EUGENE, Ore. — In her first NCAA outdoor championship meet, LSU freshman Aleia Hobbs knew what she was up against when she lined up Thursday for her semifinal heat of the 100 meters.
After helping the Lady Tigers’ 4x100-meter relay team secure a spot in Saturday’s final earlier in the day at Hayward Field, Hobbs knew she had to follow a simple plan to get into the 100 final as well.
“I knew going into this race that I had to get out of the blocks and finish strong,” Hobbs said. “I thought that would lead to a PR (personal record).”
It did for the New Orleans native. She blasted out of the blocks and took a healthy lead, then held her form to finish second in her heat with a personal-best time of 11.13 seconds — topping her old mark of 11.26 — to earn a spot in the final.
She wasn’t the only one. Sophomore Jada Martin did the same, running a strong second in her 200 meters semifinal about an hour later with a lifetime best of 22.76 seconds to surpass her previous mark of 22.92.
Eighth-ranked LSU also picked up its first points of the meet when senior Tori Bliss finished third in the shot put with a throw of 58 feet, 6 inches and sophomore Rebekah Wales was fourth in the javelin at 178-0.
The Lady Tigers’ 11 points have them in sixth place in the team race, but they’re poised to score more Saturday when the finals are contested after advancing six of the 10 entrants who took to the track Thursday.
LSU started the day strong by qualifying for the 4x100-meter relay.
The team of Rushell Harvey, Hobbs, Martin and Mikiah Brisco posted a time of 43.32 seconds when it won the first heat and automatically qualified despite a shaky second exchange between Hobbs and Martin.
“The wind was really strong and it might have messed us up,” Hobbs said. “I think I got a little too close to Jada and she had to reach for it.”
After freshman Daeshon Gordon and junior Chanice Chase both advanced in the 100-meter hurdles with matching wind-aided times of 13.04 seconds, Hobbs was back at it in the 100.
Even though she was caught and passed about 30 meters from the finish line by Oregon’s Jenna Prandini, who clocked in at 11.03 seconds, Hobbs was relieved to see her time pop up with a legal tailwind of 2.0 meters per second.
“I felt like I had to PR,” Hobbs said. “That was the only way I was going to make (the final).”
Brisco also ran a wind-aided time of 11.24 seconds, but she didn’t qualify for the final on time.
“I wanted to get in the final, but I feel really good about how we got the baton around and will have a chance to compete for the national title,” said Brisco, a freshman from Baton Rouge. “I can totally focus on the 4x100 and run the best of my ability to help the team.”
Martin then came through with her personal best to give the Lady Tigers a fifth spot in the final Saturday, but the 4x400 relay team, which included Gordon, Martin, Travia Jones and Chase did not get into the final after posting a time of 3 minutes, 34.78 seconds.
Bliss was the national leader going into the shot put after finishing second at the NCAA outdoor meet last spring and second at the indoor nationals in March.
She had a best of 58-6 on her final throw to move into second place, but was surpassed seconds later by Southern Illinois’ Raven Saunders, who came through with a PR of 60-2½ to win.
Wales, the Southeastern Conference champion, had a throw of 178-0 to stand in third place going to the finals and eventually finished fourth when she couldn’t improve on her final three attempts.