Preview: Track & Field at NCAA Indoor Championships

by Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
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Preview: Track & Field at NCAA Indoor Championships

BATON ROUGE – The LSU Track & Field teams are ready to wrap up the 2014 indoor season this weekend with a return trip to Albuquerque, N.M., as the Tigers and Lady Tigers have combined for 10 qualifiers into the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships being held Friday and Saturday at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

The Albuquerque Convention Center will play host to the NCAA Indoor Championships for the first time after hosting each of the last five USA Indoor Championships since the 2010 season.

Live results of the two days of competition at the NCAA Indoor Championships will be provided by Flash Results and can be found online at will also provide live streaming video of the championship on Friday beginning at 6:55 p.m. CT and Saturday beginning at 6:50 p.m. ESPNU will also televise a two-hour tape-delay broadcast of the 2014 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships to a national television audience on Saturday, March 22, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. CT.

It marks the second time that the Tigers and Lady Tigers will compete in Albuquerque this season as they make their return after also competing at the New Mexico Team Invitational on Feb. 1. The Lady Tigers won the women’s team title and the Tigers finished runner-up in the final men’s team standings in the 10-team field at this year’s New Mexico Team Invitational.

Freshman Nataliyah Friar will kick off the NCAA Championships for the Lady Tigers on Friday night at 7 p.m. CT as she steps onto the runway for the qualifying flights of the women’s long jump. Juniors Vernon Norwood and Quincy Downing and sophomore Darrell Bush will be the first Tigers to compete when they line up in the semifinal round of the men’s 400-meter dash on Friday at 7:55 p.m.

Saturday’s action continues at 7 p.m. CT as senior Lynnika Pitts will make her third-straight NCAA Championships appearance in the triple jump, followed by the first championship final on the track at 7:30 p.m.

The Lady Tigers enter the meet riding an impressive streak of four-straight third-place team finishes at the NCAA Indoor Championships as they once again took home the bronze trophy a year ago when they tallied up 43 points for a third-place finish in the event held at Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Center. The LSU women are the No. 8-ranked squad nationally entering the event in the wake of Monday’s release by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association of its final Top 25 power ranking of the 2014 indoor season.

After earning five-straight top-five team finishes from 2008-12, the Tigers took home a 15th-place team finish while totaling 15 points in the final men’s team standings a year ago. They have cracked the Top 20 at No. 20 nationally in the final USTFCCCA Top 25 men’s power ranking also released on Monday.

The Lady Tigers feature six qualifiers in six different events and the Tigers bring four qualifiers in two different events to Albuquerque for a combined 10 qualifiers into the NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend.

Two Lady Tigers enter the meet as national championship contenders in their respective events as Hinton and fellow senior Jasmin Stowers are each the No. 2-ranked performer nationally in their event. Hinton defended her SEC Indoor title in the weight throw with a personal-best throw of 73 feet, 11 inches to move into the No. 2 spot in the NCAA rankings in the event. Stowers is the NCAA’s No. 2-ranked performer for the 60-meter hurdles with her top time this year of 8.01 seconds set in winning the SEC Indoor silver medal two weeks ago.

Stowers has earned All-America honors as an NCAA scorer in the sprint hurdles in each of the last two seasons, including her career best bronze-medal-winning third-place finish at the NCAA Indoor meet a year ago.

Two other Lady Tigers will head to the meet with Top 10 national rankings in the jumps as Pitts is the NCAA’s No. 5-ranked triple jumper with her lifetime personal best of 44-0 ¾ set in taking home a bronze medal from the SEC Indoor Championships and Friar is tied as the NCAA’s No. 9-ranked long jumper with her lifetime best of 20-8 set earlier in the 2014 indoor season.

Pitts earned her first career All-America honor in the triple jump at last year’s NCAA Indoor Championships when she earned a seventh-place finish nationally to score two points for the Lady Tigers in the event.

Also smashing her lifetime best at the SEC Indoor Championships was senior Nikita Tracey, who slashed more than four seconds off of her previous seasonal best in the 800-meter run during the event by taking fourth place in the conference final with a PR of 2 minutes, 5.28 seconds to rank No. 11 nationally in the NCAA Championships field.

Tracey will also lead a youthful 4×400-meter relay team for the Lady Tigers that also features sophomore Chanice Chase and freshmen Bealoved Brown and Jada Martin as they enter the meet with a No. 11 ranking this season with a best of 3:34.89. It marks the debut appearance for Brown, Chase and Martin at the NCAA Indoor Championships during their Lady Tiger careers.

The Tigers will also be led at this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships by their stable of 400-meter runners as they join Florida as the only two teams to qualify three runners in the field of 16 for the two-lap race.

Norwood headlines LSU’s NCAA Championships qualifiers after running a blistering lifetime PR of 45.39 to win the SEC Indoor bronze medal with the third-fastest time in the NCAA and fourth-fastest time in the World ranking in 2014. Norwood will be joined in the field by Downing and Bush after both ran indoor PRs of 46.21 and 46.28, respectively, in the SEC final back on March 1.

Bush, Downing and Norwood will also be joined by sophomore Cyril Grayson in forming an NCAA title contender in the 4×400-meter relay after they ran a seasonal best of 3:04.04 at the SEC Indoor Championships to go to the NCAA Championships as the nation’s third-fastest relay foursome during the 2014 season.

LSU’s 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships Qualifiers

Athlete, Event, Top Mark/Time (NCAA Rank)
Darrell Bush, 400 Meters, 46.28 (16)
Quincy Downing, 400 Meters, 46.21 (15)
Vernon Norwood, 400 Meters, 45.39 (3)
Darrell Bush, Quincy Downing, Cyril Grayson, Vernon Norwood; 4×400 Relay; 3:04.04 (3)

Athlete, Event, Top Mark/Time (NCAA Rank)
Nataliyah Friar, Long Jump, 20-8 (T9)
Denise Hinton, Weight Throw, 73-11 (2)
Lynnika Pitts, Triple Jump, 44-0 ¾ (5)
Jasmin Stowers, 60 Hurdles, 8.01 (2)
Nikita Tracey, 800 Meters, 2:05.28 (11)
Jada Martin, Nikita Tracey, Bealoved Brown, Chanice Chase; 4×400 Relay; 3:34.89 (11)