Rebekah Wales is an NCAA semifinalist in the javelin for the fourth-straight season!
Bryan Wayne

Track & Field Qualifies Three at NCAA Prelims

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

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The LSU Track & Field teams are on the board with three semifinalists on their way to Eugene, Oregon, for the 2017 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships as seniors Nataliyah Friar, Rebekah Wales and Johnnie Jackson each qualified Thursday at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds.

The Tigers and Lady Tigers were also outstanding in first-round qualifying Thursday at the UK Track & Field Complex with a combined 14 athletes advancing to the national quarterfinals with their performance.

The top-12 finishers in each open and relay event at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds in Lexington this weekend move on to the national semifinals in their respective events at the 2017 NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships returning to Oregon's Hayward Field in Eugene yet again from June 7-10 to close out the collegiate season.

Wales earned her fourth-straight trip to the NCAA semifinals in the women's javelin just two weeks after being crowned the SEC Champion for the second time with a personal best of 191 feet, 0 inches.

Friar became an NCAA semifinalist in the women's long jump for the second time in her collegiate as she qualified for the first time since her freshman season in 2014, while Jackson advance for the first time in his two seasons with the Tigers with a qualifying performance in the men's hammer throw.

Friar was the first to punch her ticket when she jumped 20-8 (+1.4) on her second attempt to finish 11th overall among the 48 competitors in the long jump. Wales followed with a seventh-place finish in the field for the javelin when she threw her best of 163-2 on her second attempt. Jackson then closed out Thursday's action as LSU's third semifinalist of the night when he opened at 226-5 on his first throw of the men's hammer for a fifth-place finish despite the competition being delayed by weather.

“It's a good start for both of our teams,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver of his team's performance on the opening day of qualifying in Lexington. “I'm proud of our seniors for leading the way for us on the first day of this track meet. We've also set ourselves up for what we hope is a big day tomorrow by qualifying as well as we did on the track today.

“It was a challenging day for everyone here with the conditions cold and rainy like they were, so it was great to see our athletes have the right kind of mindset to do what they needed to do to make it through.”

NCAA Quarterfinalists

The Lady Tigers set the pace in Thursday's first-round qualifying as they advanced four of the six fastest qualifiers in the women's 100-meter dash to the quarterfinal round following on Friday night.

NCAA leader Aleia Hobbs waited through five heats before making her return to NCAA Outdoor competition after last earning All-America honors as the fifth-place finisher nationally as a freshman in 2015. She crossed the finish line three tenths of a second ahead of her nearest competitor in the race with the fastest time of the day at 11.10 (+1.4).

Hobbs was among three heat winners for LSU's women in the event as sophomore Kortnei Johnson opened the qualifying round with the fifth-fastest time overall at 11.23 (+0.0) to take the first heat and junior Mikiah Brisco won the fifth heat with the sixth-fastest time of the day at 11.25 (-1.6). Freshman Cassondra Hall added her career-best wind-aided time at 11.22 (+2.1) for second place in the third heat.

With Hobbs barely off the track in the final heat of women's qualifying, Tiger senior Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake was the comfortable winner in the first heat of the men's 100-meter dash as he stopped the clock on 10.32 (-0.3) for LSU's fourth heat-winning performance in the event. Senior Tinashe Mutanga was the second-fastest qualifier on time and 17th-fastest qualifier overall with his matching 10.32 (+1.6) in the second heat.

While not advancing to Friday's quarterfinal round, freshman Akanni Hislop matched his wind-legal personal best in his debut appearance at the NCAA East Preliminary Round with a time of 10.47 (+1.1).

Friday's qualifying events opened with a heat-winning performance in the women's 400-meter hurdles as junior Kymber Payne, the NCAA's No. 6-ranked performer in the event this season, was well over one second in front of second place in the second heat as she clocked 57.75 out of Lane 2. Senior Bryiana Richardson also advanced automatically in the event as the third-place finisher in the third heat with a time of 59.03.

LSU's athletes continued their momentum as the scheduled rolled into the 400-meter dash with the Tigers and Lady Tigers combining for four quarterfinalists in the event, including two heat winners.

Senior Travia Jones closed out women's qualifying with a heat-winning 53.13 for the seventh-best time for the day, while sophomore Rachel Misher automatically advanced as the third-place finisher in the fifth heat as she posted the 10th-fastest time overall at 53.21. Seniors Michael Cherry (46.85) and LaMar Bruton (47.02) then finished 1-2 in the final heat of the men's 400 meters to advance.

Thursday's qualifying action on the track ended with the heats of the men's and women's 800 meters as the Tigers and Lady Tigers each advanced an additional runner to the national quarterfinals. Lady Tiger freshman Ruby Stauber was the team's eighth heat winner of the night as she clocked the second-fastest time in women's 800-meter qualifying at 2 minutes, 6.46 seconds to win the sixth heat. Senior Blair Henderson advanced eighth overall in the men's 800 meters with a time of 1:49.29 for second place in the fifth heat.

Friday's Events

The Lady Tigers will be the first to compete for the LSU Track & Field teams on Friday as they line up in the first round of qualifying in the women's 100-meter hurdles on the track and also look to qualify in the women's high jump in the field as their opening events are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. CT. Events will continue through men's 200-meter qualifying at 6:55 p.m.

Friday's events will be streamed live online at ESPN3.com and through the Watch ESPN app on all smartphones and tablet devices from 4:30-8:30 p.m. CDT. Flash Results will also provide live results for the meet as fans can follow the Tigers and Lady Tigers in action at http://www.flashresults.com.

LSU's Qualifiers for the NCAA Championships Semifinals in Eugene, Oregon
Note: All times and marks were achieved this weekend at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds

Tigers
Name, Event, Time/Mark (Place)
Johnnie Jackson, Hammer, 226-5 (5)

Lady Tigers
Name, Event, Time/Mark (Place)
Nataliyah Friar, Long Jump, 20-8 (11)
Rebekah Wales, Javelin, 163-2 (7)

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