BATON ROUGE – Despite the challenges of traveling through a winter storm that hit South Louisiana and East Texas on Friday, the LSU Track & Field teams made the most of their trip to College Station on Saturday while claiming seven event titles and posting 27 indoor personal bests during the Texas A&M Triangular held at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium.
Seniors Joseph Caraway, Jasmin Stowers and Nikita Tracey, junior Tori Bliss, sophomore Fitzroy Dunkley, freshman Nataliyah Friar and the women’s distance medley relay took home event titles on the afternoon.
Their efforts helped lead the Tigers and Lady Tigers to a pair of second-place finishes in the final team standings as the Lady Tigers scored 94 points and the Tigers scored 90.5 points through 15 contested events as part of the meet. Texas A&M swept team titles with 139.5 points on the men’s side and 140 points on the women’s side, while Texas Tech trailed in third place with 85 points and 80 points, respectively.
“I’m proud of the way our athletes competed today, and I thought we were able to get some things accomplished as a team that’s going to help us as we move forward,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “It’s been a challenging weekend for our teams with the difficulty we had in just getting here yesterday. I thought our athletes responded very well to that adversity with a good performance today.”
As she did in LSU’s season opener at the Auburn Invitational in Birmingham a week ago, Stowers was impressive in winning the team’s first event title of the competition with a blistering run in the 60-meter hurdles.
Stowers surged into the lead over the final hurdle and powered across the finish line with a run of 8.18 seconds to beat Texas Tech’s Le’Tristan Pledger (8.26) to the tape for the title. Lady Tiger junior teammate Mariah Georgetown followed in third place with a personal best of 8.42, besting her previous PR of 8.43 set during her redshirt season in 2013.
Friar has already enjoyed a breakout freshman season with the Lady Tigers, despite competing in only two meets so far in 2014. The Wentzville, Mo., naïve set a lifetime personal record in the long jump while eclipsing the 20-foot mark for the second week in a row with a winning jump of 20 feet, 3 inches to improve upon the season-opening mark of 20-2 ¼ she set in Birmingham last weekend.
Tracey set a personal best of her own with a run of 2 minutes, 9.85 seconds to win the women’s 800 meters, while Bliss unleashed a seasonal best of 51-1 ¾ to earn her first shot put crown of the year.
Two Tigers also stood out in the field events as Caraway cleared a seasonal best of 17-1 ½ to win the men’s pole vault and Dunkley jumped an indoor personal best of 49-9 ¾ to win the men’s triple jump.
The Lady Tigers then wrapped up the meet by capturing their second distance medley relay title in as many weeks as the team of redshirt freshman Chaiss Matthews (1,200 meters), redshirt freshman Morgan Schuetz (400 meters), true freshman Danielle Avery (800 meters) and sophomore Andria Aguilar (mile) carried the baton around the track in 11 minutes, 53.18 seconds. They beat Texas Tech to the finish line as the Red Raiders were runners-up in 11:56.32, while Texas A&M followed in third place at 12:01.54.
Three members of LSU’s winning DMR even set new personal records in their individual events during the competition, as Schuetz ran 2:10.59 for third place and Avery ran 2:13.70 for fourth place in the 800 meters and Matthews clocked 4:57.44 for fourth place in the mile.
“When you consider the number of athletes we have who came here and won their events, set personal bests and those sorts of things, it shows a true competitiveness about our teams that we hope to develop with each meet,” Shaver said. “The indoor season comes and goes so quickly, so it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity we have to compete and improve as a team.
“We haven’t gotten to train much the last couple of days, had a long travel day here yesterday and weren’t able to bring in our physios because of this winter storm we’ve had come through, but our athletes never did use that as an excuse once we got it going today. I’m proud of them with the professionalism they showed in their approach to the competition.”
Two Tigers cracked LSU’s all-time Top 10 list in the 200-meter dash in their season debut as sophomore Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and freshman Tremayne Acy took second and third place, respectively, in the event.
Mitchell-Blake, who ran a previous best of 21.08 during his freshman season indoors a year ago, opened up his sophomore campaign by clocking a new indoor personal best of 20.98 for a runner-up finish to Texas A&M sophomore Aldrich Bailey, Jr. (20.94) in the first of three heats. Mitchell-Blake emerged as the No. 7-ranked 200-meter sprinter in the NCAA third season with the No. 9-ranked performance in school history.
Acy cruised to an easy victory in the third heat with his season-opening PR of 21.03 for third place overall in his collegiate debut in the event. Like Mitchell-Blake, Acy cracked the Top 10 of the NCAA and school rankings as the nation’s No. 9-ranked performer to this point of the season and the No. 10-ranked 200-meter sprinter on LSU’s all-time list.
It was Acy’s second personal best of the day as he also raced to a new PR of 6.80 for third place in the men’s 60-meter dash as the top Tiger in the event.
Also lining up for the first time in 2014 was LSU’s stable of quartermilers as junior Quincy Downing and sophomores Darrell Bush and Cyril Grayson made their season debuts in the 400-meter dash on Saturday.
Downing actually cracked 47 seconds indoors for the first time in his collegiate career as he set an indoor PR of 46.96 in winning the third heat with the third-fastest time of the meet, breaking his previous PR indoors of 47.72 set last year. Bush opened at 47.28 for fourth place overall, while Grayson followed Downing across the finish line in the third heat with an indoor best of his own at 47.31 for fifth place.
Junior Rodney Brown nearly cracked LSU’s all-time Top 10 list in the men’s shot put himself after launching a lifetime personal best of 58-9 ¼ for second place in the event. Brown raised his indoor PR by more than one foot after stepping into the circle with a best of 57-5 that he set as a sophomore a year ago.
Other Tigers setting indoor personal bests at this year’s Texas A&M Triangular meet were junior Julian Parker (4:18.72) and senior William Wiesler (4:20.10) in the mile, juniors Philip Primeaux (8:20.99) and Bryan Mutell (8:47.23) and sophomore Travis Pope (8:52.48) in the 3,000 meters, sophomore David Collins (57-8 ½) in the weight throw and freshman Matthew Rhorer (1:53.91) in the 800 meters.
Six other Lady Tigers set indoor personal bests in the sprints and hurdles during Saturday’s competition, including sophomores Chanice Chase (54.59) in the 400 meters and Kiersten Duncan in both the 60 meters (7.57) and 200 meters (24.20), and freshmen Jada Martin (23.90) and Bealoved Brown (24.56) in the 200 meters and Bryiana Richardson (8.77) and Ka’Lynn Jupiter (8.81) in the 60-meter hurdles.
With the 2014 indoor season now in full swing, the Tigers and Lady Tigers are ready to head to the site of this year’s NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships as they compete at the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, N.M., as part of the New Mexico Team Invitational being held on Saturday, Feb. 1.