Track and Field Opens Up 2021 Season at Home
Baton Rouge, La. – The LSU track and field program kicks off the 2021 indoor season on Saturday as it hosts the LSU Purple Tiger Invitational at the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse. Due to COVID-19 protocols, spectators will not be allowed entry into the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse.
The Tigers are under the direction of head coach Dennis Shaver, who enters his 17th season at the helm of the LSU track and field program. This will mark the first track and field competition for LSU since February of 2020, when both the women’s and men’s team took second place at the SEC Championships.
Coaches Corner w/ Dennis Shaver
On the outlook for the 2021 season
“We have a really diverse team. We have athletes who can compete at a high level in all four of the main event areas (sprints/hurdles, jumps, distance, throws). When you put that all together, that’s what leads to success. It’s what our staff has been working for, and we look forward to making the most of it.”
On the approach the athletes have taken while training over the past several months
“I’ve been really pleased with the approach all of our athletes have taken. They’ve been training and preparing themselves while not really knowing if there was going to be an indoor season. They realize and recognize that they have to clock in and put in work on a daily basis. I admire the way they have handled their business.”
Purple Tiger Invitational
The meet will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the men’s weight throw and the final event of the meet will be the men’s 4×400 meter relay at 4:30 p.m. LSU is scheduled to have 38 athletes (20 women, 18 men) compete in the 2021 season opener.
Of those 38, 18 Tigers will make their LSU debuts on Saturday in the sport of track and field. A full competition guide can be viewed at the link above. LSU will be competing against UL-Lafayette, ULM, UNO, Nicholls State, SELU, and Southern.
JuVaughn Harrison, a 2x national champion and 2019 Bowerman semifinalist, will open up his 2021 campaign by contesting the long jump on Saturday; Harrison owns a PR of 26′ 7.25″ in the long jump, which is the fourth farthest in LSU history indoors. Lisa Gunnarsson, the LSU school record holder and 2020 SEC indoor champion, gets her senior season going by competing in the pole vault; her indoor career best is a clearance of 14′ 9.50″ that she registered in 2019.
A quartet of hurdlers to keep your eye on Saturday will be Damion Thomas, Alia Armstrong, Milan Young, and Leah Phillips. Armstrong, a sophomore, owns the third fastest 60 meter hurdle readout in program history with a 7.95 that she ran during her freshman campaign, and Thomas owns the fourth-fastest 60 hurdle time in school history on the men’s side with a 7.66 from his sophomore season that he ran at altitude. Other SEC points scorers from a year ago that will be in action include Jake Norris (weight throw), Abigail O’Donoghue (high jump), Symone Mason (60 meters), Nyagoa Bayak (high jump) and Davis Bove (800 meters). O’Donoghue is the LSU school record holder indoors in the high jump with a personal best clearance of 6′ 2.25″ from the 2020 season.
2021 Season Primer
LSU enters the 2021 season with 15 returning athletes who garnered All-America honors to close the 2020 indoor season. LSU also returns three SEC indoor champions from a year ago to the 2021 roster: JuVaughn Harrison (high jump), Lisa Gunnarsson (pole vault), and Terrance Laird (200 meters). Harrison is a three-time SEC champion if you combine indoor and outdoor track and field, while the SEC titles were the first of their career for Laird and Gunnarsson.
In addition to the SEC individual champions, LSU brings back 12 athletes who scored points at the 2020 SEC Indoor Championships. Podium finishers Abigail O’Donoghue (high jump/second place), Katy-Ann McDonald (800 meters/second place), Eric Edwards Jr. (60 meter hurdles/second place), Jake Norris (weight throw/second place), Thelma Davies (60 meters/third place), Symone Mason (200 meters/third place), Amber Anning (400 meters/third place), and Damion Thomas (60 meter hurdles/third place) are back and will look to better their placing from a year ago. Davies and Mason also scored in multiple events with Davies garnering fourth in the 200 meters and Mason placing fourth in the 60 meters at the conference meet a year ago. Tyler Terry (400 meters), Alia Armstrong (60 meter hurdles), Davis Bove (mile) and Nyagoa Bayak (high jump) are the other returning scorers.
Before the 2020 season ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, LSU had 21 athletes scheduled to represent the Purple and Gold in Albuquerque, N.M., at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Of those 21, 15 return to the LSU track and field squad for the indoor season. The other six – Tonea Marshall, Rayvon Grey, Brittley Humphrey, Dylan Peebles, Mercy Abire Matanmi, and Akanni Hislop – will compete for LSU during the outdoor season in 2021.