BATON ROUGE -- With the SEC Indoor Championships just two weeks away, the LSU track and field teams will test their strength against the nation’s best in Fayetteville, Ark., this weekend as they compete in the Tyson Invitational beginning Friday at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers are sure to catch an early glimpse at many of the teams that will look to be crowned national champion at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March as the Tyson Invitational is widely considered one of the most competitive meets of the indoor season.
Friday night’s invitational portion of the meet is scheduled to be broadcast to a national television audience on a tape-delay basis Sunday on ESPN from 4-6 p.m. CT.
LSU hopes to add to its postseason roster as the Lady Tigers enter the weekend ranked No. 5 and the Tigers come in at No. 8 nationally in the latest Top 25 ranking released by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association on Wednesday. The squads have already combined for three automatic qualifiers and 16 provisional qualifiers for the NCAA Indoor Championships.
“The Tyson Invitational always gives us a good test at where we are at this point in the season,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “It’s certainly going to have an NCAA Championships type of feel to it, and we will have the chance to compete against many of the teams and athletes we’ll see at the national meet. It’s going to be an exciting two days of track and field.
“We’re coming into this weekend with some very specific goals in mind, and a lot of our focus is going to be on consistency and improving our individual performances across all event areas.”
Junior Trindon Holliday is one of five LSU entries into the invitational portion of the meet Friday night as he will line up to defend his title in the men’s 60-meter dash.
Holliday, who is undefeated in six races at 60 meters this season and ranks No. 2 in the NCAA at 6.56 seconds for his seasonal best, will face the strongest field he has seen this season. Michael Rodgers enters the meet with the fastest time in the world this season at 6.51. In addition, the race will feature such U.S. Olympians as Shawn Crawford, Travis Padgett, Darvis Patton and Terrance Trammell, in addition to Olympian Marc Burns of Trinidad and Tobago.
Holliday won the invitational 60-meter dash a year ago with a then personal best of 6.60, crossing the finish line ahead of Leonard Scott (6.62) and Padgett (6.68). This year’s race is sure to be one of the highlights of ESPN’s tape-delay broadcast of the meet on Sunday.
Like Holliday, fellow junior Samantha Henry will line up against a tough field in the women’s 60 meters as she will join the likes of former LSU star and U.S. Olympic Trials 100-meter champion Muna Lee, as well as U.S. Olympian Marshevet Hooker and Bianca Knight of adidas.
Also set to race in the professional portion of this year’s Tyson Invitational is Jamaal James in the men’s 800 meters and both the men’s and women’s 4x400-meter relay teams.
“This is a great opportunity for many of our athletes to not only line up and race against collegiate athletes, but the very best professional athletes this sport has to offer,” Shaver said. “The Tyson Invitational is always one of the premier events in indoor track and field each year, and one of the big reasons is because it attracts many of the top athletes from around the world.”
A number of LSU athletes will also be looking to improve their NCAA qualifying performances during the college portion of the meet, including senior Jeremy Hicks (long jump), senior Kayann Thompson (800 meters), senior Andrea Linton (long jump), junior Katelyn Rodrigue (pole vault), sophomore Richard Jones (800 meters) and freshman Rachel Laurent (pole vault).
Junior Will Coppage, the reigning SEC Male Field Athlete of the Week, is also set to compete in the long jump after posting an NCAA-leading mark of 25 feet, 7 ¼ inches to win the event title at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York last weekend.
In addition to their appearance in the invitational 60 meters on Friday, Henry and Holliday will be among those competing in the 200 meters during the college action on Saturday afternoon.
“We have several athletes who really need to step up and show some improvement this weekend if they want to help us in the championship meets,” Shaver said. “That is true across all the event areas. I’m looking to see who will get in there and compete and begin to show a bit of consistency in their performances here in the last few weeks of the indoor season.”
After competing in the Tyson Invitational, the Tigers and Lady Tigers will return home next week to compete in the LSU Twilight Invitational on Feb. 20 before making the trip to Lexington, Ky., to battle for conference supremacy at the SEC Indoor Championships from Feb. 27-March 1.