In making the annual transition from the indoor season, the LSU track and field teams usually ease into the outdoor portion of their schedule with an easy meet for throwers and distance runners the week before a large meet at home.
But not this season.
Since the Texas Relays were moved up a week on the calendar to late March, to the weekend when the LSU Relays are usually held, the Tigers and Lady Tigers had to adjust.
So after facing stiff competition in what amounted to their outdoor opener at Texas, coach Dennis Shaver’s teams will be challenged again Saturday in the Battle on the Bayou at Bernie Moore Track Stadium.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers welcome five other schools for a rare scored meet. Field events begin at 10 a.m., and track events start at 1:30 p.m.
In addition to LSU, the meet includes Kansas, Mississippi State, Ohio State and UCLA. LSU’s teams are both ranked eighth, while UCLA’s men are ninth and women 13th. The Kansas women, ranked 10th, won the NCAA outdoor title last June.
Points will be awarded on a 10-8-6-4-2-1 basis for individual events and 10-8-6-4-2 basis for the two relays, with only one relay from each school scoring.
LSU’s teams are coming off a productive weekend at the Texas Relays, although Shaver will be looking for them to take another step forward.
“I thought it was a good start for us considering it was their first outdoor meet for most of them and first Texas Relays for many,” Shaver said. “You never really know how it’s going to go or how they’ll respond. Overall, we made a lot of mistakes. But they’re correctable mistakes, which is a good thing. We worked hard on them this week, so we’ll just try to get a little bit better this week.”
Since they’re used to having a big home meet before Texas, LSU’s athletes are usually two meets into the season before the Battle of the Bayou.
LSU has swept the titles the past two seasons but will face a big challenge in trying to repeat with one less competition under their belts.
“We came back from Texas and saw how they responded, and then made plans to try and get a little better in this meet and move forward from there,” Shaver said.
While the men’s 4x400 team, which won the NCAA indoor title last month, posted a time of 3 minutes, 2.81 seconds in its outdoor opener, Shaver will be looking for some improvement from both 4x100 teams at this early stage of the season.
The men didn’t run a sprint relay at Texas because Aaron Ernest and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake are still on the mend from injuries suffered indoors, while the Lady Tigers, who have four new team members, didn’t run well in the final.
The Lady Tigers had a time of 44.17 seconds in the prelims but clocked a 44.41 in the final to finish fifth.
“They ran really well in the prelim, but they didn’t execute very well in the final,” Shaver said. “We got out there with essentially four new people running, so it’s kind of exciting to see what we’ll do Saturday.
“We’re getting closer to the men being healthy enough to where they’re able to go, but I want them to get a couple of good training weeks under their belts before we put them out there in competition.”