Before the start of the outdoor season a month ago, LSU track and field coach Dennis Shaver predicted his Tigers and Lady Tigers would run into some foul weather.
It happens every spring — usually at the Texas Relays or Penn Relays. But little did Shaver know it would happen at one of his three home meets. Even though Saturday’s forecast for the LSU Alumni Gold meet calls for a good chance of heavy rain with gusty winds, the competition will go on.
“The biggest thing we have to deal with this weekend are the conditions,” Shaver said. “It could be similar to what we’ll likely see in the postseason, especially at nationals (in Eugene, Oregon). I just hope the lightning stays away.”
The event is a showcase for the LSU program each spring, with many former stars returning to join current standouts in a competitive setting that is a warm-up for the Penn Relays next week. This year, 11 former LSU All-Americans — including Olympic silver medalist Richard Thompson — are expected to line up in Bernie Moore Track Stadium with 11 current Tigers and Lady Tigers who rank in the top 10 of their events.
The meet will begin at 8:30 a.m. with field events; track events start at 1:20 p.m.
Joining the No. 4 Tigers and No. 14 Lady Tigers are Penn State, Arizona, Wisconsin, Iowa State and Connecticut. State schools set to compete are Louisiana-Lafayette, Southeastern, Tulane, Nicholls, UNO, Northwestern State and Louisiana Tech.
While the track events usually garner most of the attention at this meet, two throws will be in the spotlight.
LSU’s Rodney Brown, the only NCAA athlete to eclipse the 200-foot mark in the discus this season, will try to extend his national lead of 209 feet, 8 inches. Tori Bliss, who finished second in the NCAA outdoor shot put last June and at indoor nationals in March, will face Iowa State’s Christina Hillman, the reigning NCAA outdoor champion.
Other LSU individuals ranked in the top 10 this season are Joshua Thompson (110 hurdles), Chanice Chase (400 hurdles), Rebekah Wales (javelin), Nataliyah Friar (long jump) and Daeshon Gordon (100 hurdles).
The meet also will feature the outdoor debuts of two LSU seniors: Aaron Ernest in the 100 meters and Vernon Norwood in the 400.
Ernest is a two-time finalist in the 100 at the NCAA outdoor meet, and Norwood won the 400 title in the NCAA indoor championships last month.
Shaver will be looking for continued improvement from his four relay teams. Both the men’s and women’s 4x100-meter relay units rank second in the nation. The Tigers have produced a time of 38.93 seconds with Ernest and Norwood, while the Lady Tigers, who feature a team of two sophomores and two freshmen, clocked a 43.23 last Saturday in Tucson, Arizona.
The group includes sophomore Rushell Harvey and Jada Martin and freshmen Aleia Hobbs and Mikiah Brisco.
LSU’s 4x400 relay teams also set seasonal bests in Arizona. The men posted the sixth-fastest time in the nation with a time of 3 minutes, 6.18 seconds, and the women put up the seventh-fastest time at 3:32.97.
“I thought we had a good meet as a whole last week, but it all got kicked off with the women’s sprint relay,” Shaver said. “Our young women’s team made some steps forward. We’re looking to build on that this week.”