Dennis Shaver was eager to see how his top quarter-milers would fare in their first open 400-meter races of the outdoor season at the LSU Alumni Gold meet on Saturday.
Collectively, the Tigers were already leading the nation in the 4x400-meter relay with a time of 3 minutes, 01.83 seconds in winning the Texas Relays earlier this month, but Shaver was ready to turn Michael Cherry, Cyril Grayson, LaMar Bruton and Fitzroy Dunkley loose.
Cherry and Dunkley gave Shaver what he wanted when they recorded personal bests of 45.17 and 45.52 seconds in finishing second and third behind former LSU All-American and U.S. World Championships team member Vernon Norwood, who clocked a 45.01.
As it turned out, Cherry and Dunkley were just starting.
They returned to the Bernie Moore Track Stadium oval later to team up with Gray and Bruton to post stadium-record time of 3:00.38 with a new running order, highlighting a day on which the program’s storied past is celebrated.
With the stars of the past watching, Bruton led off with a split of 45.85 seconds with Cherry (44.73), Grayson (44.99) and Dunkley (44.81) following up to break the old stadium mark of 3:00.55 set by UCLA nearly three decades ago in the 1987 NCAA championships.
It was also the second-fastest time in school history behind the collegiate-record 2:59.59 set by LSU at the 2005 NCAA meet.
“When Fitz got the stick, I thought we had a chance (to go under 3:00),” said Shaver, who put Cherry in the second spot and Dunkley on the anchor for the first time. “We were just trying some different things. I asked Fitz (because he’s a senior) what leg he wanted to run and he said, ‘Anchor.’ ”
LSU won by more than five seconds over Mississippi State for a rousing end to a competition that saw the Tigers record three nation’s-leading times.
The 4x100 relay team of Tinashe Mutanga, Jaron Flournoy, Tremayne Acy and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake lowered its NCAA-best time slightly with a 38.94 and Mitchell-Blake took the 200 in 20.14 with a stiff wind at his back — the fastest under any conditions.
The day was also a good one for Acy, who ran the 200 for the first time this season. He returned last week for the sprint relay after being out since the indoor season with a torn leg muscle and Saturday ran a wind-aided 20.50.
“I feel like I’m getting there, but this was a long time coming,” Acy said. “I was a little emotional because it’s the first time I’ve run the 200. Coach Shaver told me not to press it too much; he wanted me to run 20.80, so it’s good.”
That came after Cherry and Dunkley set their PRs in the 400 with strong runs.
“It was cool,” said Cherry, a transfer from Florida State. “The race was set up the way I wanted to, but I made my move a little too early. But it was a PR, so I’ll take it any day.”
Minutes before they took the track, Texas sprinter Courtney Okolo treated the crowd to a collegiate-record time of 49.71 seconds in the women’s 400 — easily shattering the 50.03 she ran in 2014 at Lubbock, Texas.
Those weren’t the only solid marks turned in on a warm, sun-splashed day.
The LSU women’s 4x100 relay team of Mikiah Brisco, Kortnei Johnson, Jada Martin and Aleia Hobbs won with a time of 43.36 seconds. Hobbs was running on the relay for the first time this season after having knee surgery last August.
Morgan Schuetz ran a PR of 2:02.29 to move up to second on the national list this season and fifth on LSU’s all-time list in the event — finishing just behind former Lady Tigers’ All-American Charlene Lipsey (2:01.88).
“I was really prepared for this meet because I knew it wold be very competitive,” said Schuetz, who beat former LSU national champions Natoya Goule and LaTavia Thomas. “I wasn’t thinking too much about a PR; I was just worried about competing with Charlene, Natoya and LaTavia.”
Also, Brisco posted the fifth-fastest time in the country with a windy 11.17 in the 100 and Daeshon Gordon ran a wind-aided time of 12.99 in her first 100 hurdles race of the season to move to fifth in the nation.
Rebekah Wales won the javelin with a season’s-best of 178 feet, 1 inch, while Johnson was second in the 200 (22.98w) and Nataliyah Friar placed second in the long jump (20-9w).
The 4x400 relay team of Travia Jones, Martin, Rachel Misher and Chanice Chase ran a season’s-best 3:31.66 to finish second behind Texas at 3:27.29.
Three athletes from state schools also had big days.
UL-Lafayette’s Morgann Leleux set a stadium record in the women’s pole vault at 14-9½, while Southeastern’s Devin King won the men’s pole vault (18-1¾) and SLU’s Jermisha Frazier won the women’s hammer (196-4).