BATON ROUGE – Strong season-opening performances by junior Jasmin Stowers in the 100-meter hurdles and Quincy Downing in the 400-meter dash and a sweep of relay titles by the Lady Tigers paced 10 event winners for the LSU Track & Field teams during Saturday’s finale at the 2013 LSU Relays held at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium.
Stowers opened the outdoor season with her victory the women’s 100-meter hurdles as she took the tape ahead of senior teammate Shanekia Hall with a wind-legal run of 13.39 seconds to match her season-opening performance from a year ago. Hall followed in second place with an opening time of 13.52 in her first race of the outdoor season.
Stowers took to the track for the first time following her bronze-medal-winning third-place finish in the final of the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships two weeks ago.
Stowers, who has now earned four All-America honors in the sprint hurdles in her collegiate career, also led off the Lady Tigers in the 4x100-meter relay on Saturday as she teamed with senior Kimberlyn Duncan, junior Takeia Pinckney and junior Toshika Sylvester for a winning run of 44.03 in the their first appearance of the 2013 season.
It marked the first time that Stowers has run on LSU’s top team in the 4x100-meter relay in her three seasons as a Lady Tiger.
The Lady Tigers were dominant in their season opener in the sprint relay as Hinds Community College trailed more than two seconds back in second place with a time of 46.23.
“I haven’t run the relay much since high school, and handing off to somebody like Kim is something I’ve never experienced before,” Stowers said following the meet. “I was a little nervous about that. I was sprinting as hard as I could to get the stick to her. We’ve definitely got some improvements to make. We’re all looking forward to running again at Texas next week.”
Stowers actually matched her season-opening time in the 100 hurdles from a year ago when she ran a wind-aided 13.39 in the preliminary rounds at the Texas Relays while coming up just short of a spot in the finals.
“I feel more comfortable opening here (in the hurdles),” Stowers said. “I feel like I’ve got a better chance to run well next week because I ran here today. It’s a good starting point for me. I didn’t even make the final at Texas last year, so I’m really looking forward to that when we go back next week.”
The Lady Tigers swept sprint relay titles during Saturday’s action at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium as they added victories in both the 4x200-meter and 4x400-meter relays in the finale.
Earning the victory in the 4x200 relay with a winning run of 1 minute, 34.29 seconds was LSU’s team of senior Latoya McDermott, Duncan, senior Siedda Herbert and freshman Aliyah Davis. Herbert then returned to the track to lead off the Lady Tigers in the 4x400 relay as she teamed with junior Nikita Tracey, sophomore Montenae Roye-Speight and junior Natoya Goule to run a season-opening time of 3:37.00.
After the Lady Tigers won the women’s 4x100 relay title, the Tigers opened the defense of their national championship in the 4x100 relay with a strong performance in their season opener on Saturday afternoon.
With sophomore All-American Aaron Ernest still recovering from a grueling indoor season, the Tigers took to the track with a foursome of senior long jump All-American Damar Forbes, freshman Darrell Bush, freshman Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and junior Shermund Allsop lining up to the inside of the Tiger Olympians team of former LSU All-Americans Barrett Nugent, Tristan Walker, Kyron Blaise and Gabriel Mvumvure.
Forbes led off with a strong first leg before Bush and Mitchell-Blake got the baton to Allsop on the anchor in a dead heat with Mvumvure for the title. The Tigers crossed the finish line in 39.98 to finish runner-up to the winning run of 39.94 by Mvumvure and the Tiger Olympians.
The Tigers won their eighth NCAA title in the 4x100 relay as the team of Nugent, Ernest, Keyth Talley and Allsop sprinted to the seventh-fastest time in collegiate history at 38.38 in the national final a year ago.
“We got the stick around the track with both the men and the women, which was a primary goal of ours coming in,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “I thought the women executed the race very well today in their first time out. We’ve got some new people on it this year, and those returning are in a different spot on the relay than they were last year. The men were also pretty good today. Damar ran a great leadoff leg to sort of put our two freshmen in a good position. We’re excited that Aaron Ernest will be back in the mix when we go to Texas next week.”
While the Tigers came up a split-second short of taking the sprint relay crown, Downing returned the favor in the final of the men’s 400-meter dash as he battled Olympic relay bronze medalist Ade Alleyne-Forte of the Tiger Olympians for his first collegiate victory outdoors in the one-lap race.
Downing beat Alleyne-Forte to the finish line with a season-opening time of 46.94 as Alleyne-Forte took the silver medal in 47.05. Downing’s 46.94 ranks No. 4 in the NCAA’s early-season rankings for 2013.
Downing owns a lifetime best of 46.18 in the event that he set in the NCAA quarterfinals during his freshman season a year ago en route to a berth in the national semifinals of the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Downing is also a two-time All-American during his collegiate career as a member of LSU’s 4x400-meter relay team.
After opening up the outdoor season with a runner-up finish in the 1,500 meters on Friday night, Lady Tiger senior Laura Carleton scored a victory in her first 800-meter race outdoors this season while setting a lifetime PR of 2:11.08 in the first of four heats of the women’s event.
And just one week after smashing his lifetime best with an NCAA-leading mark of 197-1 in winning the discus at the Louisiana Classics meet, Tiger sophomore Rodney Brown won his second discus title in as many starts on Saturday afternoon. Brown took the title with a series-best effort of 186-2 in the fifth round of throws to surge past Southeastern Louisiana’s Jeff Milliron (178-3) in the event.
Other event winners during Saturday’s finale at the LSU Relays included Pinckney (11.61) in the 100-meter dash, Tracey (59.18) in the 400-meter hurdles and junior Keri Emanuel (19-7 ½) in the long jump.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers also featured six silver medalists in their events Saturday afternoon, including Goule (54.62) in the 400 meters, Sylvester (11.74) in the 100 meters, junior Shana-Gaye Tracey (59.27) in the 400 hurdles (59.27), sophomores Joshua Thompson (14.23w) in the 110 hurdles and Doren Welch (146-10) in the javelin and freshman Fitzroy Dunkley (48-6 ¾) in the triple jump.
“It was a tough day for us to get much done as a team with the weather like it was. We fought through some showers here and there, which made for some really heavy air here today,” Shaver said. “But we were able to still get a few things done and feel a little bit better about where we are as we get into the meat of our schedule.
“We’re really looking forward to the Texas Relays next weekend. I expect our athletes to be better focused mentally as we really step up our level of competition. It’s always a lot of fun for our teams.”
The Tigers and Lady Tigers are set to make their annual trip to Austin, Texas, next weekend to compete against a world-class field at the 86th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays running March 27-30 at Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas. They will then travel to Los Angeles, Calif., to compete at the UCLA Dual Meet being held April 6 at Drake Stadium.