Sprinters Shine at Battle on the Bayou
BATON ROUGE – After anchoring the Lady Tigers’ 4x100-meter relay to a Bernie Moore Stadium record of 42.66 seconds in the first event on the track, junior Aleia Hobbs captured the women’s 100-meter title with an NCAA-leading personal best of 11.07 to highlight Saturday’s action at the seventh-annual Battle on the Bayou.
LSU’s athletes turned in 20 outdoor personal bests on the day as Hobbs’ winning time in the 100-meter dash was also among four marks ranking among the top-10 performances outdoors in school history.
Their effort fueled a dual-meet sweep for the third-ranked Lady Tigers as they defeated No. 6-ranked Southern California, 98-62; No. 21-ranked Penn State, 100-80; and Purdue, 96-69. The seventh-ranked Tigers were also unbeaten as they picked up a 74-59 win over No. 10-ranked USC and 83-70 win over Penn State while also tying Purdue with 79 points apiece.
Stadium Record Falls
LSU’s women were edged out by Texas A&M for the Texas Relays title in the women’s 4x100-meter relay in their last appearance a week ago when junior Mikiah Brisco, sophomore Kortnei Johnson, senior Jada Martin and junior Aleia Hobbs teamed for the NCAA’s third-fastest time this season at 42.86. The Aggies were a split-second quicker at 42.82 for the second-fastest time in the country in 2017.
The Lady Tigers sprinted past their SEC rivals for the No. 2 national ranking at Saturday’s Battle on the Bayou as their same foursome stretched the exchange zones and cruised to a nearly two-second victory in 42.66.
Purdue finished well back in second place with a time of 44.55 while Penn State trailed more than three seconds behind in third place with a time of 46.10. LSU’s 42.66 erased the 9-year-old Bernie Moore Stadium mark of 42.84 previously set in 2008 by Lady Tigers Brooklynn Morris, Juanita Broaddus, Samantha Henry and Kelly-Ann Baptiste.
LSU is already closing in on its seasonal-best time from a year ago when Brisco, Johnson, Martin and Rushell Harvey were crowned NCAA Champions in the event with a winning 42.65 in the national final. Oregon is now the early-season favorite following its 42.34 collegiate record at the Florida Relays last weekend.
Hobbs Takes NCAA Lead
Just one hour after anchoring the Lady Tigers to their seasonal best in the 4x100-meter relay, Hobbs returned to the track for the women’s 100-meter dash with a top-five NCAA rankings already under her belt.
Hobbs ran her season-opening race at the Texas Relays last weekend where she clocked a wind-aided 11.20 in the preliminary round for the fourth-fastest time nationally under all conditions. She climbed to the top of the NCAA rankings with a wind-legal PR of 11.07 (+2.0) in Saturday’s event to finish fourth tenths of a second clear of the field for the win. Purdue’s Devynne Charlton crossed the finish line in 11.47 for second and Lady Tiger freshman Cassondra Hall clocked 11.50 for third place overall.
Hobbs scored the meet record in victory as her personal best of 11.07 smashed the previous mark of 11.23 set by Semoy Hackett at the inaugural Battle on the Bayou during the 2011 campaign. San Diego State’s Ashley Henderson held the previous NCAA-leading time with a wind-legal 11.10 from the Aztec Invitational on season-opening weekend.
Hobbs, an NCAA finalist in the event as a freshman in 2015, lined up Saturday with a previous wind-legal best of 11.13 from her rookie season. Injuries wiped out much of her sophomore season last spring.
“My whole goal coming to this meet, I said to myself all week, ‘I need a PR,’” Hobbs said. “At Texas Relays last week, I ran 11.20 but that was a really bad race for me. I had a bad start and my finish was horrible. Coming to this meet, my mindset was, ‘Let’s PR.’ Today was much better. I know I need to be running faster later in the season, but it’s a good start for me now.”
While Hobbs was crowned the women’s 100-meter champion at the seventh-annual Battle on the Bayou, Johnson captured the 200-meter title in impressive fashion as she crossed the finish line first in the first heat in 23.05 despite running into a strong headwind of 1.0 meters per second. Johnson finished just outside the NCAA’s Top 10 in the event with the 11th-fastest time among collegians this season.
Hall followed Johnson across the finish line in 23.66 for third place overall, while Brisco added her heat-winning personal best of 23.23 (+0.4) in the second section for second place in the final event standings.
