NEW YORK -- Not since LSU great and Olympic silver medalist John Moffitt won the long jump title at the inaugural New Balance Collegiate Invitational in 2004 with a meet record 27 feet, 1 ¾ inches had an LSU athlete won the event at one of the premier meets of the indoor season.
That all changed Friday at the historic Armory Track and Field Center as junior Will Coppage set a new overall personal best and NCAA-leading mark of 25-7 ¼ to outdistance the field.
Coppage, who entered the competition without an NCAA qualifying mark to his credit this indoor season, opened the meet with an NCAA provisional qualifying mark of 24-10 on his first jump of the afternoon. He then stepped onto the runway for his third attempt and soared to the top of the NCAA this season with the No. 10 indoor performance in school history.
Coppage eclipsed his previous personal best by one inch as he went 25-6 ¼ to earn All-America honors with a fifth-place finish at the 2007 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
“Coach (Todd Lane) told me that I was ready to jump far this week,” Coppage said. “We just had a great week of practice as a group, and I knew I could come here and put it all together. My first jump gave me a lot of confidence going 24-10. When I hit that big jump, I felt really good going off the board and my landing was much better. I knew it was a big one.”
But Coppage was not alone on the medal stand as senior Jeremy Hicks recorded a strong NCAA provisional qualifying mark of his own to finish runner-up during Friday’s action.
Hicks, who fouled on his first two attempts of the competition, qualified for the event final with a new indoor personal best and NCAA provisional jump of 25-1 ¼ on his third attempt to take over second place. After falling into third place going into his final jump, Hicks fired off the board and moved back into second place with the sixth-best jump in the NCAA this season at 25-3 ½.
This marks the first time in the history of the New Balance Collegiate Invitational that athletes of the same school swept the top two spots in the men’s long jump.
“I was pretty nervous after fouling on my first two jumps, but I hit one that got me into the final,” Hicks said. “I just wanted to get in there and compete. I had Will and the rest of the team there to support me, and they helped me improve on my last jump. I knew that was a good one when I got out. We had a great week of preparation, and I expected to come here and have a great meet.”
The Tigers were not satisfied with their performance in the long jump as junior Trindon Holliday lined up and blew away the competition to win the 60-meter dash.
After clocking the fastest time of the preliminary round at 6.63 seconds, Holliday beat Texas-San Antonio All-American Teddy Williams (6.61) to the finish line in 6.56. Not only did Holliday match his own NCAA-leading time for the 2009 season, but he also equaled the meet record held by former Tennessee standout Justin Gatlin since 2002.
Holliday becomes the second Tiger in a row to win the men’s 60-meter title at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational as he teamed with LSU great Richard Thompson in a 1-2 finish a year ago. Thompson won last year’s title with a then school-record time of 6.57.
Fellow junior Samantha Henry led the Lady Tigers on the opening day of the meet as she clocked an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 7.33 in the prelims of the women’s 60-meter dash.
In the field events, freshman Rachel Laurent took fourth in the championship section after going up and over the bar at 12-11 ½, but nearly improved her NCAA provisional qualifying mark with a strong effort at 13-5 ¼. Freshman Brieanna Kennedy set a new personal best in the shot put by recording a throw of 46-10 ¼ to rank No. 9 all-time at LSU in the event.
The Tigers also had one qualifier into Saturday’s finals as junior Armanti Hayes clocked the fifth-fastest time in the 400-meter prelims at 47.60 for a new seasonal best.
“I thought we did some great things today,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “We’re starting to find out that we’ve got some athletes who can get out there and compete. The important thing for us is that we’re able to put it all together on the same day, our men’s team in particular. What the guys were able to do in the long jump today was tremendous. Of course, Trindon continues to look great running the 60 meters. He’s just a very confident runner right now.
“I was also happy with what I saw from people like Rachel Laurent. I know that she’s probably a little disappointed that she didn’t go higher, but you could tell she was the best vaulter here. She cleared 13-5 by a foot or so, but just came down on the bar. I like what I saw from her.”
Saturday’s action at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational kicks off for LSU in the field events at 8:05 a.m. CT followed by the first event on the track at 8:20 a.m. The Tigers and Lady Tigers will follow their trip to New York with their annual trip to Fayetteville, Ark., to compete in the Tyson Invitational beginning Feb. 13 at the Randal Tyson Track Center.