Long before the first shot from the starter’s pistol and long before Mondo Duplantis raced down the pole-vault runway for the first time at the Southeastern Conference championships Saturday, the LSU men's track and field team had the look.

Coach Dennis Shaver saw it, which is why he called his team together after Christian Miller’s unexpected victory in the triple jump Saturday afternoon.

The win was, Shaver said Sunday morning, what the second-ranked Tigers needed to fuel their run to the school's first men’s SEC outdoor title in 29 years.

Miller, a Lafayette native, cranked out a personal-best jump of 53 feet, one-quarter inch on his final attempt to vault past Florida’s Clayton Brown and Tennessee’s Jalen Tate for the win and the 10 team points that went with it.

More important was the difference it made in the team race: LSU picked up four more points than Miller was charted for, while Florida lost at least two for a net difference of plus-6 for the Tigers.

That was one of the many key points in LSU’s eventual 10-point victory over Florida, the reigning NCAA outdoor and indoor champion, in a four-team race for the title.

“It was one of the first events Saturday, and Christian pulled out the win on his last attempt,” Shaver said. “Florida had a really good guy in there, too, and to catapult over him made a pretty significant point difference.

"That was an important thing early in the day. … That was exciting.”

So exciting that Shaver gathered his team up and told them what they had to do to keep the momentum going once the track events got under way.

“I got the guys together and told them the jumpers were taking care of business,” he said. “I just said, ‘Let’s go.’ Christian’s win was certainly a key.”

Da’Quan Bellard finished sixth in the event for three additional points to go with the 18 JuVaughn Harrison scored Friday with a win in the high jump and a second-place effort in the long jump. Rayvon Grey also had a fourth in the long jump.

That gave the jumps crew a total of 31 points long before Duplantis thrilled the John McDonnell Field crowd with a collegiate record of 19-8 1/4 in the pole vault after waiting more than two hours to take his first attempt.

His historic win was another key because it gave LSU a 97-91 lead over Florida going into the final event — the 4x400-meter relay. A second-place finish in that race nailed the title down for the Tigers.

Other big moments came with a win in the 4x100 relay, which was LSU’s fourth consecutive victory at the SEC championships, and 17 big points in the 200 meters.

Eight of those 17 points in the 200 came on Jaron Flournoy’s second-place finish after he anchored the 4x100 relay and finished fifth in the open 100.

While LSU was doing what it typically does in the sprints, hurdles and relays, Tigers jumpers made the difference this time after the team finished second eight times and third six times since their last team win back in 1990.

The jumpers racked up 46 of LSU’s 105 points with three wins in the four jumping events — pole vault, high jump and triple jump.

Throw in the five points Jake Norris scored in the hammer, and nearly half (51) of the Tigers’ total points came in the field.

“Our jumps crew, they’re really good this year,” Shaver said. “I’m extremely proud of what they did here. (Jumps coach) Todd Lane has done a great job with them and (strength coach) Boo Schexnayder has really stayed on top of them.

“Their work really paid off this week, because they elevated their performance level here. Then, when you’re around a guy like Mondo who’s super-confident, it becomes contagious for the rest of them. What put us over the top were the big points in those events.”

It was certainly special for Shaver, who was still coaching at Barton County (Kan.) Community College the last time LSU won the men’s title.

He has coached the Lady Tigers, who finished fourth Saturday night, to five SEC outdoor championships since becoming head coach of the program in 2004.

“This one was really special, obviously, because this is the best men’s team we’ve had since I’ve been at LSU (1995) to be honest with you,” Shaver said.

“When you have scorers in three different event areas, that’s a key to winning championships.”


Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.