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TORRANCE, Calif. – The dust barely settled on the Murdock Stadium track from the Tigers’ NCAA-leading victory in the men’s 4x100-meter relay when the Lady Tigers blew away their 28-year-old school record with the second-fastest women’s sprint relay in collegiate history to close out the 59th Mt. SAC Relays on Saturday afternoon.
Junior Mikiah Brisco, sophomore Kortnei Johnson, senior Jada Martin and junior Aleia Hobbs arrived at the Mt. SAC Relays with confidence following their seasonal-best performance at LSU’s Battle on the Bayou only a week ago as they ran the second-fastest time in the NCAA this season at 42.66 seconds.
They still lined up in Saturday’s women’s invitational 4x100-meter relay as second favorites with collegiate-record holder Oregon also in the race with a best of 42.34 from the Florida Relays two weeks ago.
LSU’s women ran stride-for-stride with the Ducks in the fastest relay race in collegiate history as Oregon broke its own NCAA record with a winning 42.12 followed by the Lady Tigers in second place with a school record of 42.14. Those watching might not have even realized there were four other teams in the race as a team from the Altis training center in Phoenix, Arizona, was well back in third with a time of 43.82. The Fearless Flyers followed in fourth at 44.47 ahead of UNLV (44.66) and Ole Miss (44.73).
LSU’s school record of 42.50 stood for 28 years when a team of Tananjalyn Stanley, Dawn Sowell, Cinnamon Sheffield and Esther Jones last set the standard during their national championship season back in 1989.
“We’ve been fast from the very start of this outdoor season, and that’s down to the work those women put in day in and day out and how well they work together as a team,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver of his women’s sprint relay team. “When you think of the sprinters we’ve had come through this program since the very beginning, that alone shows just how much their hard work is paying off.
“Oregon has been just a little bit faster so far this season. They have some tremendous sprinters throughout their team, so we know it’s going to be a battle all the way to the line when we have that chance again.”
Still room for so much improvement!— ?Aleia Hobbs? (@AleiaBitOfThis) April 15, 2017
The Tigers also made their mark with an NCAA leading performance in the men’s 4x100-meter relay as sophomore Donte Jackson, senior Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, senior Tremayne Acy and sophomore Jaron Flournoy kicked off Saturday’s finale at the Mt. SAC Relays with a winning run of 38.57 in their first event of the day.
LSU, which entered the meet with the fourth-fastest time in the NCAA this season at 38.97 from its victory at the Texas Relays, edged Houston’s 38.59 for the win and national-leading time on the men’s side. The team from Altis was third again in 39.03, followed by TGElite in fourth at 39.09, Australia’s national team in fifth at 39.14, Oregon in sixth at 39.18 and Western Kentucky in seventh at 39.19.
The Tigers are already faster at this stage of the season than they were a year ago when they finished with best of 38.33 in 2016 while sweeping SEC and NCAA titles as the relay kings of collegiate track and field.
“We’re kind of bringing the men along slowly this season, so it’s very encouraging to see then put that kind of a race together at this stage of the season,” Shaver said. “We’ve had to change some things meet-to-meet with our order and exchanges and things like that. Those guys take a lot of pride in how they run the relay, and they’ve prepared themselves very well here this week.”
No Slowing Down
There was no slowing down for LSU’s sprint squad following their performance in the 4x100 relay as they found another gear when returning to the track to run the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes.
LSU and Oregon again locked horns in the first heat of the women’s invitational 100 meters as Brisco and Johnson battled Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington all the way to the finish line for the event title. Johnson dropped her personal best to 11.09 (+0.7) for third place overall with the NCAA’s fourth-fastest time this season, while Brisco posted a season-opening personal best of 11.14 for fourth and the No. 6 spot nationally for the spring. Stevens was first with an NCAA-leading 11.00 followed by Washington in second at 11.06.
Johnson featured in three races in Saturday’s finale at the Mt. SAC Relays as she later added a seasonal-best time of 22.86 (+2.1) for sixth place in the invitational 200 meters to move to No. 13 nationally in the event.
Hobbs, the NCAA’s leading 100-meter sprinter entering the weekend with her PR of 11.07 from a week ago, finished runner-up in the second heat and seventh overall with a time of 11.18 run into a -0.8 headwind. The Lady Tigers also saw senior Rushell Harvey take 13th and Martin follow in 14th with matching times of 11.45 in the second heat alongside Hobbs.
Mitchell-Blake lined up in an open event for the first time in 2017 when he took his mark in the men’s invitational 100 meters and crossed the finish line fourth overall with a season-opening 10.17 (+0.1). LSU’s standout sprinter was the top collegian in the field as his 10.17 moved him to No. 6 on the NCAA’s all-conditions list this season with the second-fastest wind-legal time in the country.
