NCAA East preliminary track and field meet: LSU Tigers, Lady Tigers rack up national qualifiers _lowres

Photo by Gary Lloyd McCullough/For The (Florida) Times-Union LSU's Chanice Chase posted third fastest time in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA East Preliminary Championships Friday at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Not even a sudden rain shower just after the start of the running events on the second day of the NCAA East preliminary rounds could cool off the LSU sprinters Friday.

After a big opening day Thursday, the second-ranked Tigers and eighth-ranked Lady Tigers cashed in when 12 of 17 athletes — seven women and five men — who qualified for the quarterfinals earned berths in the NCAA championships.

That gave LSU 13 qualifiers for nationals so far, after Rebekah Wales became the first to advance when she claimed sixth in the women’s javelin Thursday afternoon.

The top 12 finishers in each individual event and relays at this meet, along with the athletes at the West prelims, qualify for nationals.

While they were productive again, the Tigers and Lady Tigers still have some work to do on the final day of the meet Saturday.

In addition to putting four highly ranked relay teams on the track, LSU got 13 athletes through the first round Friday in just two events they were entered in — including all five men and five women who lined up in the 200 meters.

That race was typical of how LSU set the table in the first two days.

Of the 10 qualifiers who made it in the 200, nine automatically reached the quarterfinals by finishing in the top three of their heats.

In the 400, The Tigers were just as efficient in picking up their first three qualifiers for nationals when Michael Cherry, Fitzroy Dunkley and LaMar Bruton, who ran in the quarterfinal heat, barged into the semifinals — needing a shade under 46 seconds to do it.

Cherry won the heat in 45.22 seconds, which turned out to the fastest time of the day, and Dunkley was second at 45.46 — the third-fastest time. Bruton was fourth in 45.99, which was the second-fastest of the three athletes who earned spots on time.

“Basically, we all wanted to get through,” Cherry said. “We wanted to go 1-2-3 in our race; that’s what (coach Dennis Shaver) wanted. It didn’t happen, but we’re happy about LaMar getting in.”

While Cherry and Dunkley led the LSU parade down the homestretch, Bruton, who was running out in Lane 9, followed them in with a late push.

“I knew I had to get out and keep up,” Bruton said. “When I saw them go by, the plan was to go with them. I wanted to stay in striking distance and finish. It was well-planned and executed, so I’m excited about it.”

“Me and Michael run similar races, so when we got to 300 (meters) at the same time and cruised in and adjusted well,” Dunkley said. “In the last 100, we relaxed although we had to push past a Purdue guy who ran a strong race.”

It was more of the same in the next quarterfinal race, the 100 meters.

Kortnei Johnson, Mikiah Brisco and Rushell Harvey advanced to the semifinals automatically. Johnson and Brisco won their heats in 11.27 and 11.32 seconds; Harvey was third in her heat in 11.46.

The time for Johnson, a freshman, was the fastest of the day and a personal record, while Brisco had the third-fastest time of the quarters.

“It was everything I heard about this meet,” said Johnson, who edged Florida’s Shayla Sanders. “We were going against some great sprinters. But that made me focus more and help me continue to advance through the rounds.”

Brisco advanced easily as well after taking second in her heat of the 100-meter hurdles in 13.21 seconds, which came just before the light rain shower arrived.

Joining Brisco in Saturday’s quarterfinals of the 100 hurdles was Chanice Chase, who won her first-round heat with a PR of 12.94 seconds.

Chase also had a PR in taking her quarterfinal heat in the 400 hurdles, winning with a time of 55.35 seconds, while Kymber Payne and Ka’Lynn Jupiter also automatically advanced with times of 56.38 and 56.63.

Morgan Schuetz also qualified for the 800 meters when she won her quarterfinal heat in 2 minutes, 04.86 seconds.

In the first round of the 200, Jada Martin (22.76), Johnson (23.15), Rachel Misher (23.18), Harvey (23.21) and Kiersten Duncan (23.42) all qualified for Saturday’s quarters.

In the men’s 100, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and Tinashe Mutanga qualified for the semifinal in Eugene with times of 10.20 and 10.34, with Mitchell-Blake recording the second-fastest time of the evening.

In the first round of the 200, Renard Howell (20.41), Mitchell-Blake (20.54) and Tremaybe Acy (20.68) all won their heats, while Mutanga (20.71) and Jaron Flournoy (20.86) also advanced automatically.