Lady Tigers freshmen, sophomores exceed NCAA meet expectations _lowres

LSU junior sprinter Aleia Hobbs, shown last season, earned honors from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association for her performance in the inaugural SEC Relays this past weekend (File photo by Bryan Wayne/LSU Sports Information).

EUGENE, Ore. — At the beginning of the week, no one told LSU freshman Aleia Hobbs that she wasn’t supposed to score points in the 100 meters at the NCAA track and field championships.

At the same time, no one told her she had a chance to become the first Lady Tigers freshman to reach the 100 final at the national meet since Takeia Pinckney in 2010.

Hobbs, a New Orleans native, did better than expected Saturday and completed a rebound from an injury-plagued indoor season when she finished sixth in a loaded sprint final with a wind-aided time of 11.16 seconds.

It was just what LSU coach Dennis Shaver wanted to see from his team as Hobbs was one of eight freshmen and sophomores to score points for LSU as the Lady Tigers finished 11th in the team race with 26 points.

The Oregon women scored 59 points to make it a double after the Ducks ran away with the men’s title Friday night. Kentucky (50), Texas A&M (47), Arkansas (43) and Georgia (41) rounded out the top five.

“We have a young squad and this whole freshmen and sophomore group did more than what was expected,” Shaver said. “Not many freshmen score points on the track at this meet. We were able to squeeze some people through to the finals, and that’s attributable to the determination they had.

“We weren’t projected to score in the 100, 200, 100-meter hurdles or the triple jump,” he said. “So this was really a good experience for them, and it’s exciting for the future.”

After scoring 11 points in two field event finals Thursday, LSU did what it could to scratch out some points Saturday with only six scoring opportunities — including five on the track.

They started with a fifth place in the 4x100-meter relay when the team of Rushell Harvey, Hobbs, Jada Martin and Mikiah Brisco posted a time of 43.69 seconds.

“I think we could have done better,” Hobbs said, “but we were running with two freshmen and two sophomores.”

LSU junior Chanice Chase, who was actually projected to score a point or two in the 100 hurdles, even though she’s primarily an intermediate hurdler, placed sixth with a personal-record time of 12.95 seconds, while freshman Daeshon Gordon was eighth in 13.29.

The time was significant for Chase because she went under 13 seconds with a legal wind for the first time, which took some of the sting out of not making the 400 hurdles final after finishing fifth a year ago.

“Finally, under 13 seconds,” Chase said. “I remember coach Shaver telling me to hit the start. I didn’t hit it, but I did better than I usually do. I just had to remember to focus and sprint off the last hurdle.

“(The time) was a surprise to me; it kind of makes up for the disappointment of not making the final in the intermediates. It was a nice bounce-back.”

Shortly after that, Hobbs, who had a bit of a hamstring issue at the Southeastern Conference championships last month that forced Shaver to scratch her from the 100 final, finished sixth after a poor start.

“I knew I got off to a bad start, so I had to adjust my race a little bit,” Hobbs said. “I had to come out of my drive phase a little early. I had to get up and start running quicker, so that threw me off a bit.”

LSU’s Nataliyah Friar was sixth in the triple jump at 43 feet, 8½ inches and sophomore Jada Martin, competing in her first NCAA championships after being injured most of last season, was eighth in the 200 in 22.97 seconds.

“We competed hard this week. … I’m pleased with the effort we got from everybody,” Shaver said. “We just have to get more qualifiers into the meet through the preliminary rounds. Once we get here, we have to be prepared to get after it from the very start.”

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.