COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Record-setting performances by defending NCAA champion Walter Henning and NCAA title contender Semoy Hackett helped pave the way for a total of 12 event champions for LSU during Saturday's dual meet with Texas A&M at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium.
Texas A&M swept the first dual meet between the two national powers as the Tigers dropped a very close 84-75 decision to the Aggie men and the Lady Tigers fell by score of 91-67 to the Aggie women.
"I thought our kids competed very well in what was really our first meet of the season here this weekend," said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. "Competing against a team like Texas A&M allowed our athletes an opportunity to compete against a premier program on the very track we're going to see again when we do come back for the NCAA Championships. Running on the bank for the first time was important for us.
"There's only so much we're able to do in our training in Baton Rouge to prepare ourselves to compete at a facility like this, and I thought our athletes performed very well for their first time. It is just one of those things where you won't know for sure until you do it. I think we responded very well."
A junior from Scarborough, Trinidad & Tobago, Hackett assured her return to the Gilliam Indoor Stadium for the 2011 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships in March with her first automatic qualifying times of the season for the Lady Tigers in both the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes.
In the one-heat final of the women's 60-meter dash, Hackett matched her lifetime personal record with an impressive early-season time of 7.24 to beat Aggie All-American Jeneba Tarmoh (7.27) to the finish line.
Hackett then returned to the track an hour later for perhaps the most exciting event of the afternoon during the women's 200-meter dash final. After lining up in lane No. 5 with Tarmoh to her inside and Jessica Beard to her outside, Hackett shattered her 200-meter indoor personal record with a time of 22.98 to place third within three one-hundredths of a second behind Beard (22.95) and Tarmoh (22.98).
With her performance on Saturday, Hackett cemented her position as a true NCAA title contender in each event as she wrapped up the meet as the nation's No. 3-ranked performer.
Hackett led a host of Lady Tigers to event titles on the afternoon as she was joined at the top of the award stand by senior Brittany Hall in the 800 (2:13.34), senior Brittani Carter in the high jump (5-11 ½), senior Melissa Ogbourne in the triple jump (41-5 ¼) and junior Samia Stokes in the weight throw (57-11 ¾).
"This was my first time running on a banked track this year, so I really came to run my best and get better on this kind of track," Hackett said. "I did not think I ran the first part of the race as hard as I should have, but I picked it up the last 100 meters and was better around the last turn and through the finish.
"I believe this shows that there are great things to come for me this season if I continue to work hard. I am really improving my starts and executing my races better. I'm looking forward to the big meets."
Henning enjoyed an impressive performance of his own in his 2011 season debut as it only took the Tiger national champion two throws in the 35-pound weight throw to earn a spot at the NCAA Indoor meet.
After stepping into the ring for just the second time this season, Henning unleashed an automatic qualifier of 72 feet, 3 ¾ inches to take over the NCAA lead and win his seventh-straight weight throw event, dating back to last season. He is now set to defend his national crown at the NCAA Indoor Championships taken a season ago at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark.
But the senior from Kings Park, N.Y., did not stop there as he returned to action to win the shot put crown with a top mark of 52-0 and secure five more points toward LSU's team total.
Junior All-American Barrett Nugent was LSU's first event champion of the afternoon with his impressive run in the one-heat final of the men's 60-meter hurdles. Nugent posted the third-fastest time in the hurdles through the second weekend of the season as he cruised to victory in 7.75.
Like Nugent, fellow junior Horatio Williams also finished the meet ranked No. 3 nationally in his event at Saturday's dual meet with his performance in the 200-meter dash. Williams clocked 20.86 in his first 200-meter race of the campaign to finish runner-up to Texas A&M All-American Gerald Phiri (20.80) with his new indoor PR to rank No. 4 on LSU's all-time indoor performance list in the event.
The Tigers also captured individual titles in three jumping events during Saturday's competition, led by a tremendous performance by sophomore All-America candidate Damar Forbes in the long jump.
After opening the season with a new lifetime personal best of 26-3 in a second-place finish at LSU's 2011 opener at the Purple Tiger Invitational a week ago, Forbes soared 25-10 ¼ on his first and only attempt of the dual meet to solidify his reputation as one of the nation's premier long jumpers.
Senior Josh Dominguez added an individual title in the pole vault with a clearance at 16-8 ¾, while junior Kyron Blaise took the triple jump crown with a top mark of 52-7 ¼ in his season-opening performance.
Other LSU athletes enjoying notable personal-best performances during the dual meet include sophomore Dakota Goodman in the 5,000 meters and freshman Karen Henning in the weight throw. Goodman moved into the No. 6 spot on LSU's all-time indoor performance list in her distance event with a personal best of 17 minutes, 52.47 seconds, while Henning moved into the No. 7 spot on the program's all-time indoor list in the weight throw with her second-straight personal best at 57-9 ½.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers return to action next weekend with the first of three trips to the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark., during the indoor season as they compete in the Razorback Invitational hosted by the University of Arkansas. The meet is scheduled for Jan. 28-29.