PHILADELPHIA – The No. 4-ranked Lady Tigers continued their dominance of the sprint medley relay and senior standout Damar Forbes went out with a bang in his final Penn Relays as a Tiger with his first career victory in the championship long jump during Friday’s action at the 119th Penn Relay Carnival at historic Franklin Field.
The Lady Tigers have owned the sprint medley relay at the Penn Relays in recent years as they won their sixth Championship of America title in seven years and eighth all-time in the nation’s premier relay carnival.
In their final race of the evening, the Lady Tigers stepped onto the track looking to retake the Penn Relays crown they won in five-straight seasons from 2007-11. And they did just in dominating fashion as senior Latoya McDermott (200 meters), senior Kimberlyn Duncan (200 meters), junior Nikita Tracey (400 meters) and junior Natoya Goule (800 meters) proved to be the class of the field.
With Goule anchoring the team in 2 minutes, 3.5 seconds on the 800-meter leg, the Lady Tigers ran their sixth-fastest time in school history at 3:44.26 to finish more than two seconds ahead of runner-up Duke (3:46.43) and more than six seconds ahead of third-place Miami (3:50.72) for their eighth Penn Relays victory all-time.
Their victory on Friday night extended an unprecedented streak at the Penn Relays as LSU has now won at least one Championship of America relay title in 23-straight seasons dating back to the 1991 campaign.
It also marks the third-time in five seasons that the Lady Tigers have swept sprint medley relay championships at the Texas Relays and Penn Relays in the same season as they also doubled in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010. They tied the second-fastest time in school history at 3:43.98 to win the sprint medley relay at the 86th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays on March 28 of this season.
“That’s a great way for our ladies to finish off another big day for our teams at the Penn Relays,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “We were in great position after the 200 legs, and Natoya did what she’s been doing for us all year long with another strong 800 meters. They have a lot of pride in that event, and it was great to see them get their title back here at Penn.”
In his final Penn Relays appearance for the Tigers, Forbes claimed his first championship victory in the long jump while soaring a seasonal best of 25 feet, 11 inches from the board on his second attempt of the day.
Forbes opened with a leading mark of 25-9 ¼ on his first jump and never looked back as he improved to 25-11 on his second jump en route to a near 17-inch victory over that of 24-6 ¼ by Monroe’s Mamadou Gueye in a runner-up finish. Forbes tied the No. 5-ranked long jump mark in the NCAA this season as he narrowly eclipsed his previous seasonal best of 25-10 ¾w from the Texas Relays on March 29.
He is now among elite company as the fourth LSU Tiger to win the men’s championship long jump crown in the 119-year history of the Penn Relays as he joins fellow Tiger greats Walter Davis (2001, 2002), John Moffitt (2004) and Jeremy Hick (2009). Forbes won his first Penn Relays title after finishing runner-up in the event as a junior a season ago.
Forbes’ career has come full circle as he won his first championship long jump at the Penn Relays on Friday afternoon after winning the college section with a mark of 25-10 ¾ in his debut as a freshman in 2010.
“It’s bittersweet to come here for the last time as an LSU Tiger,” Forbes said following his victory. “I love competing in front of this crowd. It’s a great experience every time we come here. Winning means a lot because it is my last time jumping for LSU. Penn isn’t an easy place to jump because the wind swirls here, but I jumped pretty well today.
“We’ve been working on my technique a lot these last few weeks. My technique is so much better now, even when I was jumping my best marks. I know I’ll be jumping my best at SECs and NCAAs.”
Forbes also led off an impressive relay performance by the Tigers in the qualifying round of the 4x100-meter relay as he joined with sophomore Aaron Ernest, freshman Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and junior Shermund Allsop to win the third heat with the second-fastest time of the day at 39.68 seconds. Norfolk State finished runner-up in the heat in 40.48.
LSU’s 39.68 was the fastest time in the field through three heats of qualifying until University of Technology of Kingston, Jamaica, won the fourth heat with a run of 39.60. Also advancing to the men’s 4x100-meter relay final were St. Augustine’s (39.98), Auburn (40.46), Norfolk State (40.48), South Carolina (40.70), North Carolina A&T (40.74) and Indiana (40.80).
The Tigers are poised to win their 10th Penn Relays crown all-time in the 4x100-meter relay and their second in three seasons after sprinting to the second-fastest time in meet history at 38.77 to take the title in 2011.
The Championship of America final in the men’s 4x100 relay will kick off Saturday’s finale on the track for the Tigers and Lady Tigers as it is scheduled to run at 11:35 a.m. CT.
“I was shocked when I saw that,” Forbes said of LSU’s time in the sprint relay. “I kind of slipped out of the blocks, so I didn’t get to drive like I needed to. Our passing didn’t look as sharp as it needs to be. We’ve still got a lot of improvements to make, but it’s encouraging to run that fast in a prelim here. We’re excited to come back out and run tomorrow.”
