STARKVILLE, Miss. — Going into the meet undefeated this season and ranked No. 1 in the nation, LSU’s Rodney Brown was expected to win the discus title in the Southeastern Conference track and field championships.
No one, however, could have expected teammate and fellow senior Julian Parker to do what he did Saturday on the final rain-soaked day of the SEC championships at the Mike Sanders Track Complex.
Brown claimed the discus title for the second time in three years and Parker joined him by winning the 800 meters with a huge upset of Mississippi State’s Brandon McBride, an NCAA indoor and outdoor half-mile champion, to highlight a fourth-place team finish for the LSU men.
The LSU women also took fourth after getting a win from sophomore Rebekah Wales in the javelin in the first event of the afternoon, long before the meet was twice delayed by lightning and rain.
Florida claimed the men’s title with 130½ points with Arkansas and Texas A&M (95 each), LSU (92) and Georgia (71½) following. Arkansas won the women’s crown with 127½ points, followed by Texas A&M (104), Kentucky (99), LSU (84) and Florida (83).
“Overall, our athletes competed hard and both teams did all we asked them to do,” said LSU coach Dennis Shaver, whose men were eighth a year ago while the women were sixth. “Every team was affected by the weather, but the best thing about it for us was we got through it healthy.”
It didn’t hurt that they got three individual wins, including one from Brown, who, along with his fellow competitors, had to survive both weather delays.
Yet, he managed to win with a throw of 208 feet, 4 inches — improving on his fourth and sixth throws after the second delay.
“We warmed up and they called it, and then we got started and had only two throws before they called it again,” Brown said. “Actually, that was the first weather delay I’ve ever been in.
“Everybody was competing in the same thing,” he said. “I just said to myself, ‘You’ve got to be better than them in these elements.’”
The wet conditions didn’t seem to bother him, just like they didn’t bother Parker. He took the lead on his first throw with a 200-11 just after Parker won his race.
Parker earned the ninth and final spot for the 800 final in Thursday night’s preliminary heats, yet shocked everyone when, running fourth with about 300 meters to go, ran down McBride and Florida’s Andres Arroyo in the home stretch.
Parker shaved a full second off hi old personal best in running 1 minute, 46.17 seconds and jumping six spots on LSU’s all-time list to third place.
“I didn’t think it would be that perfect,” Parker said when asked if he ran the perfect race strategically. “I knew McBride was going to be in the lead. They took off with 300 (meters) to go and for a second, I doubted myself.
“I stuck in there and just kept going,” he added. “I’m really not surprised because of the way I’ve been practicing all season. I knew it was bound to come … and it came at the right time today.”
“The highlight of the day for us was Julian Parker,” Shaver said.
Wales was ranked second in the SEC coming into the meet, but she upset Georgia’s Freya Jones and Florida’s Fawn Miller when she threw a personal-record of 177 feet on her first attempt and then held on to beat Jones by three inches.
The LSU men also recorded seasonal bests in finishing second in both the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays with times of 38.78 seconds, while Vernon Norwood, who anchored the mile relay to a time of 3:01.63, ran second in the open 400 in 44.76 seconds.
Jordan Moore finished third in the 110-meter hurdles with a PR of 13.47 seconds and Tremayne Acy was third in the 200 at 20.52.
On the women’s side, the Lady Tigers’ 4x400 relay team was third in 3:33.92 and the 4x100 relay was also third with a season’s-best of 42.80. Also, Morgan Schuetz was third in the 800 with a time of LSU 2:05.09.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.