Battle on the Bayou Preview: The Teams

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Battle on the Bayou Preview: The Teams

BATON ROUGE – The 2012 outdoor season will heat up this weekend as the LSU Track & Field teams prepare to host the second-annual “Battle on the Bayou” on Saturday at Bernie Moore Stadium as they are set to welcome eight programs to Baton Rouge for what is sure to be an exciting scored competition.

Both the Tigers and Lady Tigers will compete with No. 2 national rankings this weekend at the “Battle on the Bayou” following a release of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Top 25 national power ranking for the first time during the outdoor season on Tuesday.

The “Battle on the Bayou” will feature six nationally-ranked programs this weekend, as the Tigers will be joined by No. 7 Texas Tech, No. 9 Mississippi State and No. 20 Iowa and the Lady Tigers will compete at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium with the likes of No. 10 Texas Tech.

Rounding out the men’s field are Connecticut, Houston, Illinois, Missouri and Penn State, while Houston, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi State, Missouri and Penn State will also compete for the women’s title.

The “Battle on the Bayou” heats up Saturday at 1:45 p.m. CDT following a brief opening ceremony while the morning session is set for a 10 a.m. start at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium. Below is a breakdown of the teams and athletes that are sure to headline Saturday’s competition in Baton Rouge. Teams listed with Wednesday’s preview are in alphabetical order.

Connecticut

The Connecticut Huskies make the trip to Baton Rouge for the “Battle on the Bayou” this weekend as one of the premier men’s programs in the Northeast following a 2012 indoor season that saw them capture the seventh-straight New England Championship for their squad, as well as runner-up finishes at both the Big East Indoor Championships and IC4A Indoor Championships.

Leading the Huskies this year are senior Kyle Duggan, junior Noel James, sophomore Darnell Cummings and freshman school-record holder Amanze Williams.

James was the team’s top-ranked performer nationally during the 2012 indoor season as his best of 7 feet, 3 inches in the high jump was the NCAA’s No. 16-ranked performance of the campaign. Williams set the indoor school record in the long jump with his season best of 24-11 ¾. Cummings has proven himself as the team’s top sprinter after finishing the indoor season with a PR of 6.79 in the 60 meters, while Duggan cleared a best of 17-0 ¾ in the pole vault indoors.

Houston

The Houston Cougars have established themselves among the premier programs in Conference USA with the guidance of head coach Leroy Burrell. They compete outdoors after claiming a second-place finish by the men and third-place finish by the women at the 2012 CUSA Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Junior All-American Errol Nolan is the star for the Cougars as one of the NCAA’s elite performers for the both the 200-meter dash and 400-meter dash. He is set to compete in the 200-meter dash on Saturday with a seasonal-best time of 20.79 that ranks No. 12 in the NCAA rankings this spring.

Nolan is coming off an All-America campaign indoors while earning a sixth-place finish in the 400-meter dash at the NCAA Indoor Championships. He owns a lifetime PR of 45.59 in the event.

The Cougars also feature the NCAA’s No. 10-ranked long jumper entering the weekend as senior Thomas Lang has posted a seasonal-best mark of 24-11 ¾ in 2012.

The Houston women feature the No. 10-ranked 4×100-meter relay team in the country this season with an impressive seasonal best of 44.09. They are also led by a pair of NCAA Indoor qualifiers in senior jumper Tai’Shea Reese and junior multi-event standout Megan Frausto.

Illinois

Illinois features one of the stars of Saturday’s “Battle on the Bayou” in senior hurdler Andrew Riley, who is a two-time NCAA champion during his collegiate career with the Fighting Illini.

Riley, who owns a wind-legal PR of 13.32 in the 110-meter hurdles, is a former national champion for the 110 hurdles outdoors in 2010 and 60 hurdles indoors in 2011. He is set to debut outdoors this weekend for the Fighting Illini following another sensational indoor campaign that saw him earn a pair of All-America accolades with a second-place finish for the 60-meter dash and fourth-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships just a few weeks ago.

Riley’s 13 points between the 60 meters and 60 hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships gave Illinois a 13th-place finish in the final men’s team standings to wrap up the indoor season.

That performance is what has earned him consideration for The Bowerman in each of the last two seasons as he is once again a member of the men’s watch list for 2012. Riley is scheduled to compete in both the 110-meter hurdles and 200-meter dash at Bernie Moore Stadium on Saturday.

The Illinois women will be led by two athletes who enter the competition with performances that rank among the Top 10 of the national list through three weeks of the outdoor season. Freshman Ashley Spencer leads the way with the nation’s No. 2-ranked time in the 200-meter dash this season with a wind-legal run of 23.08, while senior Latoya Griffith currently ranks No. 9 nationally in the 400 hurdles with an effort of 58.68 as her seasonal best this spring.

