T&F Trio Cracks NCAA Top 10 in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Senior LaMar Bruton sparked Saturday’s finale at the New Mexico Collegiate Classic into life with his best indoor 400 meters as an LSU Tiger, while sophomore Kortnei Johnson and senior Jada Martin closed out the event at the Albuquerque Convention Center with a pair of NCAA Top 10s in the 60-meter dash.
Their efforts capped a weekend in which LSU’s athletes enjoyed seven performances ranking among the NCAA’s Top 16 qualifying places for the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships between appearances at the Bayou Bengal Invitational in Baton Rouge and New Mexico Collegiate Classic in Albuquerque.
Bruton was the first to improve his qualifying position for the NCAA Indoor Championships on Saturday afternoon when he crossed the finish line in 46.58 as the top collegian in the men’s 400-meter dash.
Trailing only Altis athlete Paul Dedewo (46.33) in the first section, Bruton ran his fastest indoor 400 meters in his two seasons with the Tigers as he cut nearly one full second off of his season-opening time of 47.57 from the Razorback Invitational a week ago. Southern California’s Ricky Morgan, Jr. finished third in the heat and third overall with a time of 46.70.
Bruton cracked the Top 10 of the national rankings as his time adjusted for altitude to 46.69 to move 32 spots up the national list into the No. 10 spot with just two weeks before the SEC Indoor Championships.
Johnson improved her 60-meter time for the fifth-straight meet this season with a winning 7.25 in the final to edge Martin (7.27) and junior teammate Aleia Hobbs (7.29) for the title in LSU’s final event on Saturday. It’s a third-straight personal best for Johnson as her 7.25 adjusts for altitude to 7.27 to move her into a tie for the No. 7 spot in the national rankings this season.
Martin scored the silver medal in the women’s final with a personal best of her own as her altitude-adjusted 7.29 moved her into the Top 10 of the NCAA rankings in a tie for the No. 9 spot this season. In all, six women from LSU lined up in the 60-meter final with freshman Cassondra Hall and senior Rushell Harvey placing fourth and fifth, respectively, with matching times of 7.44 and sophomore Shayna Yon stopping the clock with her seasonal best of 7.46 for seventh place in the race.
“You can see our athletes are starting to show good improvement week-to-week,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “That’s what we need to see at this time of the season as we get closer to championship time. In Albuquerque here these last two days and also back home, I’m happy to see our teams showing some improvement this week.”
Men’s 60 Meters
Friday saw sophomore Donte Jackson make his anticipated season debut in preliminary round of the 60-meter dash as he opened in the NCAA’s Top 15 with a time of 6.64 adjusting for altitude to 6.66 as the top men’s qualifier. He followed by winning his semifinal heat on Saturday with a time of 6.78 for the second-fastest time heading into the final round.
Senior Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake proved to be the team’s top performer on the final day of the competition as he followed his heat-winning 6.69 for the fastest time of the semifinal round with a title-winning seasonal best of 6.65 in the final to edge Jackson (6.66) at the finish line by the narrowest of margins. Texas Tech’s Andrew Hudson rounded out the medalists in third place with a time of 6.71.
While Jackson remained in the Top 15 of the national rankings with his preliminary performance, Mitchell-Blake edged closer to the qualifying places to the NCAA Indoor meet with an altitude-adjusted 6.67 to rank No. 18 among collegiate sprinters this season.
Saturday’s finale at the New Mexico Collegiate Classic also saw two LSU athletes line up in the finals of the 60-meter hurdles as senior Keane Bland placed fifth overall in the men’s event with a time of 8.17, followed by freshman Brittley Humphrey clocking 8.35 for third place in the women’s final at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers will make a return trip to the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, next weekend to compete at this year’s Tyson Invitational running Feb. 10-11. They were at the University of Arkansas a week ago for the first time this season with an appearance at the Razorback Invitational.
Selected LSU middle distance and distance runners will also compete next weekend at the two-day Iowa State Classic in Ames as they are set to line up Feb. 10-11 at Iowa State’s Lied Recreational Center.