Jaron Flournoy (right) passed to Michael Cherry (left) at the second exchange in the men's sprint medley.
Bryan Wayne

Sprint Medley Records Fall at SEC Relays

Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
Associate SID

BATON ROUGE – The LSU Track & Field teams wasted no time in making their mark on the record books in the very first relay finals at the inaugural SEC Relays on Friday afternoon as they shattered school records in both the men's and women's sprint medley relays to kick things off at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium.

It was an electric start to the meet as Texas A&M broke both collegiate records in a sweep of the sprint medley relays with LSU following closely behind with a pair of top-10 times all-time in NCAA history.

The Lady Tigers opened Friday's relay finals on the track as sophomore Kortnei Johnson stepped into the blocks for the opening 200-meter leg. LSU held the advantage through the second 200-meter leg as senior Jada Martin handed off to senior Travia Jones for the 400 meters. Jaevin Reed gave the Aggies the lead at the third exchange as indoor collegiate-record holder Jazmine Fray anchored for Texas A&M.

Fray leaned at the finish line to give the Aggies a collegiate-record time of 3 minutes, 39.04 seconds, beating the short-lived NCAA mark of 3:39.05 set by Oregon's women not five minutes before at the Penn Relays up in Philadelphia. Freshman All-American Ruby Stauber anchored for the Lady Tigers as she stopped the clock with a new school record for LSU of 3:43.17.

Johnson, Martin, Jones and Stauber combined for the 10th-fastest time in collegiate history and eclipsed LSU's 5-year-old school record of 3:43.79 set back in a winning performance at the Texas Relays in 2012.

Their race was the spark that ignited a record-setting afternoon at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium as the men's sprint medley relay also produced another collegiate record for Texas A&M and school record for LSU in the second relay final of the day. Senior All-American Blair Henderson battled Aggie freshman Devin Dixon down the homestretch on the anchor leg as Texas A&M got the upper hand with the fastest time in the NCAA record books at 3:11.94. The Tigers were second with the fifth-fastest time in collegiate history at 3:12.25.

Senior Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (200 meters), sophomore Jaron Flournoy (200 meters) and senior Michael Cherry (400 meters) joined Henderson in beating LSU's 7-year-old school record of 3:16.01 from 2010.

“The SEC Championship in track and field is always a bunch of battles and a war. (SEC Relays) gives us an opportunity for everybody to compete, have a little fun, but yet it not be like a Penn Relays or a Drake Relays where you don't really get to do all of the events that maybe you want to do,” LSU head coach Dennis Shaver said of the SEC Relays. “You certainly don't want to be there three days in a row, eight-to-10 hours a day at the track. So, this has worked out really well.

“We've had a couple of collegiate records set in the relays already, and numerous Bernie Moore Stadium records broken today. I think the kids are having fun. The coaches have them ready to compete, so it's great.”

Drops Of Jupiter

Senior Ka'Lynn Jupiter gave LSU its first victory of the inaugural SEC Relays when she controlled the women's 400-meter hurdles with a seasonal-best time of 57.13 seconds to move up two places to No. 12 in the NCAA this season. Jupiter was well in front of Arkansas' silver medalist Damajahnee Burch (57.44) at the finish line, while fellow Lady Tiger senior Bryiana Richardson took third with a seasonal best of her own at 58.26.

Jupiter, an NCAA semifinalist from a year ago with a personal best of 56.63 to her credit, dropped her seasonal best entering the meet of 57.38 that she set in the final at the Texas Relays back on March 31.

Jumpin' Jacks

The LSU's jumps squad certainly took advantage of its opportunity to compete in Friday's opener at the SEC Relays with senior Nataliyah Friar, junior Danielle Phillips, redshirt sophomore Da'Quan Bellard and freshman Rayvon Grey and Christian Miller all turning in seasonal-best performances in the men's and women's long jump.

Friar added five inches to her seasonal-best jump as she soared a wind-legal 20 feet, 11 ¼ inches (+1.4) on her sixth and final attempt to move from ninth place to sixth place in the final standings of the women's event with the 15th-best mark in the NCAA this season. Phillips followed in eighth place overall with a career-best wind-aided jump of 20-5 ¾ (+2.8) in the third round of qualifying.

There might not be a more competitive final at the inaugural SEC Relays than the women's long jump as Alabama's Quanesha Burks (22-7 ¾w), Kentucky's Sha'Keela Saunders (22-3 ½), Kentucky's Destiny Carter (21-6), Alabama's Filippa Fotopoulou (21-2 ½w) and Alabama's Kiara Williams (20-11 ¾w) all set seasonal bests ranking Nos. 1, 2, 5, 9 and 14 in the national rankings for 2017.

In the men's long jump, both Grey and Bellard matched one another with seasonal-best wind-aided marks of 25-0 to finish fifth and sixth, respectively, in the event. Grey's series-best of 25-0 (+3.0) came on his first of the day, while Bellard equaled his teammate with a windy 25-0 (+4.1) on his third attempt. With the wind reading of his best jump over the allowable limit of 4.0 meters per second for NCAA qualifying, Bellard posted a wind-aided 24-3 (+3.6) in the fourth round to count in the national rankings.

Miller finished in 10th place in the men's final with a career-best wind-aided mark of his own at 24-0 ¼ (+2.3) in the fourth round while also matching his wind-legal PR of 23-8 ¼ (+1.1) in the fifth round.

Personal Bests

Moving up two spots into the No. 8 position on LSU's all-time outdoor performance list in the women's hammer throw was sophomore Jordan McClendon, who added nearly seven feet to her personal best with a top throw of the day at 187-1 on her first attempt to finish sixth overall. McClendon smashed her previous best of 180-6 set at the Beach Invitational on April 14 during LSU's Spring Break trip to the West Coast.

Also setting personal bests during Friday's action were junior Ashley Welborn with a time of 18:03.06 for eighth place in the women's 5,000 meters, redshirt freshman Savannah Sledd with a mark of 145-7 for 14th in the hammer throw and freshman Dominique Hailey with a throw of 136-10 for 12th in the discus.

Top Performers

Other top performers opening the inaugural SEC Relays were sophomore Dajour Braxton with a time of 14:49.45 for second in the men's 5k, senior Tinashe Mutanga with a seasonal best of 20.85w (+2.8) for third in the men's 200 meters, senior Christian Johnson with a seasonal-best time of 9:23.91 for third in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase, sophomore Rachel Misher with a heat-winning run of 23.22w (+3.2) for fourth in the women's 200 meters and freshman Tonea Marshall with a time of 13.42 (+1.8) for fifth in the women's 100 hurdles.

Closing Up Shop

Saturday's finale at the inaugural SEC Relays is scheduled to get underway at 10:30 a.m. CT with the first field events of the day followed by the first relay finals of the afternoon beginning at 12:02 p.m. Events are set to run through the men's 4x400-meter relay at approximately 2:20 p.m. with a combined men's and women's team champion being crowned afterward.

After wrapping up the SEC Relays on Saturday afternoon, the Tigers and Lady Tigers will make the trip to Columbia, South Carolina, in two weeks for the 2017 SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships set for May 11-13 at Weems Baskin Track. The championship season continues May 25-27 with the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds being held at the University of Kentucky.

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