LSU track teams finish 6th and 8th at SEC championships

Photo provided by LSU athletics -- LSU’s Vernon Norwood finished second in the 400-meter final at the SEC track championships Sunday. Show caption
Photo provided by LSU athletics -- LSU’s Vernon Norwood finished second in the 400-meter final at the SEC track championships Sunday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The effort of Vernon Norwood in the men’s 400-meter final at the Southeastern Conference track and field championships Sunday afternoon was indicative of LSU’s overall performance at the highly competitive meet.

As hard as he tried, Norwood couldn’t quite catch Texas A&M’s Deon Lendore midway through the final day of the meet, leaving the Morgan City native wanting more.

Just like it left LSU coach Dennis Shaver wanting more — especially from his ninth-ranked men’s team — when the four-day meet ended.

With Shaver hoping for top-six finishes from both squads, which were each missing key sprinters because of injuries, the No. 7 Lady Tigers were sixth with 651/2 points and the Tigers were eighth with 43.

Arkansas won the women’s title with 123 points, while Florida (1161/2), Texas A&M (113) and Kentucky (104) followed. On the men’s side, A&M piled up 155 points to win going away, with Arkansas (1161/2), Florida (93) and Georgia (92) rounding out the top four.

“I thought the women competed well,” Shaver said. “I’m disappointed with sixth, but 651/2 points with the women we had here was about what I expected. I thought we might have had a shot at fifth.”

The Lady Tigers did get a second-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles from two-time SEC champion Jasmin Stowers, who posted a time of 13.03 seconds to finish behind Kentucky’s Kendra Harrison (12.76).

LSU’s Lynnika Pitts was third in the triple jump at 43 feet, 41/2 inches, and Nikita Tracey took fourth in the 400 hurdles in 56.23 seconds, with teammate Chanice Chase following in fifth with a nearly one-second PR of 56.27.

On the other side, the points didn’t add up for the Tigers, even though Norwood turned in one of the better performances of the meet in taking second in the 400 and anchoring the 4x400-meter relay team to a third-place finish.

Norwood tried to catch Lendore in the final 100 meters of the 400, but the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist held on to win in 44.30 seconds — the second-fastest time in the world this year.

Norwood still clocked in at 45.17 seconds, shaving nearly a half-second off the PR of 45.64 seconds that he set in the Alumni Gold meet last month. It was the sixth-fastest time in LSU history.

“It was pretty tough,” Norwood said of lowering his PR and still finishing second to Lendore. “I’m not satisfied with the time, and I know I can make a lot of improvement from here on out. Hopefully, I’ll shoot for the stars in June (at the NCAA meet).”

Norwood came back to help the Tigers close the meet on a decent note, combining with Quincy Downing, Cyril Grayson and Fitzroy Dunkley to take third in the 4x400 relay in 3:04.33.

The Tigers’ 4x100 relay team was second when Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Aaron Ernest, Tremayne Acy and Shermund Allsop clocked a season’s-best time of 38.68 seconds.

That was the 10th-fastest time in school history, but A&M, with Lendore anchoring, overtook LSU and won in 38.50 seconds.

Ernest, who hasn’t raced a lot because of a hamstring injury, finished sixth in both the 100 and 200 when Shaver was hoping for big points in those races.

Ernest had the fastest time in the 100 prelims Saturday at 10.17 seconds, but he ran a 10.48 on Sunday going into a slight headwind. He returned to run the 200 in 20.83 seconds, well off the season-best time of 20.14 he produced two weeks ago.

“That wasn’t Aaron’s fault; he just hasn’t gotten a long period of training under his belt to handle these multi-race situations,” Shaver said. “He ran out of gas, but he now knows he’ll be able to train a little harder.”

Shaver thought the Tigers would get more out of Downing in the 400 and 400 hurdles and Grayson in the 400. But they were seventh and eighth in the 400 with identical times of 46.45 seconds. Downing had to make the tough double in the 400 hurdles and was eighth in 52.97 seconds.

“The problem was we didn’t convert enough points,” Shaver said. “We just weren’t getting those third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishes that we should’ve been getting. So it was all across the board.”