Iowa

The Iowa Hawkeyes feature one of the top men’s teams in the country for 2012 as they compete outdoors after earning a tie for 15th place nationally in the final team standings at the NCAA Indoor Championships held March 9-10 at the Jacksons Indoor Track in Nampa, Idaho.

That’s where seniors Erik Sowinski and Troy Doris combined for 11 points with their performances in the 800 meters and triple jump, respectively, in earning All-America honors during the indoor season.

Sowinski, who has run a lifetime personal best of 1:47.83 during the 2011 outdoor season, claimed bronze with his third-place finish in the men’s 800-meter final with his time of 1:48.93 after setting an indoor PR of 1:47.90 to qualify for the national meet. He also placed at the NCAA Indoor meet in 2011 with a fourth place nationally for his first career All-America honor in the event.

Doris is one of the nation’s leading horizontal jumpers as he opens up his outdoor season in both events at the “Battle on the Bayou”. With a lifetime PR of 54-0 to his credit in the triple jump, Doris picked up All-America honors during the 2012 indoor season with a fourth-place finish in the event at the national meet.

The Hawkeyes also feature one of the nation’s premier 4×400-meter relay teams this season as they own a top time of 3:06.49 to rank No. 9 in the NCAA in the event this spring.

Mississippi State

Perhaps the only team competing Saturday that features as much firepower as the homestanding Tigers is Mississippi State, as the Bulldogs boast three Top 5 and six Top 10 performers in the nation through three weeks of the 2012 outdoor season as they make the trip to Baton Rouge.

Former World Indoor gold medalist Tavaris Tate is the star for the Bulldogs as one of the top sprinters for the collegiate level in both the 200-meter dash and 400-meter dash. In fact, he is currently the No. 2-ranked 400-meter runner in the NCAA as he lines up in the event on Saturday with a seasonal-best time at 46.07 set two weeks ago at the SEC/Big Ten Challenge. Tate owns a lifetime PR of 44.86 in the open 400 that was set during his freshman campaign in 2010.

Freshman Jarrett Samuels has emerged as an All-America threat following his victory at the Texas Relays on Saturday, where he posted the NCAA’s leading performance under all conditions this spring with a top wind-aided mark of 26-2 ¼ en route to the victory.

In addition, senior Emanuel Mayers has the NCAA’s No. 6-ranked time in the 400-meter hurdles at 50.68, while sophomore Marcus Jackson owns the NCAA’s No. 7-ranked mark in the high jump at 7-2 ½.

The Bulldogs also feature two of the nation’s elite relay teams as they enter Saturday’s competition with a No. 3-ranked time in the 4×100 relay at 39.17 and a No. 7-ranked time in the 4×400 relay at 3:05.58 in the NCAA for 2012. They earned All-America honors indoors in the mile relay after finishing in fourth place in the event in the national final at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

The Mississippi State women are led by the likes of junior Keisha Wallace and freshman Eric Bougard, as each rank among the NCAA’s Top 10 in their respective events this season.

Wallace is off to a fast start outdoors as one of the NCAA’s leading sprint hurdlers to this point as her top wind-aided time of 12.97 from the Texas Relays ranks No. 5 among all hurdlers nationwide this spring on the NCAA’s all conditions rankings. Bougard, who is set to compete in the 100 hurdles and 400 meters in the meet, is the No. 9-ranked heptathlete in the NCAA after scoring 5,382 points at the Texas Relays.

Bougard was the team’s lone qualifier for the NCAA Indoor Championships, where she almost scored her first points in a national competition with a 10th-place finish overall in the pentathlon.

Senior Favian Cowards, who was crowned the SEC Indoor Champion in the women’s weight throw in the indoor season, will challenge for the hammer throw title on Saturday afternoon.

Missouri

This weekend’s “Battle on the Bayou” features a deep field in the men’s 800-meter run, and among those ready to make their 2012 outdoor debut on Saturday is Missouri junior Ricky West.

After setting a lifetime personal record of 1:47.81 during the indoor season, West was the lone Tiger who earned All-America honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships with his eighth-place finish for the event final run at the Jacksons Indoor Track in Nampa, Idaho, back in March.

The Missouri men also feature one of the NCAA’s leading long jumpers as fellow junior Malcolm Pinnix owns the No. 4-ranked performance nationwide under all conditions for the 2012 outdoor season which is a seasonal-best wind-aided mark of 25-5 ¼ set in a fourth-place finish at the Texas Relays on Saturday.

