The LSU throws group has flourished in eight seasons under the direction of assistant coach Derek Yush, and the Tigers and Lady Tigers are sure to shine among the nation’s elite once again in 2016 while featuring some of the top talent in the NCAA ranks.
While the 2015 season may have closed the book on two record-setting careers by All-Americans Tori Bliss and Rodney Brown, it also wrote the first chapter in an All-American career for Rebekah Wales as she emerged as one of the NCAA’s leading javelin throwers during her breakout sophomore season. Wales was crowned the SEC Champion and earned an All-American fourth-place finish nationally at the NCAA Championships last June.
After opening her sophomore season with a personal best of 176 feet, 5 inches to secure a bronze medal at the Texas Relays, Wales raised her PR to 177-1 in winning the SEC title and 179-11 at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds to advance to the NCAA semifinal. On the runway at Oregon’s Hayward Field, Wales earned All-America honors for the first time with her top mark of 178-0 en route to a fourth-place finish in the national final.
Wales went out in 2015 as the No. 2-ranked javelin thrower in school history as she preps for her junior season in 2016 with higher honors squarely in her sights.
Bliss ended her historic career last spring as an SEC Champion and All-American herself, claiming the SEC Indoor title and scoring for the Lady Tigers in the shot put at the NCAA Championships during both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
Bliss’ final indoor season was highlighted by an SEC Indoor Championship meet record of 60-1 to win her first career conference crown and an indoor personal best of 60-7 ¼ to finish as the NCAA Indoor Silver Medalist in the women’s shot put. Her indoor PR of 60-7 ¼ ranked Bliss as the No. 8-ranked shot putter indoors in collegiate history after the NCAA meet.
After being crowned the NCAA Outdoor Silver Medalist with her first career All-America honor as a sophomore in 2014, Bliss earned All-America honors for the third time in her tenure with a fourth-place finish in her final NCAA Championships for LSU. 2015 also saw Bliss raise her outdoor school record to a lifetime best of 60-8 to become the No. 9-ranked outdoor shot putter in NCAA history.
Brown continued to set records himself in his final season at LSU in 2015 when he raised his own school record and broke his Penn Relays meet record with a career-best throw of 213-5 at the 121st running of the Carnival in defending his discus title last spring. He was then crowned the SEC’s discus champion for the second time after first winning the title as a sophomore in 2013 en route to a return to the NCAA finals at Hayward Field.
Brown then made his mark on the international stage last summer when he traveled to the Bird’s Nest National Stadium in Beijing where he made his debut at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics for the United States. That experience has Brown eyeing his first ever Olympic Games with his sights set on Rio de Janeiro in the summer of 2016.
Yush also coached the likes of former walk-on Denise Hinton into one of the most decorated throwers in the history of the Lady Tiger program as she ended her career in 2014 as an All-American in both the weight throw indoors and hammer throw outdoors with fifth-place finishes in both events at the NCAA Championships.
A two-time SEC Indoor Champion in the weight throw, Hinton established LSU’s school record with a career-best throw of 73-11 in defending her conference crown as a senior in 2014. She followed in her final outdoor season with a school record in the hammer throw as she threw a personal best of 218-0 in the event.
Another in a long line of SEC Champions coached by Yush during his tenure at LSU was Samia Stokes, who became the first Lady Tiger in 16 years to win the SEC Outdoor title in the women’s discus in 2010 with a winning throw of 168-5 at the conference meet. Strokes raised her PR of 181-0 to rank No. 2 in school history and went out as the SEC Bronze Medalist in 2012.
Michael Lauro wrapped up an All-American career with the Tigers in 2012 after claiming five All-America honors in his four seasons at LSU. Lauro saved his best for last at the NCAA Championships while earning career-best finishes of eighth place in the weight throw indoors and fourth place in the hammer throw outdoors at the national meets as a senior in 2012.
The LSU throws group enjoyed its most successful season at the SEC Championship with Yush’s guidance in 2012 as his athletes scored a total of 82 points in conference action.
Yush was also honored following the 2012 season as he had the privilege of serving as the men’s throws coach for Team USA at the North American, Central American & Caribbean Under-23 Championships held in Guanajuato, Mexico.
The 2011 campaign witnessed the end of an era as Tiger great Walter Henning wrapped up an outstanding collegiate career as arguably the premier thrower in program history.
