Track Wins Five Titles in SEC Indoor Finale
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – LSU’s athletes struck gold five times in Saturday’s finale at the SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships as sophomore Mikiah Brisco won two titles and juniors Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Jordan Moore and Morgan Schuetz claimed one apiece to stake their claim among the SEC’s elite on the final day at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
Brisco made history with her performance as she became the first Lady Tiger in the history of the SEC Indoor Championships to sweep the 60-meter dash and 60-meter hurdles in the same meet.
She was actually the first female athlete in 24 years to sweep the dash and hurdles in the same SEC Indoor Championships since Florida’s Michelle Freeman last won the 55-meter dash and 55-meter hurdles in the 1991 and 1992 meets. Brisco’s 20 points tied her with Tennessee distance runner Chelsea Blaase for the Cliff Harper Trophy as the top point scorer in the championship.
Schuetz added a third title for the Lady Tigers with her first career conference crown in the women’s 800 meters. Their performance helped extend a historic streak for the program as the Lady Tigers have now won at least one SEC Indoor event title in 32-straight years since their championship debut in 1985.
Two Tigers were also crowned SEC Indoor Champions with their performance in Saturday’s finale as Moore made it a sweep of the 60-meter hurdles with an NCAA-leading performance and Mitchell-Blake made it two years in a row for the Tigers to win the men’s 200-meter dash by the narrowest of margins in Saturday’s two-section final.
They were among 10 All-SEC performances turned in by LSU’s teams on the day as the Tigers and Lady Tigers also combined two win two SEC Indoor silver medals and three SEC Indoor bronze medals.
The Lady Tigers were impressive throughout the weekend as they scored 67 points to earn a second-place team finish in the final women’s standings, their best SEC Indoor finish in three years since finishing second at Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Center in 2013. The Tigers tied for sixth place in the final men’s team standings with 49 points scored over two days of competition at the University of Arkansas.
The Razorbacks ran away with the team titles on their home track as they scored 109 points on the men’s side and 110 points on the women’s side for the SEC Indoor double. The Lady Tigers were followed by Georgia in third place with 65 points and Florida and Tennessee in a tie for fourth place with 64 points. The Tigers followed Texas A&M (85.83), Ole Miss (80.5), Florida (64.33) and Georgia (52) in the men’s team race.
“I’m so very proud with the way our athletes lined up and competed here this weekend,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “We set ourselves up for success with a great day of qualifying yesterday. They came back to win five events today, and we also probably added a few more qualifiers to the national meet. I’m proud of the effort we got from both our teams this weekend.”
Brisco emerged as the star of the meet on the final day as she was twice crowned an SEC Champion in a span of 20 minutes while emerging as an NCAA-title threat in the 60-meter hurdles and 60-meter dash.
Brisco first took her mark in the final of the women’s 60-meter hurdles as the SEC leader in the event with a best of 8.06 seconds to her credit this season. She took control of the race early on with a blistering start and edged in front of the field at the midway point before closing with a personal best of 8.05 for the victory. Her time tied for No. 3 in the NCAA rankings this season in the event.
The Baton Rouge native led a 1-2 finish for the Lady Tigers as they racked up 18 points in the event with sophomore All-American Daeshon Gordon matching her personal best with a time of 8.10 for the silver medal. In a tightly-contest race for the bronze medal, Arkansas’ Payton Stumbaugh (8.15) edged Auburn’s Samantha Scarlett (8.18) at the line for third place.
Brisco won LSU’s 13th SEC Indoor title all-time in the women’s sprint hurdles and became the first Lady Tiger to strike gold in the event since Jasmin Stowers won three-straight titles from 2011-13.
But she didn’t stop there as she went straight from her recognition atop the medal podium and back into the blocks for the final of the 60-meter dash as the fourth-fastest qualifier from Friday’s prelims. Despite lining up against Florida’s SEC and NCAA leader Shayla Sanders, Brisco again got out quickly at the gun and was clear of the field midway through the race before crossing the finish line as this year’s SEC Indoor Champion with a personal-best time of 7.18. Sanders scored the silver medal in 7.25 for second place.