The Missouri women feature a pair of NCAA Top 10 performers of their own as they have been led so far this season by the likes of senior Leslie Farmer and freshman Kearsten Peoples. Peoples already owns her seasonal best of 56-11 ½ in the shot put to rank No. 3 nationally in the event, while Farmer has clocked an outdoor best of 58.06 in the 400-meter hurdles to rank No. 7 in the NCAA in her specialty.

Penn State

The Penn State Nittany Lions certainly pack a punch as they are set to debut one of the NCAA’s premier 4×400-meter relay teams outdoors at the “Battle on the Bayou” this weekend after wrapping up the indoor season as the NCAA silver medalists in the event at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

While running with a foursome of Aaron Nadolsky, Brandon Bennett-Green, Casimir Loxsom and Brady Gehret, the Nittany Lions scored eight points with a second-place finish overall at the NCAA Indoor meet as they clocked a seasonal-best time of 3:05.31 in the national final.

Gehret and Loxsom are two of the nation’s leading athletes returning to the NCAA ranks in their events in 2012 following an All-America campaign a season ago.

Gehret will make his outdoor debut in the 400-meter dash this weekend as he has run an outdoor personal best of 46.69 during his freshman campaign a season ago. Loxsom, a junior who owns a lifetime PR of 1:45.28 in the 800-meter run, will also open up in the event outdoors this weekend in the wake of a strong 2011 campaign in which he placed fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Freshman middle distance star Robby Creese is set to join Loxsom in his season opener in the 800 meters on Saturday after competing in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Creese emerged as one of the NCAA’s top young middle distance runners indoors this season after breaking the collegiate record in the 1,000 meters with a top time of 2:19.53 in the event en route to Big 10 Freshman of the Year honors.

The Nittany Lions also feature one of the NCAA’s premier shot putters in senior Joe Kovacs, who owns a seasonal-best mark of 62-5 for the No. 7-ranked performance in the NCAA for 2012.

The Penn State women have been led throughout the 2012 season by junior sprint hurdler Evonne Britton, who was an NCAA Indoor qualifier in the 60-meter hurdles earlier this season. Britton has run a personal best of 13.11 in the 100-meter hurdles during her collegiate career.

Texas Tech

The Red Raiders feature one of the premier combined programs in collegiate track and field with the 2012 outdoor season as the men rank No. 7 and the women rank No. 10 in the country in this week’s power rankings released on Tuesday morning by the USTFCCCA.

Junior All-American Bryce Lamb is the leader of the Texas Tech men, as he enters the weekend as one of the NCAA’s leading long jumpers for the 2012 season. After earning a fourth-place finish in the lone jump final at the NCAA Indoor Championships, Lamb is already off to a fast start outdoors as he has set a seasonal-best wind-aided mark of 26-0 ¾ that currently ranked No. 2 on the NCAA all conditions list.

The Red Raiders also feature the NCAA’s No. 2-ranked performer in the 110-meter hurdles in the form of fellow junior Shane Brathwaite, who finished runner-up to LSU senior Barrett Nugent in the final at the Texas Relays on Saturday with a seasonal-best wind-aided time of 13.43. Brathwaite also owns the No. 9-ranked time in the NCAA this season in the 400-meter hurdles with a seasonal best of 50.90.

In addition, senior Jamele Mason ranks No. 5 nationally in the 400 hurdles with his best of 50.57 in 2012, while senior All-American Gil Roberts ranks No. 6 under all conditions in the 200-meter dash with a best of 20.61. Roberts also owns a strong PR of 44.86 in the 400-meter dash.

The Texas Tech women have made their mark in the field events as five athletes currently rank among the Top 10 of the NCAA rankings in their respective events.

Junior Shade Weygandt leads the way as one of the nation’s premier pole vaulter as her best clearance for the event at 14-3 ¼ is tied for the No. 3 spot on the national performance list for 2012.

In the shot put, junior Ifeatu Okafor has thrown the NCAA’s No. 6-ranked mark at 55-1 ½, while senior teammate Kelly Closse follows in the No. 9 spot on the national list with her seasonal best of 54-2 ½. The Red Raiders are also led by impact freshman Hannah Carson in the javelin with her No. 8-ranked mark in the country this season at 166-10.

Both teams also feature two of the NCAA’s leading 4×100-meter relay teams as the Red Raider men have a top time of 39.23 to rank No. 4 and the Red Raider women have run a best of 44.18 to rank No. 8 for the event nationally this spring. The women also boast the No. 3-ranked 4×400-meter relay team in 2012 with a seasonal best of 3:32.36 set just four days ago at the Texas Relays.