STARKVILLE, Miss. — After enduring three weather delays over the final two days of the Southeastern Conference track and field championships, LSU coach Dennis Shaver finally breathed a sigh of relief Saturday night.
“Well,” he said, “that was interesting.”
Interesting indeed, yet productive, for his second-ranked Tigers and eighth-ranked Lady Tigers after they recorded twin fourth-place finishes in a meet that annually is almost as competitive as the upcoming NCAA championships.
While rain and lightning twice delayed the final field events as well as a number of track events, it wasn’t enough to cause much havoc, or, more importantly, injuries at the worst possible time of the season.
Considering they’re weeks away from the NCAA preliminary rounds in Jacksonville, Florida, and the national semifinals and finals in Eugene, Oregon, there were benefits.
“We got through it healthy,” Shaver said. “We also saw some weather conditions that we might run into at Jacksonville and Eugene.”
No one handled it better than thrower Rodney Brown and middle distance runner Julian Parker, who dodged the raindrops and uncertainty of exactly when they would compete after warming up and then having to sit back down — which happened twice to Brown.
After LSU’s Rebekah Wales won the javelin title long before the bad weather arrived, Parker shocked everyone by claiming the 800 meters and Brown took the discus title for the second time in three years to highlight the final-day performances for the Lady Tigers and Tigers.
Both teams scored more points on Saturday than they did in the entire meet a year ago when the women were sixth and the men eighth.
The Tigers scored 88 points Saturday to finish with 92 points — just three points out of second place — and the Lady Tigers had 72 points to wrap up the three-day competition with 84 points.
It told Shaver his teams are primed for the next big postseason meet at the NCAA preliminary rounds on May 28-30, which, if all goes well, could set them up to go after high national finishes.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a group of athletes than I am with how hard our teams fought and competed here this weekend,” he noted. “Every event is like an NCAA final in itself, and gives us a great gauge about where we are at this stage.”
LSU had more than enough quality finishes to pile up the points, unlike last season when Shaver’s injury-riddled teams combined for just 108½ points.
“I thought we moved up pretty well from last year on the men’s side and with a pretty young team on the women’s side,” he said. “Looking at where we were ranked in each event with the women, I had us scoring about 62 or 63 points.”
In addition to having several individuals solidify their national ranking going into the NCAA preliminary rounds, the Tigers and Lady Tigers had seasonal improvements in three of the four relays Saturday — starting and ending the long day with solid runs.
The Tigers finished second in both the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays, while the Lady Tigers were third in both events in what always is some of the more competitive races in the SEC meet.
“Overall, we competed hard,” Shaver said, “so we’re kind of on an upswing right now with both teams. I really liked the way almost everyone competed, and I liked the attitude they competed with.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.