A long track and field season that began indoors in January will conclude this week when LSU athletes compete for national honors in the NCAA outdoor championships in Eugene, Oregon.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers have a combined 23 scoring opportunities — 10 for the men, 13 for the women — for the four-day meet that begins Wednesday at Hayward Field.
Both teams will be shooting for top-10 team finishes coming off the NCAA East preliminary rounds last week in Jacksonville, Florida. There, athletes had to finish in the top 12 in individual events and relays to advance to the national semifinals.
In addition to LSU, men and women from Louisiana colleges earned nine berths in the semis after getting through the first round and quarterfinals at the East prelims. Also, one decathlete advanced straight to nationals based on scores posted this season.
The LSU men, ranked sixth in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll, will have the best chance at a high team finish with 10 scoring chances — five of which were in the top eight when compared with qualifier’s results from the West region. Individuals and relay units finishing in the top eight in finals earn team points.
On the men’s side, LSU has three individuals and two relay teams that have positioned themselves nicely based on their performances at the East prelims.
Rodney Brown is seeded first in the discus at 207 feet, 10 inches, although he has thrown 3 feet farther this season with a personal record 210-10 in April.
On the track, sprinters Vernon Norwood and Aaron Ernest are seeded in the top three in their individual events and also run on the Tigers’ highly ranked 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay teams.
Ernest ranks third in the 200 meters and 12th in the 100, while Norwood is seeded second in the open 400. Ernest runs the second leg on the 4x100 relay that is seeded fourth, while Norwood anchors the 4x400 relay unit that posted the second-fastest time in the prelims.
The Lady Tigers are led by All-American Jasmin Stowers, who is seeded fourth in the 100-meter hurdles. Nikita Tracey and Chanice Chase rank fifth and six in the 400 hurdles.
LSU’s 4x100 relay team, with Stowers leading off, ranks seventh. Denise Hinton is seventh in the hammer, and Lynnika Pitts is tied for eighth in the high jump.
Northwestern State sprinter Justin Walker, Louisiana Tech long jumper Jarvis Gotch and UL-Lafayette shot putter Albert Fournette lead the group from state schools.
Walker, a Slidell native, is tied for eighth in the 200. He clocked the fastest time in the nation in the 100 this spring with a wind-aided 9.95 but is ranked 23rd in that event after battling a sore Achilles tendon in the East prelims.
Gotch is fifth in the long jump and runs the leadoff leg on Tech’s 4x100 relay team that is ranked 18th, while Fournette is seeded seventh in the shot put.
Texas A&M’s Kamaria Brown, a McKinley High graduate, is ranked second in the 200. She also runs on the Aggies’ 4x100 relay team that leads the nation and anchors the second-seeded 4x400 relay.
Off to Oregon
The LSU and state college athletes who qualified for the NCAA championships to be held Wednesday through Saturday in Eugene, Oregon (number in parentheses indicates national seeding based on marks attained in the preliminary rounds):
100: Rushell Harvey, 11.46 (14).
200: Toshika Sylvester, 23.59 (t22).
100 hurdles: Jasmin Stowers, 12.91 (4); Chanice Chase, 13.27 (19).
400 hurdles: Nikita Tracey, 56.23 (5); Chanice Chase, 56.40 (6).
4x100 relay: Jasmin Stowers, Toshika Sylvester, Rushell Harvey, Nataliyah Friar, 43.94 (7).
High jump: Lynnika Pitts, 5-9¾ (t8).
Long jump: Nataliyah Friar, 20-5¾ (t13).
Triple jump: Lynnika Pitts, 43-1 (t12).
Shot put: Tori Bliss, 54-6 (12).
Hammer: Denise Hinton, 202-2 (7).
Javelin: Rebekah Wales, 162-9 (18).
100: Aaron Ernest, 10.19 (12).
200: Aaron Ernest, 20.38 (3); Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, 20.69 (17).
400: Vernon Norwood, 45.17 (2).
110 hurdles: Joshua Thompson, 13.77 (t19).
400 hurdles: Quincy Downing, 50.49 (11).
4x100 relay: Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Aaron Ernest, Tremayne Acy, Shermund Allsop, 39.04 (4).
4x400 relay: Quincy Downing, Darrell Bush, Cyril Grayson, Vernon Norwood, 3:02.64 (2).
Discus: Rodney Brown, 207-10 (1).
Hammer: Jeremy Tuttle, 213-10 (t12).
100 hurdles: Kim Francis, Louisiana Tech, 13.04 (12).
100: Justin Walker, Northwestern State, 10.31 (23).
200: Justin Walker, Northwestern State, 20.58 (t8); Trey Hadnot, Louisiana Tech, 20.79 (23).
4x100 relay: Louisiana Tech, Jarvis Gotch, Trey Hadnot, Devin Henderson, Dennis Richardson, 39.60 (18).
Pole vault: Michael Vani, UL-Lafayette, 17-5½ (t8).
Long jump: Jarvis Gotch, Louisiana Tech, 25-4½ (5).
Shot put: Albert Fournette, UL-Lafayette, 65-3½ (7).
Javelin: Joshua Cox, Louisiana Tech, 217-8 (20).
Decathlon: Karl Saluri, New Orleans, 7,497 (14).