Coming off a highly competitive meet at the Texas Relays and a hard week of training, members of the LSU track and field team didn’t know what to expect Saturday.
Neither did LSU coach Dennis Shaver when his teams lined up for their outdoor home opener in the Battle on the Bayou at Bernie Moore Track Stadium.
“When you go to a meet like that at Texas, this next one is always kind of a challenge for the athletes,” Shaver said. “You’re just trying to get back into it. Plus, we trained hard, and that makes it difficult to be on top of your game.”
Yet LSU’s sprinters and hurdlers had a big day after some shaky moments on the 4x100-meter relays early in the afternoon, helping the Southeastern Conference defeat the Big 12 and Big Ten in a scored competition.
The SEC, which included LSU, Alabama and Mississippi State, claimed both the men’s and women’s titles over the Big 12 reps (Oklahoma and Kansas State) and Big Ten (Ohio State and Purdue).
Only the top two finishers from each conference scored in individual events, while the first team from each league was awarded points in the relays.
In the women’s division, LSU had 93 of the SEC’s 165 points with the Big 12 (145) and Big 10 following (95). LSU’s men scored 70 of the SEC’s 164 total, while the Big 12 (122) and Big Ten (120) followed.
Sprinters Rushell Harvey and Tinashe Mutanga combined for three personal bests for the third-ranked Lady Tigers and fifth-ranked Tigers, respectively, while Chanice Chase clocked the fastest times among collegians in both hurdles races and anchored the winning 4x400 relay.
Lady Tigers middle distance ace Morgan Schuetz won the 1,500 meters and posted the second-fastest collegiate time in her specialty, the 800, even though she wasn’t expected to run it.
After running the leadoff leg on the 4x100 relay that finished second with a time of 43.89 seconds, Harvey came back to post PRs of 11.33 in winning the 100 meters and 23.21 seconds in placing fourth in the 200.
“We had good training sessions this week and just felt like it was time (to run fast),” Harvey said. “We’ve been doing a lot of recovery work, and my times have been dropping, so it kind of transferred over to the meet.”
Harvey outlasted teammate Mikiah Brisco (11.38) for the win in the 100 before following the Lady Tigers’ Jada Martin (23.06) and Rachel Misher (23.17), who went 2-3 in the 200. Misher’s time was also a PR.
They weren’t the only athletes who took advantage of ideal conditions with temperatures in the mid-70s and little wind to contend with.
Even though he finished third in the men’s 100, Mutanga had a big-time PR of 10.29 seconds in his first race at that distance for the Tigers since transferring from Oral Roberts. That easily shattered his old personal best of 10.63.
“I’ve been training hard and I felt confident,” said Mutanga, whose previous PR was set in 2012 in high school in Zimbabwe. “The coaches told me to go out and execute, and everything else would follow. I just tried to relax and go through all my transitions.”
Chase had a wind-aided time of 13.04 seconds to finish second in the 100-meter hurdles, then won the 400 hurdles in 56.66 seconds.
Her 400 hurdles clocking was faster than she ran all last season. LSU’s Kymber Payne, running one lane over, challenged Chase throughout the race and wound up third with a big PR of 57.33 seconds.
Schuetz won the 1,500 in 4 minutes, 24.14 seconds, then had the second-fastest time among collegians with a 2:04.33. She wasn’t even expected to run the entire distance because she was scheduled to run on the 4x400.
“Coach (Khadevis) Robinson asked me what I wanted to do, and I couldn’t make up my mind, so I decided to be the ‘rabbit,’” Schuetz said. “I felt running the whole race would be less stressful. I don’t typically like to lead races, but it worked out.”
While LSU’s 4x100 relay finished second behind Alabama, the Lady Tigers won the 4x400 as Travia Jones, who produced a PR in the 400, combined with Martin, Misher and Chase to clock a 3:33.84.
Mutanga and Jordan Moore, who was second in the 110 hurdles with the fastest time among collegians at 13.82 seconds, joined Jaron Flournoy and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake to clock a 39.59 in the 4x100 — finishing second to a Tiger Olympians group that ran a 39.48.
The only other event winner for the LSU men was freshman Dajour Braxton, who took the 1,500 title with a time of 3:48.74.