Henning put an exclamation point onto the end of an undefeated 2011 indoor season with a national championship in the 35-pound weight throw while defending his title at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. Henning posted a series-best mark of 72-8 ½ to take the national title by nearly three feet.
The Kings Park, New York, native then took home a bronze medal in the hammer throw during his last event as an LSU Tiger at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
In arguably the most prolific career by a thrower in the program’s history, Henning won a total of three NCAA championships in his three seasons in Baton Rouge. That dominance was also felt by his rivals in the Southeastern Conference with his sweep of SEC championships in the weight throw indoors and hammer throw outdoors in consecutive seasons from 2009-11.
Henning, a seven-time All-American and two-time Bowerman Award candidate during his collegiate career, became the first LSU Tiger in program history to capture NCAA titles in the weight throw indoors and hammer throw outdoors with his championship sweep in 2010.
After taking the weight throw crown at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships, Henning completed the sweep with a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the hammer throw at the NCAA Outdoor Championships to wrap up his junior season. While Henning trailed Virginia Tech’s Alexander Ziegler with a top mark of 235-6 through five rounds, he took the crown on his sixth and final throw of the competition after posting a mark of 238-10 on his last attempt to wrap up the title more than one foot ahead of Ziegler’s 237-7 effort.
Henning shattered his own school records during his junior season in posting his personal records of 78-1 in the weight throw and 239-5 in the hammer throw during the campaign. With an effort of 78-1 in winning the weight throw at the 2010 SEC Indoor Championships, he established a new meet record while shattering the previous mark of 76-5 by Auburn’s Cory Martin in 2007.
Not only did Henning add the title of national champion to his resume under Yush’s guidance, but he was also crowned World Junior Champion in the summer of 2008 with his gold-medal-winning performance in the 6-kg. hammer throw at the IAAF World Junior Championship in Bydgoszcz, Poland, after transferring to LSU from the University of North Carolina. His throw of 252-4 at the IAAF World Junior Championships was an American junior record in the event.
While Yush has now guided his athletes to 19 All-America honors in his stint as LSU’s throws coach, former Tiger javelin thrower Preston Chatham was the first to reach that status with his first career All-America honor during the 2008 outdoor season. Chatham earned a fourth place in the javelin at the NCAA Outdoor Championships while posting a PR of 234-7.
Since Yush joined the LSU coaching staff in 2008, the Lady Tigers have now taken home six SEC championships and one NCAA championship as they continue to add to trophy case as the premier women’s program in collegiate track and field. In fact, the Tigers and Lady Tigers have now combined for 20 top-five finishes at the NCAA Championships between the indoor and outdoor seasons since Yush’s arrival.
Yush came to LSU in 2007 after spending eight seasons at the University of Rhode Island, where he coached the men’s throws, jumps and multi-events while also acting as an assistant with the cross country team. Rhode Island enjoyed tremendous success under Yush’s guidance as he helped lead the squad to 11 Atlantic-10 Conference titles from 2001-07, including five indoor and six outdoor crowns during his tenure.
In addition to his experience at Rhode Island, Yush brings head coaching experience to the position as he served as the head men’s and women’s coach at Eastern Connecticut State University from 1998-99. He actually got his start in the coaching profession at ECSU as he was named the assistant sprints, jumps and throws coach in 1997.
The Enfield, Connecticut, native also served two seasons as an administrative assistant at the University of Connecticut where he served as a team captain and helped lead the Huskies to Big East and New England as a senior. He was a consistent scorer at the Big East Championships and was an Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America performer.
Yush has earned a USA Track and Field Level II Coaching Certificate as he is fully certified to coach sprints, hurdles, relays, jumps, throws and multi-events. He is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist after joining the National Strength and Conditioning Association in 1997. He earned a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Connecticut in May 1997.
The Yush File
2007-Present – Assistant Coach
1999-2007 – Assistant Coach
Eastern Connecticut State
1998-99 – Head Coach
1997-98 – Assistant Coach
Records and Achievements at LSU
2010 USTFCCCA Men’s South Central Region Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year
1 NCAA Champion winning 3 NCAA Championships
7 All-American athletes earning 19 All-America honors
6 SEC Champion athletes winning 13 SEC Championships
11 All-SEC athletes earning 24 All-SEC honors
7 LSU School Records
2 SEC Championship Meet Records
Served as the men’s throws coach for Team USA at the 2012 North American, Central American & Caribbean Under-23 Championships in Guanajuato, Mexico.