Throwers Highlight Friday's LSU Twilight
BATON ROUGE – Sophomore Jordan McClendon took her first throw in the weight throw competition at the LSU Twilight just outside of qualifying position for the NCAA Championships, but emerged on the cusp of a Top 10 national ranking with a personal best of 69 feet, 3 ¼ inches to win Friday’s event at the Carl Maddox Field House.
McClendon threw her previous personal best of 66-5 ¼ in her last home appearance at the Bayou Bengal Invitational two weeks ago that stood as the No. 18-ranked mark in the NCAA entering the weekend.
After opening the competition with a throw of 59-10 ¼ on her first attempt, McClendon improved to 65-7 ¾ on her second attempt before shattering her personal best by nearly three feet with a throw of 69-3 ¼ in the third round to take a commanding lead into the final. She fouled each of her first two throws in the final before ending with a mark of 68-2 ¼ on her sixth attempt that also bettered her PR entering the meet.
The Tulane transfer took a big step toward NCAA qualification in her debut season as a Lady Tiger as she climbed seven spots up the national rankings into the No. 11 position. She also strengthened her grip on the No. 2 spot in LSU’s all-time indoor performance list, trailing only the school record of 73-11 set by former All-American Denise Hinton in 2014.
McClendon was not the only LSU athlete with a personal best in Friday’s women’s weight throw as junior Marvalyn Vernon also raised her career best by nearly three feet with a throw of 61-0 ¾ for second place.
Vernon, who stepped into the circle for the first time with a best of 58-9 ½ from last week’s Iowa State Classic, set four personal bests in her series as she opened at 58-11 ½ in the first round before raising the bar with throws of 59-1 ¼ in the second round and 59-7 in the third round to take second place into the final. She ended at 61-0 ¾ on her sixth and final attempt to rank No. 7 in school history.
Dunbar Raises The Bar
Freshman Nickolette Dunbar kept the ball rolling for the throws group in the women’s shot put as she was later crowned champion for the second time this year with a seasonal-best throw of 54-1 ¾. That mark put her within striking distance of NCAA qualification with the No. 17-ranked performance in the for the 2017 season.
The Top 16 athletes in each individual event and Top 12 relays in both the 4x400-meter relay and distance medley relay will earn qualification to the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships in March.
Dunbar entered Friday’s LSU Twilight with a seasonal-best toss of 52-6 ½ in a runner-up finish at the Auburn Indoor Invitational back on Jan. 21, and was last crowned a shot put champion for the first time in her college career at the Bayou Bengal Invitational on Feb. 3 in her last home appearance. Her winning series on Friday featured three seasonal bests with marks of 52-6 ¾ in the third round, 53-0 ¼ in the fourth round and a throw of 54-1 ¾ in the fifth round to move herself 13 spots up the national rankings.
A native of Whippany, New Jersey, Dunbar also moved into the No. 5 spot on the SEC’s performance list this season ahead of the SEC Indoor Championships next week. She was off of her lifetime personal best of 54-7 ½ set while being crowned the New Balance Indoor Nationals Champion as a high school senior in 2016.
Senior Tremayne Acy and sophomore Kortnei Johnson highlighted Friday’s action on the track as they swept 60-meter titles in their final tune up for the SEC Indoor Championships beginning in just six days.
Johnson was among six Lady Tigers to line up in the women’s 60-meter final as she crossed the finish line in 7.26 seconds for the win while edging fellow NCAA Top 10 sprinter Aleia Hobbs in second place with a time of 7.28. Johnson checks in as the No. 6-ranked 60-meter sprinter nationally this season with a best of 7.24, while Hobbs follows as the No. 7-ranked performer with a best of 7.25.
Freshman Cassondra Hall followed a heat-winning 7.37 in the preliminary round with a personal best of 7.32 for third place in the final as she broke her previous best of 7.35 set at the Tyson Invitational a week ago. The final also featured senior Jada Martin in fourth place at 7.34, senior Rushell Harvey in fifth place at 7.45 and sophomore Shayna Yon in seventh place at 7.49.
In one of the most exciting races of the day, Acy took the men’s title ahead of Hinds Community College standout and University of Arkansas signee Keitavious Walter. The LSU senior matched his seasonal-best time at 6.69 in the final with Walter finishing runner-up in 6.70. LSU freshman Akanni Hislop also featured in the final as he clocked a personal best of 6.83 for fourth place overall.
Like McClendon earlier in the day, senior Christian Johnson and sophomore Kaitlyn Walker were both crowned event champions with personal-best performances on Friday night. Johnson won the men’s mile with the time of 4 minutes, 19.26 seconds converting to a personal best of 4:15.99 to a banked track as he beat freshman Harrison Martingayle to the finish line with Martingayle also running a personal best of 4:17.57 converted to a banked track. Walker cleared 5-5 ¼ on her first attempt to win the women’s high jump.
Other event champions for Friday’s LSU Twilight included senior Keane Bland winning the men’s 60-meter hurdles in 7.96, junior DC Lipani winning the men’s 3,000 meters with a converted 8:48.77, junior Keterra Harris winning the women’s 400 meters with a converted time of 57.46 and sophomore Erika Lewis winning the women’s 800 meters with a converted time of 2:10.94 on the track.
Personal bests were also turned in by junior Da’Quan Bellard with his mark of 50-7 ¼ for second in the men’s triple jump, junior Jenna Walker with a converted time of 10:22.18 for second in the women’s 3,000 meters, sophomore Amy Stelly with the No. 5-ranked mark in school history at 11-10 for fourth in the women’s pole vault and sophomore Brittany Kelly with a throw of 30-5 for eighth place in the women’s shot put.
Eight LSU athletes have made the trip to South Bend, Indiana, to compete at Notre Dame’s Alex Wilson Invitational on Saturday as they will run to qualify LSU’s men’s and women’s distance medley relays for the NCAA Indoor Championships. The women’s DMR will kick off the day for LSU at 10:40 a.m. CT followed by the men’s DMR at 11:10 a.m.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers will then return to the Vanderbilt Multipurpose Facility in Nashville next week to compete at the 2017 SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships running Feb. 24-25. It will mark their second trip to Vanderbilt this season after already competing at the Commodore Invitational on Jan. 13-14.