EUGENE, Ore. — There was no time for LSU sprinters Aaron Ernest and Tremayne Acy to hang their heads and wonder what went wrong Wednesday when they didn’t qualify for the final in the 100 meters at the NCAA track and field championships.
There was only about an hour to refocus and get ready for the 200 meters semifinals because of a new schedule format that had only men competing Wednesday at Hayward Field.
Still, there was hardly anything for either to be upset about.
Both ran career bests in the 100 semifinals with Ernest clocking a time of 10.12 seconds and Acy coming up with a 10.16 when it took a swift 10.09 to make the eight-man final.
They came back to each take second in their semifinal heats of the 200 meters to automatically advance to Friday’s final. After Ernest posted a time of 20.35 seconds in the first heat, Acy had another PR when he crossed the finish line in 20.17 seconds.
While they didn’t advance in the 100, which wasn’t a shock because Acy was seeded 14th and Ernest 16th coming into the meet, fourth-ranked LSU did get seven of 10 entrants they had on the track Wednesday into Friday’s finals.
Both relay teams advanced along with Vernon Norwood in the 400, Joshua Thompson in the 110-meter hurdles and Quincy Downing in the 400 hurdles.
While Norwood had the fastest time of the day in winning his semifinal heat in 45.42 seconds, LSU had to have Ernest and Acy make it in the 200 if they want to be in the team race on Friday after the women take the stage Thursday.
“I wasn’t mad about the 100,” said Acy, a sophomore who was in an individual event at the NCAA championships for the first time. “I had a bad start (in the 100), but I knew there couldn’t be any mistakes in the 200. I had to focus.”
He did, coming off the curve strong and chasing Florida’s Dedric Dukes, who won the heat in 20.03 seconds, to the finish line. Until a couple of weeks ago, his PR was a 20.51, which he dropped to 21.25 at the NCAA East preliminary rounds.
“Usually the 100 is my better event, but I keep dropping my time in the 200,” Acy said. “I find that very weird to me. I just keep shocking myself.”
Like his teammate, Ernest said he remained upbeat after not making the 100.
“I came in and got a PR, so at the end of the day I wasn’t mad,” Ernest said. “I knew I just had to bounce back in the 200 and keep going forward.”
He did despite rolling his ankle slightly about 30 or 40 meters into the race.
“I was about fourth or fifth coming off the curve, and that’s not good for me,” Ernest said. “But I couldn’t quit. That wasn’t going to be the last individual race of my career. I had to give it everything I had to make the final.”
They also were on the 4x100-meter relay team that advanced in the first race on the track Wednesday.
Thompson, Norwood, Acy and Ernest got the stick around in 38.92 seconds, just getting edged at the line by Florida, which ran a 38.91.
“We had to clean some things up (after the NCAA East prelims),” Ernest said. “But the goal was just to get the stick around and finish in the top-two to get a good lane for the final and that’s exactly what we did.”
LSU finished with the fourth-fastest time in the spring relay and was one of five SEC schools to get in the eight-team final along with Florida, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Alabama.
Thompson later finished second in his heat of the 110 hurdles in 13.66 seconds and automatically advanced to the final as did Norwood a bit later with the fastest time of the semifinals at 45.42 seconds.
Just before Acy and Ernest qualified in the 200, Downing took second in his 400 hurdles heat in 49.64 seconds to automatically reach the final.
His time was the third-fastest overall on the day.
LSU finished the day with Downing, Cyril Grayson, Fitzroy Dunkley and Norwood winning their heat in 3 minutes, 04.73 seconds.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter: @MicklesAdvocate.