The Lady Tigers finished the 2016 season among the NCAA's elite once again while scoring 31 points for a sixth-place finish nationally at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. In all, 10 Lady Tigers turned in All-American performances over the course of the campaign with their efforts at the NCAA Championships during the indoor and outdoor seasons.
The Lady Tigers will return 10 All-Americans to their squad in 2017 as LSU will once again challenge for top honors at the SEC and NCAA Championships. With a senior-laden squad featuring All-Americans Nataliyah Friar, Rushell Harvey, Travia Jones, Jada Martin, Morgan Schuetz and Rebekah Wales; along with juniors Mikiah Brisco and Aleia Hobbs and sophomores Kortnei Johnson and Rachel Misher, the Lady Tigers hope to make 2017 a season to remember in Baton Rouge.
Last in a nine-part series previews the women's throwers who look to make an impact on the team race at the SEC and NCAA championships in 2017.
If Rebekah Wales emerged as one of the most promising javelin throwers in the collegiate ranks in an All-American sophomore season in 2015, she cemented her place as one of the NCAA’s best in 2016 when she earned All-America honors for a second time at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Wales certainly raised the bar with her performance as a junior last spring when she became the first Lady Tiger since the great Laverne Eve in 1988 to eclipse the 180-foot mark in the outdoor event.
Already the 2015 SEC Outdoor Champion in the women’s javelin, Wales earned All-SEC honors for the second-straight season when she let fly a personal best of 180 feet, 7 inches at the 2016 SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships at the University of Alabama to end the meet as the SEC Outdoor Bronze Medalist. It took an SEC meet record of 195-2 by Texas A&M’s Maggie Malone and silver-medal-winning throw of 189-8 by Florida’s Marija Vucenovic to dethrone Wales as the SEC Champion in the event.
The West Monroe native used that performance to propel herself back to the NCAA Championships where she took home All-American honors with a sixth-place finish nationally while throwing 177-0 in her return trip to Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. She also won three javelin titles a year ago at the Hurricane Twilight (172-4), Texas Invitational (169-8) and LSU Alumni Gold (178-1).
Wales was the first Lady Tiger in 27 years to achieve All-America status when she earned fourth place at the NCAA Championships in 2015 where she threw 178-0 in her first national final. During a sophomore season in which she set a previous personal best of 179-11, Wales also became just the fourth Lady Tiger to be crowned the SEC Champion in her specialty.
There is no doubt Wales will be counted on to help fuel the Lady Tiger’s title challenge at the SEC and NCAA meets when the calendar rolls into the outdoor season as one of the NCAA’s best returning in 2017.
Cameron, Wisconsin, native Sidnie Wilder closed out her sophomore season in 2016 with a personal-best performance at the SEC Outdoor Championships where she just missed scoring for the Lady Tigers in the final in women’s hammer throw with a mark of 183-1 for 10th place in the qualifying round. It marked the second time for Wilder to eclipse the 180-foot mark in the event last outdoor season after also throwing 181-9 with her appearance at LSU’s Battle on the Bayou just one month before.
Wilder bounced back from an injury-plagued indoor season in which she threw the weight in just three meets a year ago to solidify her position as the No. 9-ranked women’s hammer thrower in school history.
Wilder will look to continue her development as a true junior in 2017 by finishing among the scoring positions in the championship meets for the first time after finishing 10th overall in three previous appearances at the SEC Championships, including the weight throw indoors and hammer throw outdoors as a freshman in 2015. Her personal best of 58-10 ¼ in the weight throw ranks No. 8 on LSU’s all-time list in the event.
Other Lady Tigers returning to the squad for the 2017 season include junior Marvalyn Vernon with personal bests of 58-2 ½ in the weight throw and 166-8 in the hammer throw, sophomore Madison Danna with her top throws of 46-6 ¾ in the weight throw and 136-11 in the hammer throw and redshirt freshman Savannah Sledd.
“Dunbar” is a name certainly familiar to Tiger football fans as they think back to the playing career of former All-SEC defensive tackle Karl Dunbar in the late 1980s. An eighth-round selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1990 NFL Draft and former member of the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals, Dunbar terrorized SEC quarterbacks during a standout collegiate career with the Tigers from 1985-89.
There’s now a new Dunbar for Tiger fans to cheer after Karl’s daughter, Nickolette Dunbar, signed a National Letter of Intent with the Lady Tigers as part of their heralded Class of 2016 as one of the top throwers in the country at the high school level.
Most noted for her exploits as one of the nations’ top shot putters while attending Whippany Park High School in Whippany, New Jersey, Dunbar set personal bests of 54-7 ½ indoors and 52-7 ¾ outdoors to claim No. 2 and No. 3 national rankings, respectively, during her senior season in 2016. She became the No. 4-ranked high school shot putter in U.S. history indoors when she threw her lifetime best of 54-7 ½ at the New Balance Indoor Nationals where she was crowned a national champion in the event.
Dunbar’s prep career was also highlighted by being crowned the 2015 Penn Relays Champion in the shot put before twice earning the title of New Balance Outdoor Nationals Silver Medalist in 2015 and 2016.
Dunbar is not the only incoming recruit looking to make an impact on LSU’s fortunes in the championship meets during the 2017 season as sophomore transfer Jordan McClendon has already shown her potential in the team’s indoor opener at the Purple Tiger Invitational last Friday afternoon. That’s where McClendon won the weight throw title with a season-opening mark of 58-6 ¾ to rank No. 10 in school history.
McClendon, who hails from Black Jack, Missouri, transferred to LSU following her freshman season at Tulane where she set the Green Wave’s indoor school record of 62-1 in the weight throw in her eighth-place finish at the 2016 American Athletic Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships. She also comes to LSU with personal bests of 45-8 in the shot put, 144-8 in the discus and 153-3 in the hammer throw.
Rounding out the incoming Lady Tigers in the throwing events is freshman Dominique Hailey of Musselman High School in Inwood, West Virginia, as she has thrown 36-8 in the shot put and 136-7 in the discus throw.