LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The LSU track and field teams kicked off the 2009 NCAA Mideast Regional Championships on Friday by qualifying a total of 19 entries into Saturday’s final-round action to be held on the track at Louisville’s Cardinal Park Stadium.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers combined for 19 qualifiers on the meet’s opening day after declaring a total of 26 entries into preliminary races on the track prior to the competition.
“I don’t think we could have done anything more on the track than what we did today,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “We qualified everybody for tomorrow’s finals who I believe have an opportunity to score for us at the NCAA Championships. That was our goal coming into the meet, and our athletes did a great job today of doing what they had to do to get to the final.”
Simmons was the first to step onto the track for the prelims of the men’s 400-meter dash and set a new personal best with a time of 46.05 seconds to take the top spot in the qualifying round. Junior Armanti Hayes was also impressive in 400-meter qualifying as he advanced to Saturday’s final of the event with the second-fastest time of the preliminary round at 46.10.
Jones also recorded the fastest qualifying time in the prelims of the men’s 800-meter run as he set a new personal best by more than one second with a time of 1 minute, 47.70 seconds, which ranks him No. 5 in the NCAA this season and No. 7 on LSU’s all-time outdoor performance list.
Jones will be joined in the 800-meter final by fellow junior Jamaal James, who took first place on his heat with the fourth-fastest qualifying time of the day at 1:50.05.
Freshman Barrett Nugent also established himself as a favorite to win the regional title in the 110-meter hurdles by clocking the fastest qualifying time in the event with a personal best of 13.81. It is a performance that moves him into the Top 20 sprint hurdlers in the nation this season and into the No. 10 spot on LSU’s all-time performance list in the event.
Rounding out LSU’s qualifiers on the men’s side are Holliday (10.51) in the 100 meters, Mvumvure (20.98) in the 200-meter dash and senior Patrick Lee (51.49) in the 400-meter hurdles.
“We’re certainly set up quite well on the men’s side,” Shaver said. “Obviously, our focus is going to be finishing in the top five tomorrow. That’s something that each of our athletes are well aware of and is what we’ve prepared them to do all season long. They look forward to the chance to get back out here tomorrow and compete for one of those spots in the national meet.”
Junior Samantha Henry helped lead the Lady Tigers on the first day of qualifying at the NCAA Mideast regional Championships by securing her spot in Saturday’s final in both the 100 meters and 200 meters with two of the premier performances of the day.
Henry showed why she is an NCAA title contender in the 100-meter dash by clocking the fastest preliminary time of the day at 11.37 to win her heat and set a new Cardinal Park Stadium record in the event. She returned to the track just over two hours later to run the fourth-fastest qualifying time in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.73 run into a strong headwind.
Henry will be joined in the 100-meter final by three Lady Tigers as Wilson (11.38) qualified with the second-fastest time of the day followed by Cabral (11.45) with the third-fastest time, while junior Kristina Davis grabbed the eighth and final qualifying spot with a time of 11.62. The Lady Tigers will feature four of the nine finalists in the 100-meter dash on Saturday.
Three LSU women also qualified for the 800-meter final as junior All-American LaTavia Thomas led the way with the fourth-fastest preliminary time of the day at 2:05.19. Sophomore Brittany Hall (2:05.49) and senior Kayann Thompson (2:06.73) will join Thomas in the 800-meter final.
Sophomore Tenaya Jones will also line up in the final of the 100-meter hurdles to be run Saturday after clocking a time of 13.46 to qualify sixth in the preliminary round.
“I was very impressed by what the women were able to accomplish today,” Shaver said. “I’m sort of surprised by that we were able to get four through to the final in the 100 meters, but each one is running very well right now at the right time of the year. They went out and earned their spot. I’m also very pleased with how we qualified in the other events, which is what we expected.”
Although freshman Rachel Laurent did not earn a top-five finish in the pole vault to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships, she is sure to receive an at-large berth when bids are announced next week as she tied for ninth place with a clearance of 13-1 ¾. Athletes which earn a Top 12 finish in an event are eligible for an at-large selection based on their NCAA ranking.
Laurent entered the weekend ranked in a tie for the No. 6 spot on the NCAA descending order list this spring with a seasonal-best and personal-best clearance of 14-1 ¼.
Likewise, senior Jeremy Hicks and junior Will Coppage are also in position to pick up an at-large berth into the NCAA Championships after tying one another for 11th place in the long jump with matching marks of 24-7. Hicks entered the weekend ranked No. 2 in the NCAA in the event with a mark of 26-3, while Coppage came in at No. 23 with a top mark of 25-3 ¼.
The 2009 NCAA Mideast Regional Championships will wrap up Saturday as the action will kick off at 10 a.m. CT at Cardinal Park Stadium. Live results from the meet can be found online at the official website of the University of Louisville at www.uoflsports.com.