Flournoy later returned to the track and opened his season strongly in the 200-meter dash as he won the second heat with a slightly wind-aided time of 20.62 (+2.1) that secured him the bronze medal behind matching times of 20.61 by adidas athlete Jeremy Dodson and USC’s Just’N Thymes in the first heat. Thymes owns the distinction of being the early-season NCAA leader in the event with a best of 20.24 in 2017.
LSU junior Tinashe Mutanga followed Flournoy across the finish line in fourth place in the second heat and eighth place overall in the men’s invitational race with a season-opening time of his own at 20.97 (+2.1).
Seasonal Best 4x4s
Both the Tigers and Lady Tigers closed out their appearance at the 59th Mt. SAC Relays with seasonal bests in the 4x400-meter relay to move into the Top 10 of the NCAA rankings this spring with their performance.
LSU’s women were the first to grab the baton in their final event on the track as sophomore Rachel Misher, freshman Cassondra Hall, junior Kymber Payne and senior Travia Jones slashed about a second and a half off of their seasonal best with a run of 3 minutes, 31.61 seconds for second place. Oregon, the NCAA leader in the women’s 4x400 relay, won the event in 3:27.98.
The Lady Tigers emerged with the NCAA’s No. 9-ranked relay team this season as they dropped their seasonal best from the time of 3:33.17 in their opener at the 90th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays two weeks ago.
Payne warmed up for her appearance as the third leg of LSU’s relay team by placing fourth overall in the 400-meter hurdles earlier in the day while running her second-fastest time of the season at 56.62. Jones also ran the women’s invitational 400 meters in Saturday’s finale where she scored the silver medal with a time of 52.65.
The Tigers followed by winning the men’s 4x400-meter relay title with a big seasonal best of their own as senior Michael Cherry, senior Blair Henderson, Flournoy and senior LaMar Bruton combined for a run of 3:04.19. Like the 4x100 relay in the first event of the day, Houston finished runner-up to LSU with a time of 3:04.38, while Iowa rounded out the medalists in third place at 3:05.81.
LSU’s men also beat their seasonal best from the Texas Relays by more than one second when they ran 3:05.21 at Mike A. Myers Stadium two weeks ago. The fourth-place finishers at the NCAA Indoor Championships, the Tigers now rank No. 7 nationally as they reach the midway point of the outdoor season.
Henderson clocked a Top 10 time of his own in the men’s invitational 800 meters before running the relay as he stopped the clock with a seasonal best of 1:47.32 for seventh overall and second among collegians on the day. Henderson, who placed seventh nationally in the 800-meter final at the NCAA Indoor meet, came away from the Mt. SAC Relays as the No. 9-ranked runner for the outdoor season.
Saturday’s finale at the Mt. SAC Relays also saw indoor All-American Ruby Stauber run her first 800-meter race outdoors as she cracked the NCAA’s Top 5 with a heat-winning 2:03.77. Like Henderson in the race before, Stauber placed seventh in the overall standings as the second-fastest collegian in the field. She entered the NCAA rankings in the No. 5 spot in her outdoor debut in the event.
A freshman from Plymouth, Minnesota, Stauber has already enjoyed an All-American rookie season with the Lady Tigers after finishing fifth nationally in her debut appearance at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
Fellow freshman Nickolette Dunbar added a seasonal best of her own in the team’s final field event of the meet as she added 14 inches to her previous 2017 best with a mark of 52 feet, 6 ½ inches to finish fifth overall. Dunbar, who was also third among collegians, moved up a spot to No. 4 on LSU’s all-time outdoor performance list in the women’s shot put with her mark.
Jackson Headlines Beach Finale
In the wake of throwing a personal best of 231 feet, 2 inches in the hammer throw at the Mt. SAC Relays on Thursday and winning the hammer title at the Beach Invitational on Friday, senior Johnnie Jackson continued his outstanding weekend Saturday with another personal-best performance in his season opener in the discus at Long Beach State.
Despite finishing in 11th place overall, Jackson ranked second in the field among collegiate throwers with his series-best of 180-8 to eclipse his previous personal best of 174-2 by more than six feet. With another PR this weekend, Jackson cracked LSU’s all-time Top 10 performance list in the event as his 180-8 made him the 10th-ranked discus thrower in school history.
Also setting personal bests during Saturday’s finale at the Beach Invitational were sophomores Hollie Parker with a time of 2:07.95 in the 800 meters and Kaitlyn Walker with a clearance of 5-7 in the high jump. Sprinting to a more than two-tenth-of-a-second seasonal best on the track was freshman Akanni Hislop with a wind-aided time of 10.39 (+2.3) in the 100 meters.
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