COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Senior Jasmin Stowers and junior Vernon Norwood led seven finals qualifiers on the track and the Tigers and Lady Tigers put points on the scoreboard in the field events in Friday’s action at the 2014 Southeastern Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships at Texas A&M’s Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium.
Stowers was among three Lady Tigers advancing to Saturday’s championship finals as she will be joined by junior Mariah Georgetown in the women’s 60-meter hurdles, while Lady Tiger junior Nikita Tracey raced to an indoor personal best in qualifying for the final of the women’s 800-meter run for the first time in her collegiate career.
Norwood led an LSU assault in the qualifying round of the men’s 400-meter dash he joined junior Quincy Downing and sophomore Darrell Bush in running an indoor personal best as each now ranks among the nation’s premier quartermilers in 2014. Senior Shermund Allsop also advanced to his first career SEC final with an indoor personal best of his own in the men’s 200-meter dash.
“We had a number of big performances today where some of our athletes maybe scored more points than we thought they might score coming in, or even put themselves in a position to score points for our teams by advancing to tomorrow’s finals,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “That’s exactly the kind of effort we needed from both our teams today. I thought they did a great job of competing from the first event.”
Tuttle put the Tigers on the scoreboard in the meet’s first scored event on the men’s side after unleashing a personal best of 63 feet, 9 inches on his fourth throw to lock up seventh place in the weight throw.
After fouling each of his first two throws and needing a fair mark in the final round of qualifying, Tuttle let fly a throw of 61-2 ¾ on his third attempt to grab the ninth and final qualifying spot into the final. He raised that mark to a new PR of 63-9 on his fourth attempt to score the first two points of the meet for the Tigers. Sophomore teammate David Collins followed in 17th place overall with his best of the day at 57-1 ½.
Alabama’s Charodd Richardson was crowned this year’s SEC Indoor weight throw champion after throwing a winning mark of 70-7 on his third attempt of the competition.
Tuttle, who entered the meet with a previous PR of 63-1 ½ set in his last appearance at the LSU Twilight on Feb. 21, earned his best career finish in the men’s weight throw at the SEC Indoor Championships as he took a 14th-place finish as a freshman in 2012 and an 18th-place finish as a sophomore a year ago.
Like Tuttle, Bliss threw an indoor personal best of her own while scoring the first five points of the meet for the Lady Tigers as she matched her career-best finish of fourth place in the shot put at the SEC Indoor meet.
Bliss fouled each of her first two throws of the competition before uncorking a 2014 seasonal best of 52-7 ¼ in the third round of throws to move herself into fourth place heading into the shot put final. She then raised her seasonal best in the fifth round with an indoor PR of 53-1 that locked up a fourth-place finish, matching her best career finish at the SEC Indoor Championships as a freshman in 2012. Bliss has now claimed a top-five finish in the SEC Indoor shot put in each season with the Lady Tigers after also finishing in fifth place a year ago.
Missouri’s Kearsten Peoples won the women’s shot put with a collegiate-leading mark of 58-5 ¼, while Bliss also trailed Auburn’s Valentina Muzaric (56-1 ¼) and Missouri’s Jill Rushin (53-7 ½) in the final standings.
Friar capped the scoring late Friday afternoon when she added four points to the Lady Tigers’ team total with a fifth-place finish in the women’s long jump in her SEC Indoor Championships debut.
Friar actually found herself in 11th place through two rounds of jumps with a top mark of 19-7 ½ on her second attempt as she needed an improvement on her third qualifying jump to move herself into the Top 9 places advancing to the final. That’s exactly what she did as she hit the board and soared 20-3 ½ to move up seven spots into fourth place in the preliminary round before ultimately finishing in fifth place overall.
A freshman from Wentzville, Mo., Friar has now eclipsed the 20-foot mark in five of her seven appearances in the long jump this season as she ended the competition in fifth place behind Mississippi State’s SEC Indoor champion Rochelle Farquharson (21-0 ¾), Arkansas’ Tamara Myers (20-7 ¼), Georgia’s Chanice Porter (20-5 ¾) and Kentucky’s Sha’Keela Saunders (20-4 ¼).
She will return to action in Saturday’s finale at the 2014 SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships when she steps onto the triple jump runway to wrap up her conference debut as a Lady Tiger.
Stowers will run for history when she lines up in the women’s 60-meter hurdles for the last time at the SEC Indoor Championships in Saturday’s final as the three-time defending SEC Indoor champion in the event.
She cruised to victory in the second qualifying heat on Friday afternoon with the second-fastest time of the day at 8.11 as she looks to become the first sprint hurdler in SEC history – male or female – to be crowned an SEC Indoor champion in either the 55-meter hurdles or 60-meter hurdles four times in a collegiate career. Stowers is currently one of only four hurdlers in league history to capture three SEC Indoor titles in the hurdles as she sits alongside South Carolina’s Terrence Trammell (1998-2000) and Florida’s Eddie Lovett (2011-13) on the men’s side and LSU’s Lolo Jones (2002-04) on the women’s side.
