JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After two solid days at the NCAA East preliminary rounds, the LSU track and field teams were looking for a big finish Saturday.
In the first two days of the preliminary rounds, the third-ranked Tigers and eighth-ranked Lady Tigers combined to secure 13 berths for the NCAA championships set for June 10-13 in Eugene, Oregon.
After picking up 10 spots Friday alone and setting the table for the final day, the two teams had to convert Saturday and did with 12 more qualifiers — six on each side — giving the Lady Tigers a total of 14 scoring opportunities and the Tigers 11 for the next step of nationals.
As usual, most of the damage for coach Dennis Shaver’s teams came on the track, with 11 of their qualifiers coming there.
The Lady Tigers started it with the 4x100-meter relay, and the Tigers finished it when they got the stick around in the final race of the meet — the 4x400 relay.
The 4x100 team of Rushell Harvey, Aleia Hobbs, Jada Martin and Mikiah won its quarterfinal heat in 43.14, which turned out to be the second-fastest time of the day behind Florida’s 42.93.
Shortly after that, the men’s sprint relay of Joshua Thompson, Vernon Norwood, Tremayne Acy and Aaron Ernest took the track and duplicated the Lady Tigers’ feat. LSU clocked the second-fastest time at 39.25 seconds even with a shaky first exchange between Thompson and Norwood.
LSU then got four hurdlers into nationals with freshman Daeshon Gordon and Chanice Chase earning their spots in the 100-meter hurdles after they both qualified in the 400 hurdles Friday.
Gordon turned in a personal-best time for the second day in a row with a clocking of 13.10 seconds and Chase came in with a 13.21.
Thompson and Jordan Moore picked up their spots next.
After taking a tumble whole trying to get the stick to Norwood on the relay, Thompson raced to a second-place finish in his heat in 13.74 seconds to move on, while Moore got off to a quick start and ran 13.81 to win his heat.
“I was looking for a way better time, but it actually was one of my worst races of the season,” said Moore, who did not join the LSU track team until January after transferring from TCU. “But I did advance and got to Eugene, so that’s a positive in itself.
“I felt like I didn’t execute in the last half of the race. I just wasn’t executing the way I usually do, but all in all it was a decent day. We set the goal to get to Eugene and we reached it.”
Like Thompson, Acy and Ernest later came back to earn individual spots in the 200 meters after they qualified in the 100 on Friday.
Ernest clocked a 20.22 and Acy, who came into the meet with a personal record of 20.51 seconds, ran 20.25 to advance to nationals automatically as a result of finishing in the top three of their respective heats.
“I was real impressed with my time in the 200 because I dropped my PR pretty good,” he said. “To drop it that much was big, so I really liked that.”
The Lady Tigers’ Martin also had a PR with a time of 22.94 to automatically qualify in the 200.
Nataliyah Friar also made it to nationals in the triple jump with a leap of 41 feet, 11½ inches to take 10th in the event.
The Lady Tigers’ foursome of Gordon, Martin, Travia Jones and Chanice Chase ran second in their heat in 3 minutes, 30.74 seconds, while the men finished the meet in style.
The team of Quincy Downing, Cyril Grayson, Fitzroy Dunkley and Norwood posted a time of 3:02.48 — the fastest of the day to punch their ticket to Eugene as well.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.