JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After picking up 11 qualifiers for the national championships in the first two days of the NCAA East preliminary rounds, the LSU track and field teams more than doubled that total Saturday.
The sixth-ranked Lady Tigers and ninth-ranked Tigers brought the three-day meet to a close by combining for 12 more berths to the NCAA championships to be held June 11-14 in Eugene, Oregon.
That means LSU will have 13 scoring opportunities on the women’s side and 10 on the men’s side for nationals after the Lady Tigers and Tigers added six each Saturday.
“What a way for us to end the first three days of the meet with the performances we had (Saturday),” LSU coach Dennis Shaver said. “I thought our athletes really stepped up across the board to give both our teams the best opportunity we can have to compete in Eugene.
“The first three days of what is a seven-day NCAA championships are now finished and in the books. We can only move forward from here and prepare ourselves the best we can to compete when we get to Eugene.”
The Tigers had two winners Saturday when Rodney Brown claimed the discus title and the 4x400-meter relay team clocked the fastest time of the day in the final event of the meet.
Brown, who finished third in the Southeastern Conference championships, bounced back to win discus with a throw of 207 feet, 10 inches — besting his mark at the conference meet by more than seven feet.
Then, Quincy Downing, Darrell Bush, Cyril Grayson and Vernon Norwood combined to post the top time in the 4x400 relay at 3 minutes, 2.64 seconds. The time was a season’s-best for the Tigers, who ran a 3:02.81 at the Texas Relays in late March.
While the mile relay recorded a season’s-best time, getting Brown back on track was big for the Tigers.
“With the competition like we had at this meet, it was easy to get motivated,” said Brown, who finished fourth in the discus at nationals last year. “At the start of the (quarterfinals), someone had a big throw and that seemed to get everybody going.”
Himself included. Brown was third after three throws in the first round with a best of 195-8, but he popped what proved to be the winner on his first of three throws in the quarterfinals.
The one that got everyone going was a toss of 206-0 by Cornell’s Stephen Mozia, who was Brown’s roommate for the IAAF World Junior championships in Barcelona, Spain, in 2012.
“Me and him kind of have a personal thing going,” said Brown, who said the two hav remained friends. “Whenever he hits one, it kind of gets me fired up. He always says, ‘Hey, I’m coming for you.’ So when he hits one, it pushes me to hit one.”
“Rodney is just a tremendous competitor,” Shaver said. “He did what he had to do to get three more throws, and did a great job to really get us going.”
While Brown’s throw was big, the Tigers also flashed their trademark speed Saturday — long before the mile relay team closed out the meet on a high note.
In the first running event of the evening, the 4x100 relay team of Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Aaron Ernest, Tremayne Acy and Shermund Allsop got the baton around in 39.04 seconds.
Even though they were second in their heat, they had the third-fastest time of the day.
Later, Ernest, who qualified in the 100 on Friday night, finished off a busy weekend by posting the second-fastest time of the day in the 200. He came in at 20.38 seconds, just behind Florida’s Dedric Dukes (20.23).
Mitchell-Blake also made it in with the ninth-fastest time of the day in the 200 at 20.69 seconds.
Also, Joshua Thompson recorded a personal-best of 13.77 seconds in finishing fourth in his heat of the 110-meter hurdles to earn a spot at nationals.
The Lady Tigers started the day strong when the 4x100 relay team of Jasmin Stowers, Toshika Sylvester, Rushell Harvey and Nataliyah Friar won its heat in 43.94 seconds — the third-fastest time of the quarterfinals.
Stowers and Chanice Chase later qualified in the 100 hurdles. Stowers won her heat in 12.91 seconds. And Chase, who qualified in the 400 hurdles Friday night, also automatically qualified with a third-place finish in her heat in 13.27.
Sylvester also doubled back to earn a spot on time in the 200, posting a time of 23.59 seconds to finish fourth in her heat.
The Lady Tigers picked up their final two qualifiers when Tori Bliss was sixth in the shot put at 54-6 and Lynnika Pitts finished ninth in the triple jump with a leap of 43-1.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter: @MicklesAdvocate.