But Stowers will face her toughest test to date in defending her SEC Indoor crown as Saturday’s final will also feature Kentucky’s NCAA leader Kendra Harrison, who won the third qualifying heat with the fastest hurdle time of the day at 8.07. Harrison is the NCAA’s only hurdler to break eight seconds in 2014 as she owns a seasonal best of 7.96 already this year.
Stowers has run some of her fastest races in the SEC Indoor final while winning consecutive titles with times of 8.12 as a freshman in 2011, 8.03 as a sophomore in 2012 and 8.06 as a junior a season ago.
Georgetown will join Stowers in the final of the women’s 60-meter hurdles to kick off Saturday’s action after matching her personal best with a run of 8.31 for the sixth-fastest time during Friday’s qualifying round.
The Lady Tigers are also poised to score big points in the women’s 800-meter final to close out the meet after Tracey slashed nearly two full seconds off of her indoor personal best with a run of 2 minutes, 7.86 seconds for second place in the third qualifying heat and fifth place overall in the preliminary round. She entered the competition with a previous indoor PR of 2:09.51 set earlier this season.
Norwood set a blistering pace for the Tigers in qualifying for the men’s 400-meter final in his first career appearance at the SEC Indoor Championships as he sprinted to the NCAA’s second-fastest time this year at 45.54 to win the eighth and final qualifying heat with a lifetime personal best in the event.
A native of Morgan City, La., and product of South Plains College, Norwood has quickly established himself as one of the nation’s premier 400-meter runners in his debut season with the Tigers in 2014 as he eclipsed his previous indoor best of 45.81 entering the meet with the No. 2-ranked time in the NCAA and No. 3-ranked time worldwide for the 2014 indoor season. Only Texas A&M junior Deon Lendore separates Norwood from a No. 1 ranking in the NCAA this season after his collegiate-leading run of 45.47 to win the second heat with the top time of the day.
Norwood was not the only Tiger to roar during Friday’s qualifying round as Bush raced to an indoor PR of his own of 46.29 to advance to his first career SEC final with the 12th-ranked time nationally this season. Bush ran nearly a full second faster than his previous indoor PR of 47.13 set earlier this season as he has now positioned himself for NCAA qualification with the NCAA Indoor Championships now just two weeks away.
Downing will also line up in the 400-meter final after matching his indoor best of 46.49 for the seventh-fastest time of the day as he looks to improve his seasonal best that ranks No. 19 in the NCAA rankings for 2014.
Allsop rounded out LSU’s qualifiers in the final event of the day for the Tigers as he sprinted to an indoor PR of 21.08 in 200-meter qualifying for second place in the fourth heat and eighth place overall as he earned the last qualifying spot into Saturday’s final. It marks the first time in his collegiate career that Allsop will line up for the Tigers in an SEC final in an individual event.
“We’re very pleased with the kind of effort showed by our athletes today to give our teams the best opportunity to finish strong in this meet when we come back here tomorrow,” Shaver said. “
The top Tigers in other qualifying races held Friday afternoon at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium were freshman Blair Henderson (1:50.13) in ninth place in the 800 meters, junior Joshua Thompson (7.99) in 10th place in the 60-meter hurdles, junior Philip Primeaux (4:12.04) in 13th place in the mile and freshman Tremayne Acy (6.81) in 16th place in the 60-meter dash.
Other Lady Tigers finishing as the top qualifiers in their respective events included sophomore Chanice Chase with an indoor personal best of 54.37 for 14th place in the 400 meters, freshman Jada Martin with her run of 7.47 for 16th place in the 60 meters, sophomore Kiersten Duncan with her qualifying run of 24.13 for 19th place in the 200 meters and freshman Chaiss Matthews with a time of 5:04.22 for 21st place in the mile run.
Three other LSU athletes also set indoor PRs, including sophomore Cyril Grayson (47.30) in the 400 meters, sophomore Aliyah Davis (7.62) in the 60 meters and freshman Travia Jones (55.95) in the 400 meters.
In other field events finals held on Friday afternoon, sophomore Fitzroy Dunkley took 11th place in the men’s high jump and freshman Jonathan Pitt secured 14th place in the men’s long jump for the Tigers, while senior Lynnika Pitts earned 13th place and senior Keri Emanuel took 26th place in the women’s long jump for the Lady Tigers.
Saturday’s events resume for the Tigers and Lady Tigers at 1 p.m. CT with their first field events of the day followed by their first finals on the track at 1:10 p.m. CT. ESPN3.com will provide live streaming video during an exciting finale to this year’s SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships from 12:50-5:30 p.m. CT, while Flash Results will provide live results for the competition at www.flashresults.com.