Brisco’s 7.18 personal best made her the NCAA’s No. 2-ranked 60-meter sprinter this season while trailing only Sanders’ NCAA-leading 7.17 on the campaign. She was one of three Lady Tigers lining up in the event with freshman Kortnei Johnson scoring a sixth-place finish with a personal best of 7.33 and junior Rushell Harvey rounding out the field in eighth place overall with a time of 7.40.
It was the Lady Tigers’ 11th SEC Indoor title in meet history in either the 55-meter or 60-meter dash as seven-time NCAA Champion Kimberlyn Duncan was the last to win the event during the 2013 season.
“it’s a great feeling, but I also feel like that’s what the coaches have prepared me for,” Brisco said of her SEC double. “Coach Shaver wouldn’t put me in those two events back-to-back if he didn’t think I could do it, so I knew I was prepared to do well today. In both of my races, the start is the most crucial part. I’m running against so many great athletes that are in the SEC, so I knew I had to get out to be in the right position.”
LSU’s athletes actually swept SEC Indoor titles in the 60-meter hurdles in the first finals on the track as Moore kicked off Saturday’s finale with an NCAA-leading performance to win the men’s event by daylight.
Moore, who traveled to Arkansas with a previous seasonal best of 7.69 to tie for No. 2 nationally in the event, qualified for the SEC final on Friday with the fastest time in the preliminary round at 7.74. He was dominant in Saturday’s final as he cruised to the win with a personal best of 7.60 to win his first career SEC title ahead of Florida’s Yanick Hart (7.71) in second place.
Moore’s winning time of 7.60 trails only Barrett Nugent’s 4-year-old indoor school record of 7.55 from the 2012 NCAA Indoor final on the school’s all-time indoor performance list. Nugent is the last Tiger to take the SEC Indoor crown in the sprint hurdles in 2010 as Moore won the program’s fifth conference championship indoors in the event.
“I saw 7.59 pop up at first, but then it rounded up. Of course, I was excited, but still a little disappointed because I really wanted to run 7.5,” Moore said of his reaction when he saw his time posted to the scoreboard. “I was ready for the moment because that’s what we’ve been working for, what we’ve been waiting on. It’s just a blessing to be considered one of the best.”
Schuetz won LSU’s fourth event title of the day in the women’s 800 meters after she took over first place in the race on the last lap and outlasted Kentucky’s Ariah Graham to the line.
Schuetz ran on Graham’s shoulder in second place for much of the race before making her move at the 600-meter mark. She extended her lead on the backstretch and held onto her advantage across the finish line by one tenth of a second with a winning time of 2 minutes, 5.68 seconds to Graham’s 2:05.78 for second place. Texas A&M’s Katie Willard bagged the bronze medal in the race in 2:06.61.
It marked the eighth time for a Lady Tiger to be crowned the SEC Indoor Champion in the 800 meters as Schuetz became the first since former All-American Charlene Lipsey in 2012 and 2013. Schuetz is now among a list that also includes past greats Sylvia Brydson (1989), Marian Burnett (2002, 2003), LaTavia Thomas (2007, 2008) and Lipsey.
“It’s just always been a dream of mine to win a race like that. I just had to listen to Coach (Khadevis Robinson) and execute what he told me to do,” Schuetz said. “Coach Shaver and Coach Robinson told me yesterday I needed to get out a little bit faster. I’m not really known to take it out like that at the start. They just didn’t want me running with people I shouldn’t really be running with.”
Schuetz later earned All-SEC honors for a fourth time in her collegiate career when she anchored the Lady Tigers to a silver-medal-winning runner-up finish in the women’s distance medley relay for the second straight season. Schuetz teamed with freshman Hollie Parker, senior Chanice Chase and sophomore Hannah Deworth in running the second-fastest time in school history at 11:15.43 for second place.
The Lady Tigers were less than one second shy of winning only their second SEC Indoor Championship in the distance medley relay in team history as they were nipped at the line by Arkansas in 11:14.46.
Mitchell-Blake cemented his reputation as the SEC’s premier 200-meter sprinter this season as he followed his SEC-leading personal best of 20.51 in qualifying on Friday night with a gold-medal-winning run of 20.53 in a tightly-contested final on Saturday to win by the narrowest of margins over Tennessee’s Christian Coleman.
While waiting to line up in the second of two finals sections, Mitchell-Blake watched Coleman (20.54) edge Florida’s Arman Hall (20.55) at the finish line for the win in the first race and set a fast time to beat for the title. Mitchell-Blake was just a step quicker in the second heat as his 20.53 took the title briefly held by Coleman by one one-hundredth of a second in the final standings.
