In a span of six days in mid-April, two of the oldest marks in the LSU track and field record books were eclipsed by Lady Tigers Tori Bliss and Laura Carleton.
Bliss easily broke a 19-year-old shot-put record in the Battle on the Bayou before Carleton shattered the school mark in the 5,000 meters that stood for 28 years in the prestigious Mount Sac Relays in California.
But there could be more in store for coach Dennis Shaver’s teams.
The next long-standing record that appears to be in jeopardy is the men’s discus mark of 209 feet, 1 inch set in 1989 by John Nichols, which sophomore Rodney Brown has been stalking this season.
It certainly wouldn’t surprise anyone associated with the LSU program if it happened this weekend at the Southeastern Conference Championships in Columbia, Mo., or in the NCAA Championships.
“The bottom line is if Rodney continues to improve technically and put himself in good situations, he’s going to break the record in one of the big meets,” LSU throws coach Derek Yush said. “He’s got the potential to do it this year when he goes against some really good competition. He’s going to break it, hopefully, sooner than later.”
Brown, who’s been throwing the discus for four years, came close to wiping Nichols’ name off the record boards affixed to a support beneath the upper deck of Bernie Moore Track Stadium with a personal-best of 206-3 in placing second at the Texas Relays on March 30.
While it would have been special to do it in the state capital of Austin, not far from his hometown of Chappell Hill, Texas, Brown knows that it’s a process — especially after an up-and-down freshman season in 2012.
After coming to LSU as the nation’s No. 2-ranked thrower for his classification, Brown, who was now tossing a heavier implement than he did in high school, threw 190-8 in his LSU debut. But he surpassed the 190 foot mark just once more all season with a 190-3 at the Texas Relays.
“Rodney is a tremendous athlete and a really hard worker, and he had a lot of potential,” Yush said. “What we found last year was that he was trying to learn a new technique, and he had his ups and downs. But at the end of the day, he did a good job.”
Brown finished sixth at the SEC meet, but later that month fouled out of the NCAA East prelims and didn’t advance to the NCAA Championships.
Switching back to the smaller implement for the USA Junior Championships, Brown won the national title with a throw of 206-9 and earned a spot on the team that represented the USA in the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain, where he finished 18th.
It concluded a year in which Brown learned a lot about himself and the event he picked up — almost by accident — near the end of his sophomore year in high school.
“I was trying to get out of the running part of practice,” admitted Brown, who ran the 100 meters and the 4x100-meter relay at Navasota High School. “I just played around with it and threw it in one practice and said, ‘OK, I’m going to the discus.’ I went out and threw it more and more, and it just took off.”
Brown said he finished dead last at the state meet that year, but won the title by one inch as a junior and by “10 or 11 feet” to wrap up his senior year.
Yet, he still didn’t know that much about a highly technical event.
“He was kind of a novice when he got here,” Yush said. “He had some pretty good performances in high school and could throw it far, but he wasn’t conceptually sure of how to be a discus thrower.
“He was very talented athletically, but now he’s a student of the event.”
Brown has proven it this year in the consistency of his performance. He opened his sophomore season with a throw of 197-1 and has topped the 195-foot mark in four of six meets.
The highlight of his season, of course, was his effort at the Texas Relays.
He finished second to UCLA’s Julian Wruck, who leads the NCAA with a best of 216-8. Nebraska’s Chad Wright ranks second at 207-11, followed by Brown at 206-3.
“As a freshman, I was chasing the wrong thing because I came in with high expectations,” Brown said. “But I didn’t really know what I could do. I did OK. But after throwing 190 in that first meet, I was chasing throws and thinking it would get better and better. But I wasn’t staying within myself.
“As a sophomore, the biggest thing I’m seeing is consistency. This year, I’m staying focused on my technique — and that’s made a difference.”