior Aleia Hobbs with a time of 7.29 in the final of the women’s 60 meters, junior Danielle Phillips with an effort of 19-4 in the women’s long jump and freshman Tonea Marshall with a time of 8.29 in the women’s 60-meter hurdles to match her seasonal best. Sophomore Kortnei Johnson was runner-up to Hobbs in the final of the 60-meter dash with a personal-best time of 7.31.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers also swept distance medley relay titles with sophomore Dajour Braxton, Henderson, Wilkes and freshman Harrison Martingayle teaming for a winning time of 10:06.62 in the men’s event and Parker, junior Hannah Deworth, senior Danielle Avery and sophomore Erika Lewis combined for a time of 12:03.43 in the women’s race.
In addition, the Tigers closed out the meet as champions of the men’s 4x400-meter relay with their team of senior LaMar Bruton, senior Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, freshman Xavier Mulugata and senior Michael Cherry finishing three seconds faster than Alabama (3:17.96) with a time of 3:14.24.
LSU’s athletes accounted for eight personal-best performances during Saturday’s event as senior Marcus Tiner; sophomores Madison Danna, Oksana Lawrence and Lewis; and freshmen Dominique Hailey and Harrison Martingayle joined the likes of Jackson and Johnson in recording career-best efforts on the day.
Martingayle kicked off events on the track by running 8:39.41 in the men’s 3,000 meters early in the day. Tiner followed by posting 1:54.48 in the sections of the men’s 800 meters, while Lewis added an indoor personal best of her own in the women’s 800 meters with a time of 2:11.03 to finish fourth overall in the event behind Schuetz’s winning 2:04.79. Lawrence clocked 55.88 for her best indoor 400 meters.
While Jackson headlined the field events with a national-leading personal best in the men’s weight throw, Hailey (48-4) and Danna (47-11 ¾) threw personal bests of their own in the women’s event.
The Lady Tigers were crowned the women’s team champions in the four-team meet with 151 points for the day as they edged Alabama’s 150 points by the narrowest of margins for the win. Ohio State finished in third place overall in the final women’s team standings with 101 points, while Auburn rounded out the field in fourth place with 89 points.
The Tigers were third on the men’s side as they piled up 104.5 points in the 16 events scored. Alabama won the men’s team title with 127.5 points ahead of Auburn (112) in second and Ohio State (82) in fourth.
With the 2017 indoor season full steam ahead following Saturday’s Auburn Indoor Invitational, the Tigers and Lady Tigers will make their first trip to the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, next week to compete at the Razorback Invitational running Jan. 27-28. They are also scheduled to compete at the Tyson Invitational at the University of Arkansas from Feb. 10-11.