Bliss defends gold medal, Ernest takes two sprint silvers


GREENSBORO, N.C. – After sitting in second place with just one throw remaining to defend her girl's shot put gold medal, future Lady Tiger standout Tori Bliss of Portage, Ind., uncorked a new personal best and extended her national lead with a winning throw of 50 feet, 9 ½ inches for her final attempt to defend her New Balance Outdoor Nationals title in Saturday's championship.

Bliss, the 2010 champion, made her presence known early in the competition as she jumped out to second place after the first round of throws with an opening mark of 49-4 ¼.

That's where Bliss would remain through five rounds of the competition while improving her mark to 49-6 ¼ on her fifth attempt. Torie Owers of Athens, Ga., held the top spot through four rounds with her mark of 49-6 ¼ on her first throw, while Christina Hillman of Camden, Del., took over the top spot in the event over both Bliss and Owers with her top mark of 49-6 ½ on her fifth throw.

But Bliss left little doubt as to which competitor would be crowned this year's shot put champion with her sixth throw that measured 50-9 ½. She finished more than one foot farther in the final standings than both Hillman (49-6 ½) and Owers (49-6 ¼) to defend her New Balance Outdoor Nationals gold medal.

Bliss eclipsed her previous personal record and national leader of 50-9 that she set in taking home a third-straight Indiana state title on June 4 while competing for Portage High School.

While Bliss is the nation's No. 1-ranked prep performer in the shot put for the 2011 season, Owers is now ranked No. 2 nationally with her seasonal best of 50-6 ¾, while fellow Indiana native Cassie Wertman for Southridge High School in Huntingburg, Ind., is ranked No. 3 nationwide in the event.

Bliss was not the only LSU Track & Field recruit to shine this weekend at the 2011 New Balance Outdoor National's as budding sprint star Aaron Ernest of Homewood, Ala., captured a pair of silver medals in the boy's 100-meter and 200-meter dashes at North Carolina A&T's Aggie Stadium. Ernest picked up medals in national competition for the first time in his prep career with his efforts on Friday and Saturday.

Ernest nearly matched his personal best in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.34 seconds in the final on Friday to win his first silver medal of the weekend. He followed by breaking 21 seconds in the 200 meters for the ninth time this season with a silver-medal winning wind-legal run of 20.99 in Saturday's final.

The Alabama product finished runner-up to Raleigh native Sean McLean in both sprint finals this week as McLean took home gold medals in 10.31 in the 100 meters and 20.62 in the 200 meters.

Ernest will now turn his attention to the 100-meter and 200-meter double at the 2011 USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships being held this week at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. He has set personal bests of 10.31 in the 100 meters and 20.86 in the 200 meters during the 2011 outdoor season.