Track & Field Wins Three More Titles at Penn

by Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
LSU History at the Penn Relays LSU Individual History at the Penn Relays +0
Track & Field Wins Three More Titles at Penn

PHILADELPHIA – The atmosphere inside historic Franklin Field on Saturday afternoon was unlike any other in the 116-year history of the Penn Relays Carnival, and members of the LSU track and field teams had the opportunity to showcase their talents by capturing three individual event titles in front of a record crowd of 54,310 on hand to witness one of the great spectacles in all of sport.

LSU wrapped up the Penn Relays for the second-straight spring by winning three individual events on the meet’s final day as the Tigers and Lady Tigers matched their performance from 2009.

Junior All-American and NCAA Indoor champion Walter Henning kicked it off in LSU’s first final of the day with a dominating win in the men’s hammer throw, while sophomore Barrett Nugent followed with a win in the 110-meter hurdles and senior Josh Dominguez wrapped it up with a win in the pole vault.

LSU also matched the six event championships it won a season ago as senior Brittani Carter captured the women’s high jump and the Tigers and Lady Tigers swept Championship of America sprint medley relay titles during Friday’s action at the 116th running of the world’s premier relay carnival.

The program continues to add to its impressive total as it returns home with 60 Championship of America relay titles and 58 individual championships all-time at the Penn Relays.

“We had some outstanding individual performances today. I’m proud of our kids who showed up ready to get something done in their last opportunity to compete before the championship season,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “We needed to take a step forward and improve today, and we accomplished that in some areas. There are other areas where we really have to step it up in the postseason.”

For the second year in a row, an LSU Tiger was named the College Men’s Individual Athlete of the Meet as Henning was the runaway winner with his performance in the men’s championship hammer throw.

Henning has proven to be the most dominant thrower in the NCAA this season while taking the title in all nine competitions in which he has entered in both the weight throw indoors and hammer throw outdoors.

He made it a perfect 10-for-10 with another dominating victory in the hammer on Saturday afternoon. He took a commanding lead early in the competition after unleashing a throw of 235 feet, 9 inches for his second attempt. But Henning didn’t stop there as he improved on his sixth and final throw of the day with his second-best throw of the 2010 season at 237-9 to capture his second-straight Penn Relays crown.

Henning successfully defended his Penn Relays crown with the fifth-longest throw in meet history and its best throw in the last 15 years. This also marks the third-straight year in which an LSU Tiger has captured the men’s hammer throw championship as former Tiger Rabun Fox claimed the victory in 2008.

Henning finished more than 22 feet in front of his nearest competitor as Connor McCullough of Princeton was second with a throw of 215-1 and LSU teammate Michael Lauro was third with a mark of 208-9.

“It means a lot for me to come here and defend my title. This is such a great meet and I love competing in a meet with this kind of history behind it,” Henning said. “When I won it last year, they had just put in a brand new ring that hadn’t been used that much, so I didn’t really throw as well as I could have. This year it was a much better ring to throw in and I took advantage of that.

“I’m really surprised they gave me the award. So many great athletes come here and perform well and are very deserving. It’s pretty cool that they thought of me when deciding who should win the award.”

Senior vaulter Josh Dominguez also enjoyed an outstanding performance in the field events as he snapped a six-year drought with LSU’s first championship in the men’s pole vault at the Penn Relays since 2004.

Dominguez was impressive as he cleared the bar at heights of 16-6 ¾ and 17-0 ¾ on his first attempts. He then stayed alive in the competition with a clearance at 17-4 ½ on his third attempt before clearing the bar at 17-8 ½ on his first attempt for a new personal record. Dominguez was eliminated from the event with a trio of misses at 18-0 ½ but not before becoming the fourth Tiger to win the event at the Penn Relays.

Former LSU standout Daniel Trosclair was the last to win the Penn Relays pole vault in 2004, while Tiger great Russ Buller captured a pair of titles in 1997 and 2000.

With his performance, Dominguez moves into the No. 6 spot on LSU’s all-time performance list outdoors and has now cleared 17-5 four times this season. Junior Marcus McGehee also cleared 17-0 for the fourth-straight meet as he took sixth place with a second-attempt clearance at 17-0 ¾.

Nugent set a personal record of his own on Saturday in running away with the championship in the men’s 110-meter hurdles with a wind-legal effort of 13.58, shattering his previous record of 13.66 set in winning the event title at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships as a freshman a year ago. He also moves up into the No. 4 spot on LSU’s all-time list and trails Eric Reid’s school record of 13.50 by .08 seconds.

Nugent is the first LSU athlete to win the Penn Relays championship in the 110-meter hurdles. An NCAA Indoor All-American, he is poised to add to his resume outdoors as he now ranks No. 3 in the country.

He defeated an impressive field that featured three other hurdlers who currently rank among the Top 10 in the NCAA in the event this season, including Nebraska’s Lehann Fourie (13.62), South Carolina’s Johnny Dutch (14.01) and Army’s Domonick Sylve (14.18).

“I felt good throughout the race and am very happy with coming out with a win today,” Nugent said. “It’s the best field that I’ve run against outdoors this year, and I bet there are probably three or four guys in that race that will be in the NCAA final. That gives me a lot of confidence looking ahead. I’m looking forward to the SEC meet and then the NCAA Championships after that. This was a big step.”

Each year, the Penn Relays comes to an exciting conclusion on Saturday with a flurry of Championship of America relay finals on the track at Franklin Field. The Tigers and Lady Tigers earned the right to line up in a combined six relay finals in the finale of the 116th running of the Penn Relays.

Perhaps feeding off the energy from a record crowd of 54,310 packing the stands, the Lady Tigers battled the Tennessee Lady Volunteers to the finish line while shattering their school record in the 4×800 relay.

Freshman Charlene Lipsey (2:06.40) and senior Kayann Thompson (2:05.64) gave the Lady Tigers a slim lead at the second exchange, and senior LaTavia Thomas was in a dead heat with Tennessee standout and NCAA Indoor champion Phoebe Wright after taking the stick from junior Brittany Hall (2:05.48). Wright won the race to the finish line with a 2:00.89 split to give Tennessee the title in 8:18.22.

But it was a record-setting performance for the Lady Tigers as Thomas anchored the squad with a 2:02.25 split and a new school-record time of 8:19.77. LSU took down a 23-year-old school record of 8:25.95 that was held by the foursome of Jackie Bobien, Kathi Harris, Sylvia Brydson and Camille Cato since 1987.

In addition, the Lady Tigers took third place in the Championship of America final in the 4×200 running a time of 1:31.70 and seventh place in the final of the 4×400-meter relay with a time of 3:35.79.

While running in a difficult position in Lane 2, the Tigers rose to the challenge and finished with a time of 39.98 to take third place in an NCAA Championships caliber field in the finals of the 4×100 relay. The LSU men also finished in 11th place in the 4×800 relay and did not finish the race in the 4×400 relay.

“It’s now time for us to turn our attention to the championship season and prepare ourselves to compete at our best at the SEC meet,” Shaver said. “Our athletes know what they have to do, and we are going to put them in the best position to succeed when we line it up for the conference championship. It is important to give it everything we’ve got when it counts the most to give ourselves a shot at the title.”

The Tigers and Lady Tigers have now wrapped up the regular season and will prepare for their trip to the 2010 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships to be held from May 13-16 at Tom Black Track at LaPorte Stadium at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.