LSU Relays first spring action for many athletes

Advocate sportswriter

The transition from the indoor to the outdoor season means more to the LSU track and field teams than just a chance to enjoy the warmer springtime weather.

It means an opportunity to compete in several events the Lady Tigers and Tigers have historically been good at in the prestigious relay carnivals, and, more importantly, the Southeastern Conference and NCAA championships.

The list of outdoor-only staples for the LSU program includes the 4x100-meter relay, short and intermediate hurdles, discus, javelin and hammer.

Of those six events, only the 60-meter hurdles and the weight throw comes close to matching them indoors.

Which is why LSU coach Dennis Shaver and his teams have been looking forward for weeks to the LSU Relays, which will be held Friday and Saturday at Bernie Moore Track Stadium.

Field events get under way at 4 p.m. Friday with distance events beginning at 6:30 p.m. The meet continues at 10 a.m. Saturday in the field with track events starting at 1 p.m. A series of children’s sprint races will kick things off at 11 a.m.

Among the 20 schools expected to participate are men and women from Southern, UL-Lafayette, Southeastern, Tulane, UNO, UL-Monroe and Xavier of New Orleans as well as the Nicholls State women.

For all intents and purposes, LSU opened its outdoor season last weekend at the Louisiana Classics meet in Lafayette.

But, as he usually does, Shaver sent only 38 athletes to that competition in order to give most of the participants that were heavily involved in the SEC and NCAA indoor meets another week to recover.

Everyone will get a chance this weekend, however, as the fourth-ranked Lady Tigers, who finished third at the NCAA Championships two weeks ago, and the 10th-ranked Tigers will be warming up for the Texas Relays.

“Everybody is going to do something, although no one will be running their specialties except the hurdlers,” Shaver said. “In the field events, we’ll be trying to get some things done in the discus, javelin and hammer because most of them didn’t compete during the indoor season.”

Many of the track athletes who competed at the NCAA indoor meet will concentrate on the relays this weekend, using it as a dress rehearsal for the Texas Relays.

One of the most anticipated events for Shaver will be the first running event Saturday afternoon — the 4x100 relay.

The Lady Tigers and Tigers will have new looks in one of the events the program has excelled nationally for more than two decades.

Shaver is eager to see what he has after working just one week with a women’s lineup of Jasmin Stowers, Kimberlyn Duncan, Takeia Pinckney and Toshika Sylvester and a men’s group of Damar Forbes, Darrell Bush, Nethaneel
Mitchell-Blake and Shermund Allsop.

The Lady Tigers won the 4x100 the last two years at the NCAA meet, although the 2012 relay title and team championship were later vacated because Semoy Hackett tested positive for a banned supplement.

Stowers, a hurdles specialist, and Sylvester are new to the group, while Duncan will move from the anchor to second because it’s the longest of the four legs. Duncan has anchored the past two years.

“This gives us an opportunity to give Kim the stick early in the (exchange) zone, and she’ll give it up late in the zone, so she’ll be carrying it up to 120 meters,” Shaver said. “When you have somebody of her talent, it doesn’t do any good to get her the stick at the end if you’re way out of it.

“This way, we hope to put some pressure on people by running well up front.”

The same goes for the men, although Aaron Ernest, who competed through a slight ankle problem at the NCAA indoor meet, will be worked back into the lineup for the second leg when he recovers. He also ran the second leg last year when the Tigers won the event at the NCAA meet.

Forbes, a long jumper, and Bush and Mitchell-Blake,
both freshman, are new to the unit.

“I’m anxious to see how it’s going to work out,” Shaver said, “not just at this meet, but it should be fun to watch as the season goes along. They’re excited about it because they understand it gives us the best chance to have the most success.”