Lady Tigers Run Away With Team Title in NYC

LSU Track & Field
NEW YORK -- The top-ranked LSU women’s track and field team enjoyed another record-setting day of competition at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational as they blew away the rest of the field to win the team title Friday at The Armory Track and Field Center.

The Lady Tigers wracked up 104 points over the course of two days to win their first team title since 2005 and their fifth all-time at one of the premier collegiate meets of the indoor season. The third-ranked Texas A&M Aggies finished a distant second with 62 points for the meet.

The 12th-ranked Tigers scored 53 points to place third in the men’s standings, while it was Texas winning the team title with 78 points and Kentucky finishing runner-up with 58 points.

LSU cemented its place among the national title contenders as the squads combined for eight new NCAA qualifiers on the weekend, including three automatic qualifiers and five provisional qualifiers. They also set three meet records and two school records over the course of two days.

“In all of the meets that I’ve been a part of at LSU, I can’t remember a better performance from our team this early in the season,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “Both teams showed up ready to compete this weekend and performed very well. You can see that we’re starting to build momentum for the championship season, and we have to keep that going next weekend.

“I’m especially pleased with our women and the way they competed this weekend. I was upset for them that they were not able to win the team championship here a year ago, but they showed up and really dominated this year. That was as close to a perfect meet as we could have.”

Senior All-American Kelly Baptiste was honored for her outstanding performance as she was the recipient of this year’s Female Athlete of the Meet award during the post-meet awards ceremony.

After setting a new meet record with an NCAA leading time of 7.17 seconds in the 60-meter dash on Friday night, Baptiste followed with a runner-up in the 200-meter competition on Saturday as she crossed the finish line with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 23.46 in the event.

Sophomore LaTavia Thomas led the way for the Lady Tigers on the final day of the competition as she became the third LSU athlete to set a meet record on the weekend. Thomas shattered her own indoor personal record in the 800 meters in winning the event title with an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 2 minutes, 4.66 seconds in her season debut.

Thomas eclipsed the previous meet record of 2:04.97 that was set in 2004 by LSU great Neisha Bernard-Thomas as she is now the nation’s top performer in the event this season.

 “I don’t really set high expectations for myself when I go into a meet. I always just try to go out there and run the best race that I can,” Thomas said. “It’s exciting to set a record at a meet like this and know that I’m already going to the NCAA Championships after my first race. I think that just shows how hard I’ve worked since last year to get better.”

Fellow sophomore John Kosgei enjoyed a record-setting performance of his own as he led the Tigers’ effort on the final day of the competition. Kosgei made his LSU debut in the 3,000-meter run and set a new school record in the event after crossing the finish line in 7:55.49.

Kosgei, who is now a strong NCAA provisional qualifier in both the mile and 3,000 meters, shattered the 19-year-old mark of 7:56.66 that was set by LSU distance great Terry Thornton way back in 1989. The Kenyan missed an NCAA automatic qualifying mark by less than one second.

“We’re going to really count on John this year and what he’s going to give us in the distance events,” Shaver said. “Becoming the school-record holder in his first 3,000-meter race here at LSU is all you need to know about how talented of a runner he is. He certainly gives us some depth in an event area where we haven’t had a whole lot of guys compete nationally in the past.”

In addition, four other LSU standouts clocked their first NCAA provisional qualifying times of the season during Saturday’s competition.

Juniors Reuben Twijukye and Kayann Thompson were provisional qualifiers in the 800 meters with times of 1:50.33 and 2:07.52, respectively, in their season debuts. Senior Brooklynn Morris qualified provisionally in the 200 meters (23.78) and senior Deonna Lawrence was a provisional qualifier in the 400 meters (54.34).

Junior All-American Andrea Linton highlighted the Lady Tigers’ effort in the field on Saturday as she matched her indoor PR in the triple jump with a mark of 43 feet, 4 ¼ inches, improving her already established NCAA provisional qualifying mark with the fifth-best jump in the NCAA.

The Tigers and Lady Tigers head back on the road next weekend as they travel to the Randal Tyson Track center in Fayetteville, Ark., for the second time this season to compete in the Tyson Invitational hosted by the University of Arkansas. The two-day meet gets underway on Friday with the final day of the competition is scheduled for Saturday.