TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Southeastern Conference championships reaffirmed a lot of things for the LSU track and field teams going forward.
With the two competitions that count the most in front of them — the NCAA East Preliminary rounds and NCAA semifinals and finals — the third-ranked Tigers and seventh-ranked Lady Tigers came out of the SEC championships this weekend ready to move on.
Coming out of the meet healthy was one thing; doing it with some quality performances on the track that yielded a fourth-place finish for the men’s team and a fifth for the women’s squad — not to mention a ton of points on the final day of the three-day meet — was something else.
When the Tigers piled up 83 points during a four-hour running window and the Lady Tigers scored 65, it gave Shaver a pretty good idea that his teams will be able to score some points down the road.
“I’m happy with the effort, but I’m happy that we’re healthy,” Shaver said after three days of work at Sam Bailey Stadium. “We have three weeks to go before we go to Eugene (Oregon) for nationals. We just have to continue to improve in our practice sessions in that time.
“Obviously, we’ll have the potential to score some points there. We just have to go up there and duplicate the performances we had here.”
Of course, it would be helpful to win six events — five on the men’s side and one on the women’s — like LSU did at the SEC meet.
Then again, Shaver knows it’s not that far-fetched an idea considering the competition the Tigers and Lady Tigers faced this weekend.
Eight SEC men’s teams were among the top 22 in last week’s USTFCCCA power rankings — including the top four — while 10 women’s teams occupied the top 25.
That certainly validated the list of LSU’s victories — three individual and three relays — in Shaver’s mind at meet’s end. Only Arkansas’ men and women had more, with seven wins.
The Tigers won two relays with meet-record times: the 4x100-meter relay posted a time of 38.33 seconds and the 4x400 unit closed the meet with a clocking of 3 minutes, 00.48 seconds to maintain their top spot on the national lists in both.
Also, the Lady Tigers’ 4x100 relay moved to second on the NCAA list with a time of 42.77 seconds, just missing the SEC meet record of 42.61.
Individually, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake had the biggest day for LSU.
He became the fourth LSU athlete to complete the men’s 100-200 double in the short sprints since 1977 and finished the 4x100 with a strong anchor-leg run to earn the Commissioner’s Trophy at the men’s high scorer.
Winning the 200 meters in 19.95 seconds, he became only the second LSU athlete to post a sub-20 time — joining Xavier Carter, who set the school record with a 19.63 back in 2006.
“Unbelievable … I didn’t believe it,” Mitchell-Blake said of his reaction when his time flashed on the scoreboard near the finish line. “Sometimes, the clock changes (when it becomes official on the timing system) and it may go from 19.95 to 20-something.
“When I saw that it stuck, I looked immediately at the wind gauge and had no choice but to celebrate,” he said. “Everything after the race was all emotion. Not many guys go 19 (seconds), you know. It’s nice to know you’re in a category like that.”
The Tigers got a bonus in the race when Renard Howell ran second to Mitchell-Blake with a personal-record time of his own at 20.15 seconds. That put him second on the national list behind his teammate.
Jordan Moore picked up the other individual win for LSU when he took the hurdles title in 13.53 seconds.
The LSU men and women had some quality finishes from other athletes as well.
Freshman Kortnei Johnson and Chanice Chase had runner-up finishes in the 100 meters and 400-meter hurdles, respectively, and Jada Martin and Johnson went 3-4 in the 200 after joining Mikiah Brisco and Rushell Harvey on the sprint relay.
Morgan Schuetz was third in the 800 meters, as was Rebekah Wales in the javelin, while Brisco was fourth in the 100 hurdles.
Back on the men’s side, Michael Cherry and Fitzroy Dunkley, who ran on the winning 4x400 relay, raced to a 2-3 finish in the open 400.
Now, they have to do it at the NCAA East Preliminary rounds May 26-28 to earn their spots at nationals with a chance to perhaps make a run at team titles.
“If we can do it at this meet,” Shaver said, “it bodes well for us going to the NCAA meet.”
— Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.