Track & Field Sweeps Penn Sprint Medley Relays

by Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
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Track & Field Sweeps Penn Sprint Medley Relays

PHILADELPHIA – The nation’s premier programs return to Franklin Field and the Penn Relays each spring in hopes of winning just one of the meet’s coveted wagon wheel trophies honoring the winners in a Championship of America relay final in the world’s most prestigious relay carnival.

And the Tigers and Lady Tigers put an exclamation point onto the end of Friday’s competition at the 116th Penn Relays Carnival by sweeping 1,600-meter sprint medley relay titles in the final event of the day.

LSU captured its first two Championship of America relay titles of the weekend and its 59th and 60th relay titles all-time in the storied history of the Penn Relays. The Tigers have now won 19 relay championships and the Lady Tigers have now won 41 relay championships in meet history.

With its two victories Friday evening, LSU also extended its streak of winning at least one Championship of America relay crown at the Penn Relays to 20-straight seasons going back to a winless meet in 1990.

“We made some mistakes today, but they are correctable and were the result of aggressively competing,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “To win any Championship of America relays is a challenge, but for us to win two in one day is tremendous. We look forward to coming back tomorrow and competing in six more finals. We expect great weather and a great atmosphere in which to compete.”

The Lady Tigers enjoyed a historic victory in the women’s sprint medley relay as they won their fourth in a row in the event at the Penn Relays. Senior Samantha Henry (200 meters), freshman Kimberlyn Duncan (200 meters), sophomore Cassandra Tate (400 meters) and senior LaTavia Thomas (800 meters) captured the title by more than four seconds over Cornell (3:52.86) with a winning time of 3:48.36.

It was a historic win as Thomas became the first female athlete in Penn Relays history to anchor the same relay team to four consecutive victories in Championship of America finals. Thomas is making her fourth and final appearance in her hometown of Philadelphia while running for the Lady Tigers.

She joins Mark Belger of Villanova as the only two athletes in the 116 years of the Penn Relays to anchor one relay team to four-straight Championship of America titles as Belger did so in the 4×800 in the 1970s.

Not to be outdone, the Tigers followed with a victory of their own as they stopped the clock in 3:17.65 for their second sprint medley championship in three seasons at the Penn Relays. The Tigers were impressive while running with a team of Gabriel Mvumvure, Armanti Hayes, Ade Alleyne-Forte and Richard Jones.

The Tigers and Lady Tigers have dominated the sprint medley relay this season as they also swept crowns at the 83rd Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in record-setting fashion just three weeks ago. Both the Tigers (3:16.01) and Lady Tigers (3:43.98) set new school records in the event at the Texas Relays.

In LSU’s first Championship of America relay final of the weekend, the Lady Tigers took second place in the 4×100-meter relay as the team of Henry, Duncan, freshman Takeia Pinckney and junior Kenyanna Wilson carried the stick around the 400-meter oval in a time of 43.30. The Lady Tigers finished second to only the foursome from Texas A&M that posted a winning time of 43.09.

The Lady Tigers have also earned the right to line up in three Championship of America relay finals set to run on Saturday after advancing their 4×200-meter relay during Friday’s qualifying action.

While running with a team of senior Liann Kellman, Pinckney, Wilson and Tate, the Lady Tigers clocked the fifth-fastest qualifying time of the day at 1:34.18 to win their preliminary heat. The Championship of America final in the women’s 4×200 relay will run Saturday at 1:35 p.m. CT.

The Lady Tigers will also compete in the Championship of America final in the 4×800 relay at 12:55 p.m. and the 4×400 relay at 4:50 p.m. to wrap up the 116th Penn Relays.

Likewise, the Tigers are set to compete in three relay finals at Franklin Field on Saturday as they qualified in both the 4×100 and 4×400-meter relays on Friday afternoon.

Their sprint relay team was the first to step onto the track and grabbed the last qualifying spot in the finals with the eighth-fastest time as senior Jerel Hill, senior Will Coppage, Mvumvure and freshman Johnathan Johnson combined to run 40.44 to win their prelim heat. The Tigers followed by winning their prelim heat in the 4×400 relay with the fifth-fastest time overall at 3:06.02 with the team of freshman Caleb Williams, Alleyne-Forte, senior Jamaal James and Hayes.

The men will line up in Championship of America finals in the 4×100 relay at 12:25 p.m., the 4×800 relay at 3:20 p.m. and the 4×400 relay at 5 p.m. in the final event of this year’s meet.

Friday was like déjà vu for junior All-American Brittani Carter as she became LSU’s first event winner of the 116th Penn Relays and the first Lady Tiger in meet history to win the championship high jump.

Carter took the lead with a clearance at 5 feet, 10 ½ inches on her second attempt at the height to join four other jumpers in the competition with the bar being raised to 6-0. Carter was the only competition in the field to go up and over the bar at 6-0 to capture her first career Penn Relays high jump championship.

After earning her third All-American honor in the high jump with a third-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March, Carter became the first Lady Tiger to win the event title at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays on April 3 before her historic victory at the Penn Relays on Friday afternoon.

Perhaps LSU’s most impressive field event performer on the afternoon was freshman Damar Forbes, who won the event title in the college section of the men’s long jump. After being passed in the fifth round of jumps by Marcos Amalbert of P.R.-Rio Piedras (25-0), Forbes soared to a new personal best with a wind-legal mark of 25-10 ¾ on his sixth and final attempt of the competition to take the title.

Freshman All-SEC performer Thomas Reinecke also took the title in the college section of the men’s pole vault with a clearance at 16-6 ¾. Despite clearing the same mark, teammate and fellow freshman standout Joseph Caraway finished runner-up to Reinecke due to the number of misses in his series.

Friday also proved to be a successful day of qualifying in the individual events as a total of seven athletes advanced to finals scheduled to run during Saturday’s championship action.

After running the lead leg on the Lady Tigers’ 4×100-meter relay that finished runner-up in Friday’s final, Henry returned to the track to run the second-fastest qualifying time of the day with a wind-legal clocking of 11.33 to win the first of three preliminary heats. South Carolina’s Lakya Brookins was the only woman with a faster qualifying time than Henry as she clocked 11.32 to win the second heat.

The Lady Tigers grabbed four of nine qualifying spots in the 100-meter final as Wilson (11.42), Pinckney (11.43) and senior Kristina Davis (11.72) will join Henry on Saturday. Wilson and Pinckney swept the top two spots in the third preliminary heat, while Davis finished runner-up to Henry in the first heat.

Sophomore All-American Barrett Nugent led a trio of Tigers to advance in Friday’s qualifying events. He was the fastest qualifier of the afternoon after winning his heat with a wind-legal time of 13.76.

The men’s 100-meter final will feature a pair of Tiger sprinters as Hill posted the fourth-fastest time in the qualifying round at 11.46 and Johnson grabbed the ninth spot with a time of 11.60.

“Tomorrow is another important day for our team as it’s the last opportunity we have to compete together before the start of the championship season,” Shaver said. “We need to be ready to line it up and compete with everything we’ve got as we expect more than 50,000 fans here to enjoy this unbelievable event.”

The 116th running of the Penn Relays Carnival will come to an end Saturday as the “USA vs. The World” portion of the meet will be broadcast on a tape-delay basis to a worldwide audience from 7-9 p.m. CT on ESPN2. The Tigers and Lady Tigers will compete for the first time in the field events beginning at 8 a.m. CT followed by the first events on the track at 12:25 p.m.

Fans can receive live updates from the Penn Relays by becoming a fan of the LSU Track & Field page on Facebook and by following @LSUTrackField on Twitter.