The Tigers also kicked off their day with a win in the men’s 4x100-meter relay as freshman Rayvon Grey, senior Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, junior Tinashe Mutanga and sophomore Jaron Flournoy teamed to run 39.72 to take the tape ahead of Penn State’s 39.89 for second place. Flournoy later clocked an outdoor personal best of 47.37 for fifth in the men’s 400-meter dash.
Seniors Michael Cherry and LaMar Bruton, who have made their names running the 400 meters and 4x400-meter relay for the Tigers, were impressive running their first 200-meter races of the season as Cherry posted a wind-legal PR of 21.07 (+0.0) to finish as the top collegian and second overall in the men’s heats. Bruton sprinted to a wind-aided 21.09 (+2.1) for third place behind Cherry.
Cherry later led off and Bruton anchored the Tigers’ 4x400-meter relay team to a winning seasonal best of 3 minutes, 5.21 seconds as they combined with senior Blair Henderson as the second leg and Mitchell-Blake on the third leg to finish more than one second ahead of Penn State’s 3:06.63 for second place. Henderson warmed up by winning the men’s 1,500 meters earlier in the day with a time of 3:50.01.
LSU’s women made it a sweep of mile relay titles on Saturday as their team of sophomore Rachel Misher, junior Kymber Payne, Martin and Jones clocked a seasonal-best time of their own at 3:33.17 for the win almost a full second ahead of Purdue in second place at 3:34.16.
Jones earlier cracked the Top 5 of the NCAA rankings in the open 400 meters with a lifetime PR of 52.25 that earned her third place in the event and tied for the No. 5 spot on the national list entering the weekend.
Saturday’s action saw freshman Ruby Stauber run her first open race since earning All-America honors with a fifth-place finish in the 800-meter final at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March as she took her mark in the women’s 1,500 meters. Stauber became one of the 10 fastest Lady Tigers in history in the event as her time of 4:24.20 gave her the win and the No. 9 spot on LSU’s all-time outdoor performance list.
Redshirt freshman Amy Stelly added a top-10 performance in school history in the women’s pole vault as she cleared the bar at 11 feet, 2 ½ inches to become the 10th-ranked Lady Tiger in the event outdoors.
The Field Events
Senior NCAA Indoor Champion Johnnie Jackson picked up right where he left off in his outdoor opener at the Texas Relays a week ago by claiming the men’s hammer title on Saturday with a series-best mark of 219-10. He cracked the Top 10 of the NCAA rankings at No. 10 with his season-opening personal best of 222-9 in Austin on March 30.
Already owning her best triple-jump mark in the last two seasons with a top jump this spring of 42-9 ¾ from the Texas Relays, senior Nataliyah Friar is finding her form in the long jump after taking the women’s title this weekend with a series best of 20-6 ¼ (-0.4) in the fourth round of jumps. Junior Danielle Phillips followed in second place with a big wind-legal personal best of 20-5 (+0.6) in the fifth round.
Junior Cameron Robichaux led a 1-2-3 sweep for the Tigers in the men’s pole vault with a seasonal-best clearance of 16-3 ½, followed by Chadd Burns in second and Jonathan Nelsen in third with marks of 15-9 ¾.
A host of LSU athletes set personal bests at the Battle on the Bayou, including junior Ashley Welborn who won the women’s 5,000 meters with a 19-second PR of 18:05.12. Other Lady Tigers recording personal bests on the day were Marvalyn Vernon (168-5), Madison Danna (154-11), Dominique Hailey (145-6) and Savannah Sledd (133-1) in the hammer throw; Jordan McClendon (150-2) and Nickolette Dunbar (146-6) in the discus; Briana Kelly (5-7 ¾) in the high jump; Brittany Kelly in both the long jump (19-0 ¾) and javelin (103-1); and Erika Lewis (2:08.43) in the 800 meters.
Among the Tigers also setting new personal bests during the competition were sophomore Daniel Tanner with a time of 15:27.28 in the men’s 5k and freshman Logan Martindale with a toss of 174-5 in the javelin.
LSU’s teams will spend their Spring Break in Torrance, California, where they are scheduled to compete at the Mt. SAC Relays running April 13-15. They will then return to the Bernie Moore Track Stadium to play host to two more home meets with their annual LSU Alumni Gold meet on April 22 followed by the SEC Relays on April 28-29.