STARKVILLE, Miss. — LSU sprinter Tremayne Acy had a plan going into the preliminary heats of the 200 meters at the Southeastern Conference track and field championships Thursday night.
That plan didn’t necessarily include a wind-legal personal-record for Acy on the first day of the three-day meet, especially running into a slight headwind, but the sophomore from Dallas wasn’t about to let the chance slip away.
Acy shot out of the blocks and attacked the curve, then coasted to a win in his heat of the 200 meters to automatically qualify for Saturday’s final with a time of 20.70 seconds.
In doing so, he shattered his old wind-legal mark of 20.98 seconds he set as a freshman and led a group of nine LSU athletes who qualified for Saturday’s finals in just three running prelims held Thursday.
With only five finals contested, LSU senior Jeremy Tuttle and Travis Pope picked up the first points for the second-ranked Tigers. Tuttle placed sixth in the hammer with a throw of 211 feet, 3 inches and Pope raced to an eighth-place finish in the 10,000 meters in 30 minutes, 33.11 seconds.
Acy and senior Quincy Downing were the headliners for the men, who earned four spots in Saturday’s finals, while the eighth-ranked Lady Tigers had five qualifiers — getting three in the 400-meter hurdles — to start the meet.
“The strongest part of my race is the curve,” said Acy, whose race was run into a 0.9 meters per second headwind, “I knew that if I attacked it and finished strong in the home stretch, nobody would catch me.”
In blowing away the field, Acy beat second-place finisher Kahlil Henderson of Tennessee by more than fourth-tenths of a second to post the second-fastest time of the day. Florida’s Dedric Dukes clocked the fastest time at 20.45.
“When I got clear, I just wanted to keep my form and not run too hard,” said Acy, who’ll also run the 100 meters and 4x100-meter relay this weekend. “I wanted to save a little bit, so I kind of shut it down the last 20 meters. But I didn’t slow down too much.”
Acy ranks 10th in the nation in the 200 with a wind-aided time of 20.51. While the wind was over the allowable of 2.0 mps for record-keeping purposes, it still counts for NCAA qualifying.
Teammate Aaron Ernest also qualified for the 200 final when he finished second in his heat with a time of 20.92 running into a 1.5 mps headwind.
Later, Downing clocked the fastest time of the day in the 400 hurdles in winning his heat in 49.95 seconds.
“There were a couple of technical problems and I conserved a little, but I wanted to drop something fast to shake up the crowd,” said Downing, whose personal best of 49.91 was set just last month. “I know I’m capable of running way faster than the races I’ve had this year. I’m a 48 (second) runner.”
Sophomore Jada Martin joined Acy and Ernest in the 200 final when she was second in her heat with a time of 23.25 seconds. Texas A&M’s Kamaria Brown, a Baton Rouge native, won the heat in 23.17.
Also Lady Tigers Chanice Chase, Daeshon Gordon and Ka’Lynn Jupiter earned spots in the 400 hurdles final after all claimed second in their heats.
Chase clocked a time of 57.87 seconds, while Gordon and Jupiter clocked PRs with times of 58.03 and 58.67.
In the 800 prelims, Morgan Schuetz got into the women’s final when she was second in her heat in 2:04.29 — the second-fastest time of the day — and Julian Parker won his men’s heat in 1:48.84 to automatically qualify.
“It was a good day for us, everybody we expected to advance on the track advanced,” LSU coach Dennis Shaver said. “The athletes that advanced put us in good position for Saturday.”