JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Securing a trip to nationals was job one for LSU’s sprint corps in the NCAA East preliminary rounds Friday after the Tigers and Lady Tigers set the table Thursday.
Yet, that was just part of the task for the third-ranked Tigers and eighth-ranked Lady Tigers, who tried to add to the three athletes who earned their spot in the NCAA championships on the first day of the three-day competition Thursday.
Posting a good seed time was another goal, which LSU accomplished for the most part in getting 10 more qualifiers to the nationals -—nine of them on the track — to highlight another productive day.
That was especially true for Vernon Norwood and Quincy Downing, who posted the fastest times in the 400 meters and 400-meter hurdles quarterfinals to secure their trips to Eugene, Oregon, for the semifinals and finals June 10-13.
Norwood raced to an easy victory in his 400 quarterfinal heat in 44.94 seconds, which was also the fastest time when compared to the West prelims being held in Austin, Texas. Ninety minutes later, Downing matched Norwood’s feat by clocking a time of 49.89 seconds in the 400 hurdles.
“At this time of the year, I’m in great shape, and I was just using these runs to do what it takes to get me to Eugene,” said Norwood, the reigning NCAA indoor champion after crushing the other seven runners in his heat. “The goal was to run the heat and get in the best position possible for Eugene.”
That was certainly good enough for LSU coach Dennis Shaver.
“Vernon did a good job, and Quincy did too because those are the kind of events that you need a preferred lane when you get to the semis (in Eugene),” Shaver said. “I thought our whole sprint group looked good as they advanced through these two days. That’s a good sign for us.”
Norwood and Downing were two of five men who advanced to Eugene.
Tremayne Acy and Aaron Ernest qualified for the semifinals in the 100 meters with times of 10.18 and 10.21 seconds; both got through automatically by finishing in the top three of their heats.
The time for Acy, a sophomore, was a wind-legal personal best.
The other spot for Eugene was secured by Rodney Brown in the discus. But there were some anxious moments as the national leader in the event had two subpar throws and needed a throw of 201 feet, 2 inches on his final attempt to finish second and earn his spot.
“Rodney Brown had an off night,” Shaver said, “but he came through with that big throw when he needed it with a lot of pressure on him.”
The Lady Tigers also picked up five spots for nationals, a group that was led by freshmen Aleia Hobbs and Mikiah Brisco. Hobbs won her heat with a time of 11.41 seconds, and Brisco was third with an 11.45 to automatically advance.
“It feels really good,” said Brisco, a former Baton Rouge High star who will get a chance to earn All-American honors again after placing fifth in the 60 at the NCAA indoor meet. “This tells me the hard work is paying off. The last two days I’ve been focusing on executing my race and getting in the top three to get to nationals.”
In the 400 hurdles, Chanice Chase and Daeshon Gordon, another freshman, earned their spots in nationals with times of 57.51 and 57.52 seconds.
Morgan Schuetz joined them when she qualified with a time of 2 minutes, 03.93 seconds in the 800 meters.
Both teams will have more chances to add to their total of 13 qualifiers Saturday with seven qualifiers Friday and four highly-ranked relay teams.
Gordon and Chase advanced Friday to the quarterfinals of the 100 hurdles in 13.15 and 13.29 seconds, while Jada Martin got through in the 200 at 23.08.
The Tigers’ Ernest (20.53) and Acy (20.61) advanced in the 200, while Jordan Moore (13.64) and Joshua Thompson (13.71) got through in the prelims of the 110 hurdles.
“I think we’re having a great meet with both genders,” Shaver said. “They’re handling it well and taking one race at a time.”
State athlete advance
Six athletes from state schools advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals Friday.
Louisiana Tech’s Charla Craddock (23.42) and Tulane’s Lilla McMillan (23.50) got through in the 200, while UNO’s Alexia Fortenberry advanced in the 100 hurdles (13.27).
Qualifiers on the men’s side were Louisiana-Lafayette’s Hanoj Carter (20.88), Northwestern State’s Amir James (20.95) and Grambling’s Kameron Cowan (21.17) and Jamael McTear (21.00) — all in the 200.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.