After qualifying as the third-fastest team in Thursday’s preliminary round, the Lady Tigers lined up in the Championship of America final in the women’s 4x100-meter relay to kick off Friday’s action on the track for their team as they scored a bronze medal with a third-place finish in the event while running 43.91 seconds.
McDermott, Duncan, junior Takeia Pinckney and junior Toshika Sylvester teamed to run 43.91 in Friday’s final to follow event champion Texas A&M (43.05) and Jamaica’s University Tech (43.32) across the finish line for third place overall. Kentucky followed in fourth place at 44.44 and Oregon trailed in fifth place overall at 44.57 to round out the top-five teams in the race.
With three Championship of America relay finals now in the books, the Lady Tigers will line up in two finals during Saturday’s finale with the 4x800 relay set for 3:10 p.m. CT and the 4x400 relay slated for 4:50 p.m.
Sylvester also earned a spot in Saturday’s championship final fo the women’s 100-meter dash thanks to her runner-up finish in the first heat of Friday’s qualifying round. Sylvester crossed the finish line with her time at 11.82 (+1.8) to finish runner-up to the winning time of 11.46 by University Tech’s Elaine Thompson. Hers was the 10th-fastest time of the day, but qualified as the second-fastest time in her heat.
Tiger sophomore Rodney Brown led a trio of personal-best performance in the field events during Friday’s action as he won the college division of the men’s shot put with a lifetime PR in the event.
Brown found himself in second place heading into the shot put finals after throwing an outdoor PR of 56-7 ¼ in the second round, trailing only the leading 57-0 ¼ by Grant Smith of Hagerstown Community College with three remaining rounds. Brown saved his best for last as he took the title with a best of 57-10 ½ in the sixth round to finish more than 10 inches clear of Smith in the final standings.
Brown took down his previous lifetime best of 57-5 set during the indoor season earlier this year at the LSU Twilight meet at the Carl Maddox Field House back on Feb. 15.
Brown added a silver-medal-winning runner-up finish in the men’s championship discus as he followed his PR in the shot put by throwing a series-best of 191-2 for second place in his primary event. Brown posted 191-2 in the second round of throws to finish runner-up to the winning mark of 194-3 by James Plummer of Rutgers. The LSU star is the NCAA’s No. 2-ranked performer in the event with a best of 206-3 this season.
Like Brown, fellow sophomore Tori Bliss set two personal bests in her series in the discus as she followed a throw of 157-10 in the third round with a lifetime best of 161-10 in the fourth round en route to her fifth-place finish in the championship division. Central Michigan’s Devene Brown won the women’s discus crown with her best throw of 177-0 in the fifth round.
Bliss, who entered the meet with a PR of 157-2 in the event, moved into the No. 8 spot on LSU’s all-time outdoor performance list in the women’s discus with her best of 161-10 during Friday’s action.
Tiger freshman Fitzroy Dunkley also posted an outdoor PR in Friday’s competition at Franklin Field with first-attempt clearances at 6-6 ¾, 6-8 ¼ and 6-9 ¾ to take third place in the college division of the men’s high jump.
In addition, Lady Tiger junior Keri Emanuel was the team’s top performer in the women’s championship triple jump as she posted her top mark of the day at 41-3 ¾ to claim a fourth-place finish in the final. She jumped a wind-legal 41-3 ¾ (+1.8) in the second round and a wind-aided 41-3 ¾ (+3.0) in the fourth round for fourth place in the event.
San Diego State’s Shanieka Thomas was crowned the women’s triple jump champion with her winning mark of 44-8, while Texas A&M’s LaQue Moen-Davis followed in second place with a wind-aided mark of 43-5.
“I thought both our teams did some good things today. We did what we needed to do to give ourselves a chance to compete tomorrow,” Shaver said. “We got some great individual performances today, particularly in the field events. A number of personal bests were set today, and I’m really proud of Damar for winning his first long jump here in his last Penn Relays with us.
“I was pleased by the way we ran the sprint relays today. We still have some things to clean up, but we continue to improve each chance we have to run. They’re excited about coming back and running tomorrow.”
The 119th running of the Penn Relay Carnival will come to a dramatic conclusion Saturday as the Tigers and Lady Tigers will compete in the field events beginning at 8 a.m. CT before stepping onto the track with the first finals of the day at 12:25 p.m. The meet will end Saturday with the running of the Championship of America 4x400-meter relays as the Lady Tigers will run at 4:50 p.m. followed by the Tigers at 5 p.m.
NBC will televise Saturday’s “USA vs. The World” events at the Penn Relays live from 12-2 p.m. CT as it will be the first stop of the 2013 USA Track & Field Championship Series. NBC Universal will also air live coverage of the meet from 2-4 p.m. CT following the “USA vs. The World” competition for four hours of live television coverage of Saturday’s action at Franklin Field.