The Great Britain international won LSU’s second-straight SEC Indoor title in the men’s 200 meters and seventh all-time after former Tiger Aaron Ernest won his second indoor crown as a senior a year ago. Fellow junior Tinashe Mutanga lined up in his first career SEC final, earning a seventh-place finish overall with a time of 21.11 for fourth place in the first heat.
Mitchell-Blake scored a team-leading 12 points for the Tigers on the day as he opened up his championship finale by sprinting to a seventh-place finish in the men’s 60-meter dash final with a time of 6.72.
“Since I already ran 20.51 in the heats, I felt pretty confident that I could follow it up and run a fast time,” Mitchell-Blake said of the first heat. “I didn’t run the final exactly like I wanted to, but still got a winning time.”
Senior David Collins turned in LSU’s first All-SEC performance of the day with a bronze-medal-winning third-place finish in the men’s weight throw final as he raised his personal best by more than seven inches with the mark of 68 feet, 3 ¾ inches in the second round for his first career all-conference honor. Collins eclipsed his previous PR of 67-8 ¼ entering the meet on two throws in his series as he also ended with a toss of 67-10 ¼ to score six points for the Tigers with a third-place finish in the event final.
The Tigers totaled 10 points in their first event of the day as junior Johnnie Jackson added three points with his sixth-place finish after throwing a best of 67-9 in the fifth round of throws. Senior Patrick Geers was just a single place outside of qualifying for the final as he finished in 10th place overall in qualifying with a series-best of 64-3 ¼ in the third round.
LSU’s senior sprinter Fitzroy Dunkley earned All-SEC honors with a personal-best performance of his own when he clocked an indoor PR of 46.04 in the first of two heats of the men’s 400-meter dash that held on for an impressive third-place finish in the event. Dunkley smashed his previous best of 46.24 set in Friday’s qualifying with the No. 5-ranked time in the NCAA standings for the season.
NCAA leader Michael Cherry lined up in the second heat of the men’s 400 meters and finished runner-up to Arkansas Marqueze Washington (46.17) in the race and fifth place overall for four points.
Also earning All-SEC honors with a bronze-medal-winning third-place finish in Saturday’s championship finale was Lady Tiger junior Jada Martin, who sprinted to a nearly two-tenth indoor personal best of 22.92 to claim top spot in the first heat and third place overall in the women’s 200-meter final. Martin beat Arkansas standout Taylor Ellis-Watson (23.10) to the line in the first race, and finished behind only Tennessee’s Felicia Brown (22.45) and Florida’s Kyra Jefferson (22.76) as the top two finishers in the second finals section.
Martin even helped the Lady Tigers end the meet with a seasonal best in the women’s 4x400-meter relay as she teamed with sophomore Kymber Payne (54.20), junior Travia Jones (53.12) and freshman Rachel Misher (53.72) for a time of 3:33.50 to win the second of three heats. Martin anchored the team in 52.47 on the last leg as they finished fourth overall in the event.
After scoring a point with an eighth-place finish in the women’s 60-meter final, Harvey returned to the track for the final of the 200 meters and added two more points for the Lady Tigers with her run of 23.51 to earn a seventh-place finish in the event. Harvey qualified for individual finals at the SEC Championships for the first time in her collegiate career while scoring three points.
Matching her indoor personal best with a first-attempt clearance at 5-10 in the women’s high jump was senior Shanice Hall as she earned a career-best fifth-place finish at the SEC Indoor Championships. Hall scored for the Lady Tigers for the third-straight time at the SEC Championships after placing sixth indoors and fifth outdoors a season ago.
Other LSU athletes setting indoor personal bests during the competition were sophomores Da’Quan Bellard at 50-2 ½ in the triple jump and Marvalyn Vernon with a top throw of 57-4 ¼ in the weight throw.
With the SEC Indoor Championships now in the record books, the Tigers and Lady Tigers will prepare themselves over the next two weeks to compete at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships as they will wrap up the 2016 indoor season on March 11-12 at the Birmingham Crossplex in Birmingham, Alabama. Qualifiers for the NCAA Championships will be announced on Tuesday night.