NCAA Champion! Jackson Wins Weight Throw
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Senior Johnnie Jackson seized the early lead in the men’s weight throw with marks of 74 feet, 3 ½ inches and 75-0 ¾ on his first two throws and never looked back as he was crowned the NCAA Champion in the event in Saturday’s finale at the 2017 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Jackson never trailed as he matched the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium record of 75-0 ¾ on his second attempt to become LSU’s second NCAA weight throw champion in school history and first in six years.
Jackson put the Tigers on the scoreboard in their first event of the day before senior Michael Cherry was crowned the NCAA Indoor Silver Medalist in the men’s 400 meters, senior Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake took home a fourth-place finish in the men’s 200 meters, senior Blair Henderson scored a seventh-place finish in the men’s 800 meters and their 4x400-meter relay closed out the meet with fourth place.
Their 30 points scored on the final day of the meet secured the Tigers a sixth-place team finish after entering the meet with a No. 12 national ranking by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. In the men’s team race, Texas A&M (46) edged Florida (45.5) by the narrowest of margins to win the NCAA Indoor title, followed by Oregon (38) in third, Georgia (35.5) in fourth and Arkansas (33) in fifth.
The Lady Tigers totaled 11 points on the day to tie for 18th place in the women’s team standings as freshman Ruby Stauber led the way with a fifth-place finish in her first NCAA final in the women’s 800 meters.
Also earning All-America honors as NCAA scorers for the Lady Tigers on the final day of the weekend were senior Jada Martin with a sixth-place finish in the women’s 200 meters along with sophomore Kortnei Johnson with a sixth-place finish and junior Mikiah Brisco with an eighth-place finish in the women’s 60 meters.
Oregon finished 33 points clear of the field with 84 total points to reclaim the women’s team championship, followed by team trophy finishers Georgia (51) in second, Alabama (37) in third and USC (35) in fourth.
“I’m so proud of the effort our guys showed coming here to this NCAA Indoor Championship,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “At the end of the day, we scored about twice as many points on the men’s side than we would have thought coming in, and that’s just a testament to those guys coming here and competing in qualifying yesterday and all the way through the relay tonight.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with how the meet unfolded on the women’s side after having such a strong SEC Championship two weeks ago,” Shaver continued. “We didn’t meet the standard this program has set with the way we competed and finished here this weekend. It’s a long season, and we’ll look forward to going outdoors and coming together as a team from now through the NCAA Championship in June.”
The Tigers boast one of the proudest traditions anywhere in the country in the weight throw event with three NCAA Champions and six All-American performances in the men’s final over the past nine seasons.
With his victory in Saturday’s opening event, Jackson joined the great Walter Henning as LSU’s NCAA Champions in the event as Henning won back-to-back titles in his final two seasons in 2010 and 2011. He also earned the team’s first All-America honor as an NCAA scorer in the final since the 2012 season when Michael Lauro went out as an All-American in his final NCAA Indoor Championships.
Jackson was never threatened as Michigan’s Grant Cartwright inched as close as 74-5 ¾ in the third round to finish runner-up in the final weight throw standings. Virginia’s Jordan Young rounded out the medalists after throwing 73-6 ¼ in the fifth round to finish in third place overall.
A former two-time junior college national champion at Coffeyville Community College, Jackson etched his name in the record books on Saturday as his winning throw of 75-0 ¾ equaled the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium facility record that was last set by Jason Lewis of Arizona State at the first NCAA Indoor Championship hosted by Texas A&M in 2009.
“I felt pretty confident just because I came out in my first competition and had a really good meet. I’ve been trying to find that feeling since that meet, and this is my second-best meet of the season,” Jackson said. “To be able to go out there and hit one right at the beginning of the competition was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I was just able to compete from there.
“I’m happy because I was able to put up 10 points this week that I didn’t put up two weeks ago at SECs. It’s big to be here and compete for LSU and be a significant part of the team. I wanted to do that last year when I first came here, and I wanted to do it again.”
Cherry picked up where Jackson left off as he climbed the medal podium at the NCAA Championships for the third-straight time while scoring the silver medal in Saturday’s final in the men’s 400-meter dash.
While lining up in the first of two heats in the final, Cherry battled Texas A&M’s Mylik Kerley to the break and ran stride-for-stride at 21.38 through the first 200 meters. Kerley held the advantage around the final curve of the race, but Cherry surged past his Aggie rival near the finish line and stopped the clock with a seasonal-best time of 45.61. Kerley was second in the heat in 45.75, while Florida’s Eric Futch was well back in third with a time of 46.16. Jermaine Griffith of Rutgers closed out the section in fourth place at 47.10.
Cherry settled for the NCAA Indoor silver medal after NCAA favorite Fred Kerley of Texas A&M won the second heat with a world-leading 44.85 to take the title. The LSU senior came away with a medal from the NCAA Championships for the third-straight time after sweeping indoor and outdoor bronze medals in the event a season ago.
Mitchell-Blake, who entered the championship as the reigning NCAA Indoor Silver Medalist in the men’s 200 meters, captured his sixth career All-America honor with a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s event final when he crossed the finish line in 20.63 for second place in the first heat. Tennessee’s Christian Coleman won the heat with a time of 20.11 that held up for the win.
Mitchell-Blake finished fourth overall after Alabama’s Jereem Richards (20.31) and USC’s Just’N Thymes (20.36) finished 1-2 in the second finals section to finish in second place and third place, respectively.
In the final men’s event of the championship, Cherry led off and Mitchell-Blake lined up as the third leg of LSU’s 4x400-meter relay team that picked up another fourth-place finish for five more points toward the team standings. Cherry (46.25), sophomore Jaron Flournoy (46.96), Mitchell-Blake (46.63) and senior LaMar Bruton (45.71) clocked 3 minutes, 5.53 seconds for second in the first heat and fourth place overall.
Adding two more points for the Tigers on the final day of the competition was Henderson, who ran 1:49.63 for seventh place in his first career NCAA final in the men’s 800 meters to cap his senior season indoors.
Stauber finished as the Lady Tigers’ top point scorer in her NCAA Championships debut as her fifth-place finish in the 800-meter final added four points to the women’s team score. She blasted a new lifetime PR with a run of 2:03.01 to follow Oregon’s Raevyn Rogers (2:01.09), Virginia Tech’s Hanna Green (2:02.13), BYU’s Shea Collinsworth (2:02.35) and Texas A&M’s Jazmine Fray (2:03.00) across the finish line.
Stauber’s 2:03.01 moved into a tie with teammate Morgan Schuetz for the No. 3 spot on LSU’s all-time indoor performance as she eclipsed her previous indoor PR of 2:03.87 set at Iowa State earlier this season.
Johnson and Martin both turned in sixth-place finishes in their first NCAA Indoor finals as Johnson scored three points in the 60 meters with a time of 7.22 and Martin added three points in the 200 meters with her time of 22.96. Brisco picked up a point in the 60-meter final as she followed Johnson across the line with a time of 7.29.
In other action, Martin (51.58) lined up as the second leg on the women’s 4x400-meter relay as she teamed with junior Kymber Payne (54.45), sophomore Rachel Misher (54.58) and senior Travia Jones (51.75) to post a time of 3:32.34 for 12th place. Also making her NCAA debut in Saturday’s finale was sophomore Jordan McClendon, who threw 65-0 ½ for 15th place overall in the women’s weight throw.
While those competing at the NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend might have next weekend off to recover, other LSU Track & Field athletes will open up their outdoor season with a trip to Lafayette to line it up at this year’s Louisiana Classics meet being held next Friday and Saturday at the Ragin’ Cajuns Track Complex at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.