Sprint Relay, DMR Pace Track & Field at Penn

by Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
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Sprint Relay, DMR Pace Track & Field at Penn

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – The No. 1-ranked LSU women’s track and field team opened the 117th running of the Penn Relays Carnival on Thursday afternoon with an eye on earning a spot in the Championship of America final in both the 4×100-meter relay and 4×400-meter relay that will run Friday and Saturday.

The Lady Tigers accomplished their goal with a pair of heat wins in the sprint relays, while also recording one of the team’s fastest times in the distance medley relay during Thursday’s action at Franklin Field.

“This really was a good start to the meet for our teams, particularly the women. Having some success on a day like today is important because it gives you an opportunity to compete on Friday and Saturday,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “We had a bit of a weather issue that caused some problems today, but it isn’t something we’ve never seen or dealt with before. We have experience in these conditions.

“We were prepared and ready to go when the time came to compete. I thought our athletes approached the competition today with the correct mindset. The results certainly showed that.”

In an event that was scheduled to run at noon CDT, the Lady Tigers did line up for the second prelim heat of the 4×100-meter relay until nearly 1:30 p.m. following a 90-minute weather delay at Franklin Field.

LSU cruised to an easy victory in their qualifying heat as senior Kenyanna Wilson, junior Semoy Hackett, junior Rebecca Alexander and sophomore Kimberlyn Duncan carried the stick around the oval and across the finish line in 44.21 seconds for the third-fastest time of the afternoon.

The Championship of America final in the women’s 4×100-meter relay will run Friday at noon CDT with LSU competing for its 13th Penn Relays title all-time in the event against the likes of two-time defending champion Texas A&M (43.67), Central Florida (43.79), Houston (44.41), South Carolina (44.78), Auburn (44.82), Clemson (44.95) and Tennessee (45.20). The Lady Tigers last won the event crown in 2008 when they set the existing Penn Relays meet record of 42.59 in an exciting win over Texas A&M (42.69).

The Lady Tigers then wrapped up Thursday’s qualifying with an impressive win in the second prelim heat of the women’s 4×400-meter relay after running 3 minutes, 35.79 seconds.

LSU’s squad of Alexander, sophomore Latoya McDermott, junior Jonique Day and junior Cassandra Tate finished well ahead of Penn State (3:38.06) in the heat with the third-fastest time of the preliminary round on Thursday. The Lady Tigers trailed only Texas A&M (3:34.57) and Texas (3:35.73) in qualifying.

In the first Championship of America relay final of the 117th Penn Relay Carnival, the Lady Tigers posted a 10th-place finish in the women’s distance medley relay with a time of 11:20.15.

That performance is the second-fastest in school history in the women’s distance medley relay as the team of sophomore Charlene Lipsey (3:26.08) on the 1,200-meter leg, sophomore Siedda Herbert (55.01) on the 400-meter leg, senior Brittany Hall (2:08.07) on the 800-meter leg and sophomore Laura Carleton (4:49.07) on the mile anchor leg competed in the first Championship of America final of the Penn Relays.

While running 11:20.15 on Thursday evening, the foursome still finished just over nine seconds of LSU’s 26-year old school record of 11:10.94 in the event set during the 1985 season by former Lady Tigers Muffy McLeod, Wendy Truvillion, Camille Cato and Christine Slythe.

Carleton then returned to the track in the final event of the night for the Lady Tigers with an appearance at Franklin Field in the Olympic Development women’s 5,000-meter run.

Perhaps feeding off the momentum of her anchor leg on the DMR, Carleton became the third-fastest Lady Tiger all-time in the outdoor 5,000 meters after running 16:41.09 for a sixth-place finish. By running such a time, Carleton slashed more than 24 seconds off of her previous personal record of 17:05.54 that she set in a victory two weeks ago at the Hurricane Alumni Invitational in Miami.

“Our athletes really did a great job in each of our three relays today,” Shaver said. “In both sprint relays, I thought our athletes did what we needed them to do to put our team in a position to compete in both finals these next two days. And there’s only one DMR we’ve ever put together that is faster than what our ladies accomplished this evening. We really did a great job of competing in some difficult conditions today.”

Freshman Karen Henning was LSU’s top performer in the field events on Thursday afternoon after taking fourth place in the women’s championship hammer throw with a top throw of 178 feet, 10 inches.

Lady Tiger junior Brieanna Kennedy followed Henning in sixth place at 177-0 in the championship event. Fellow junior Samia Stokes (157-11) took 15th place in the college section of the women’s hammer throw.

Also making her Penn Relays debut for the Lady Tigers on Thursday was freshman Annie Simoneaux, as she made an appearance in the college women’s javelin throw championship. Simoneaux recorded her top throw of 141-11 on her sixth and final attempt en route to a fifth-place finish in her first Penn Relays.

Another Lady Tiger freshman made her collegiate debut at the Penn Relays, as SEC Indoor champion Jen Clayton placed sixth in the women’s long jump championship with a top wind-aided jump of 19-4 ¾ with her preliminary series. Junior Rachel Laurent, the 2009 Penn Relays champion, took seventh place overall in the women’s pole vault championship after clearing 12-11 ½ on the afternoon.

The Tigers will have their chance to advance into the Championship of America final in the men’s 4×100-meter relay Friday’s qualifying round at 11:35 p.m. CDT in LSU’s first event on the track. The Tigers and Lady Tigers will compete for the first time Friday morning in the field events as both the men’s pole vault and women’s triple jump are scheduled to begin at 9 a.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.

The program eclipsed two social media milestones prior to the team’s first event at this year’s Penn Relay Carnival on Thursday morning by surpassing 2,600 fans on Facebook and 1,000 followers on Twitter as it currently stands at 2,610 Facebook fans and 1,004 Twitter followers.