AUSTIN, Texas — JuVaughn Harrison saved the day for the LSU men’s track and field team in the NCAA championships Friday night.
LSU’s streak of 21 consecutive top-10 finishes at the NCAA outdoor meet was squarely on the line until Harrison, who won the long jump Wednesday night, dominated in the high jump to earn his second national championship in 48 hours.
After claiming the long jump with a personal-record leap of 26 feet, 11 inches Wednesday, Harrison shook off a tight left hamstring and thrilled the crowd at Mike A. Myers Stadium with another PR of 7-5¼.
It was the first time in the 98-year history of the NCAA men’s championships that an athlete won both the long and high jumps at the same meet.
“This is pretty significant to me because last year I went out early in both events,” Harrison, a sophomore, said. “This year, I wanted to go out there and have fun and jump, and not worry about anybody else.”
With his twin wins, Harrison scored 20 of LSU’s 28 points and provided the impetus as the Tigers placed seventh to extend their streak of consecutive top-10 finishes.
Texas Tech won the title with 60 points, while Florida was second (50) and Houston third (40).
After a long recovery day on Thursday, Harrison, who was tied for fifth nationally going into the meet, was dialed in from the start Friday night.
He made the first six bars without a miss, which gave him the advantage the longer the competition went on.
Harrison eventually missed three times at 7-6½ as did Kansas State’s Tejaswin Shankar. Those three misses were the only ones for Harrison while Shankar had six.
Harrison is now second on LSU’s all-time high jump list behind Tom Lange, who set the mark of 7-5¾ back in 1990.
“I felt very good throughout the rotation,” Harrison said. “I was in a very good rhythm and I knew early on during run-throughs that it would be a good night.”
It was, obviously.
initially, he said he couldn’t recall ever going 6-for-6 at the start of a competition. But then, he remembered the Southeastern Conference indoor meet in February when he set his indoor PR of 7-5¾ in winning.
“Maybe at the SEC indoors … I was pretty clean there,” he said. “I was just dialed in and focused. I just did what I’ve been taught, and I went out and executed it.”
Harrison said he was slightly concerned about the tight hamstring in his left leg, which is his plant leg, but he said everything was fine once the event started.
“It was a very hard recovery day for me,” he said. “The hamstring was hurting me, so there was a lot of treatment and recovery. After getting the treatment, I felt confident about it and in my ability.”
His performance certainly brightened LSU’s day.
After a tough night in Wednesday’s semifinals, when three athletes couldn’t complete the meet because of injuries, the bad luck continued.
In the first running event Friday night, they had another costly miscue in the 4x100-meter relay.
LSU went in knowing it was going to be without senior anchor Jaron Flournoy, who tweaked a muscle in the 100 meters semifinals.
As it turned out, it wouldn’t have mattered if Flournoy was there anyway.
The baton never got close to the waiting hands of anchor replacement Dorian Camel when Kary Vincent and Akanni Hislop couldn’t execute the first exchange.
With only eight finalists, all LSU had to do was get the stick around to score points. They didn't, and, at that point, the top-10 streak appeared to be in jeopardy.
“When it rains, it pours,” LSU coach Dennis Shaver said minutes after the mishap for the Tigers, who have won the event six times since 2002.
Florida went on to claim the title with a meet- and collegiate-record time of 37.97 seconds, easily bettering the old mark of 38.17 set a year ago by Houston.
“I told them, ‘Let’s just get the stick around the track,’ ” Shaver said. “ ‘We need to run whatever we can to get whatever points we can get. … Just get it to Dorian.’ Then, we dropped the stick on the first exchange.”
But, Harrison came up big. His 20 points and the points Mondo Duplantis earned with a second-place finish in the pole vault on Wednesday gave the Tigers a total of 28.
"At the end of the day, our jumpers just came through for us," Shaver said. "Congratulations to JuVaughn for making history.
"We're just so proud of him, just to see how much he's grown in one year and how he really prepares himself. That was an outstanding accomplishment."