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    SEC Track And Field Roundup: January 12

    South Carolina Wins 11 in Season Opener

    COLUMBIA, S.C.- The South Carolina track and field team started their season with several personal bests in 11 wins in the first of two USC Indoor Open meets that will be held at the USC Indoor Complex in January. Senior Breanna Radford highlighted the day, recording new personal bests in both the weight throw and the shot put.
    “It was a meet where we could extend our practice, open the season and get rid of the jitters.  As we go in the season, it gets more intense.  We go from an anthill to a molehill to a mountaintop.  We had a couple freshmen run well in the hurdles – (Jermaine) Collier and (Dondre) Echols.  I’m excited about that.  Kierre (Beckles) had a good opener in the hurdles.  We had another good hurdler in (Chelese) Davis.  We also had some distance kids on this square track have some personal bests. We had good things happen.  Bre (Breanna Radford) opened with a personal best.  This is just something that we build on, “ said head coach Curtis Frye of the day. 
    The Gamecocks kicked off the day by sweeping the weight throw competition behind personal bests by senior Breanna Radford and sophomore Andrew Seay.  Radford threw for 56-10 (17.32m) while Seay recorded a 56-05.75 (17.21m).  Radford bested her prior personal best by over two feet and Seay by over three.  Sophomore Walker Selby also marked a personal best of 51-00.25 (15.55m) in the weight throw to take third in the section. 
    Multiple freshmen made an impact in their first time competing in the distance events for the Garnet and Black. In the women’s mile run, freshman Lannon McCoy finished in second with a time of 5:46.33 and sophomore Daniel Novak posted a win in the men’s section with a time of 4:43.94. Freshman Anna Todd won the 800-meter dash, running a 2:25.99 on the women’s side and freshman Drew Galang took the men’s section with a 2:05.86. Setting a new PR, freshman Lauren Kahre recorded a 10:50.07 in the 3,000-meter run.  Freshman Christine Kent crossed the finish line just behind her at 10:54.52. 
    In the sprints, the Gamecocks earned three wins in four events.  Senior Kierre Beckles got things going for South Carolina in the 55-meter hurdles, recording the top time in the prelims (7.70) and following up the performance with a 7.74 in the finals to lead a 1-2-3 finish for the Gamecocks in both the prelims and the finals.  Sophomore Chalese Davis crossed the line at 8.02 and freshman Tyler Brockington improved her prelim time of 8.42 to an 8.28 to place third. Two South Carolina freshmen took second and third in the men’s section.  Dondre Echols finished in 7.38 and Jermaine Collier hit 7.56 to take third.
    In the men’s 55-meter dash, sophomore Kendall Kee led the way, getting the win with a 6.29.  Junior Chris Royster was just behind him with a time of 6.33 and sophomore Eric Winfrey was the third Gamecock in the top four with a 6.45. On the women’s side, sophomore Christal Green recorded a 7.28 to post the win.  Freshman Gabrielle Gray added another top-3 to the Gamecock’s day, taking the third spot recording a 7.33. 
    Later in the day, Radford recorded her second personal best, this time in the shot put.  Radford launched for 52-02.50 (15.91m) to earn her second win of the day. Sophomore Kaysee Sullivan completed a 1-2 finish for the Gamecocks in the event. 
    Junior Petra Olsen won the women’s pole vault with a 3.90m to lead a pack of four Gamecocks.  Olsen was followed by juniors Tylar Mangan and Kelly Fischer and sophomore Ashley Cady. The men’s pole vault will resume this evening at 7:30 p.m (check back to for results later tonight).
    The Gamecocks will travel to Birmingham, Ala., next weekend for the Auburn Invitational at the CrossPlex Indoor Track & Field Center. 

    Tennessee Wins Three at UK Invite

    LEXINGTON, Ky. - The University of Tennessee track & field team matched last season's total by producing five event wins, including three on the final day, to conclude the Kentucky Invitational at Nutter Field House in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday.
    "This was a good starting meet for us," said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country J.J. Clark. "It gives us an early placement for where we are and where we have to go. We've got work to do, but plenty of time to get there. We accomplished some good things."
    Senior Lady Vol Nijgia Snapp highlighted the action for the women by defending her 800-meter title. The Mays Landing, N.J., native crossed the line in 2 minutes, 9.68 seconds to take the title, while fellow Lady Vols Kianna Ruff and Alexis Panisse finished the event in third and fourth place in 2:11.19 and 2:11.46, respectively.
    "Nijgia is very talented. I'm not surprised she won the 800," Clark said. "She looked good and hopefully can continue that throughout the season."
    In his first collegiate meet, freshman Jacob Blankenship posted a huge number in pole vault, eclipsing a personal-best 17-feet, 8 1/2-inches to notch the third win of the meet for the Vols. Blakenship was just off the Tennessee freshman indoor record clip of 18-0 1/2 set by Lawrence Johnson in 1993. The Blacklick, Ohio, native's mark ties him for eighth all-time in the UT indoor record book.
    "Jake had some really good attempts at 18-1 and a great opener with a PR," said Clark. "It really shows he's going to do great things for us and I look forward to seeing him develop in the future."
    Just like the distance medley relay team concluded the opening day of the season, the Vols 4x400-meter relay squad cruised to a first-place finish in the final event of the meet. Senior Terry Benson kicked off the event and redshirt freshman Antonio Carter regained control for the Orange and White with a great second leg. Senior Breon Dixon and sophomore Michael Williams put the finishing touches on the event to cross the line in 3:15.99 and give the Vols their fourth win of the Invitational.
    "It was a good training effort for our men's 4x400," Clark said. "They got good work in and were able to pull off a victory at the same time."
    The Vols added four runner-up finishes and three third-place marks on the final day of competition, while the Lady Vols' Amber Zimmerman placed third in a very fast 3000m. Zimmerman posted a career-best time of 9:48.62, while teammates Kelsey Kane and Chelsea Blaase also picked up PRs in the event.
    Benson finished second in the 60m hurdles in 8.17 seconds, while fellow sprinters Jamol James and Arnez Hardnick came in 2-3 in the 60m dash. James and Hardnick finished in 6.75 and 6.89, respectively. Hardnick added a second-place finish in the 200m sprint with a personal-record 21.54. Jarael Nelvis finished third in the 200m in 21.55 seconds.
    First-year Vol and cross country All-American Peter Okwera highlighted the Vols' distance performances with a runner-up finish in the 3000m in 8 minutes, 18.48 seconds.
    Two former Lady Vols, which were competing in the event unattached, came up big in the women's mile. Tennessee greats Phoebe Wright and Chanelle Price finished 2-3 behind the Southeastern Conference's cross country champion Cally Macumber of Kentucky. The former UT duo recorded a 4:45.94 and 4:47.33 readout, respectively.
    UT got fourth-place finishes from Allison Outerbridge in the women's triple jump, as she tied a career-best with a leap of 38-11 1/2. In the field, the Vols' Tavis Bailey recorded a personal record with a shot put toss of 57-1 1/2 to place fourth and Lady Vol junior Aslynn Halvorson finished fifth in the women's shot put.
    For more information about the Tennessee track & field team, follow @Vol_Track on Twitter or visit

    Kentucky Wraps Up Day Two of Invite

    LEXINGTON, Ky. – Bradley Szypka and Darryl Bradshaw dazzled the home crowd in Nutter Field House as both took event titles on Saturday at the Kentucky Invitational.
    Szypka won the shot put for the second consecutive meet with a personal record mark of 18:36m/60-03.00. The mark further strengthened his hold on the No. 3 shot put mark in the nation this season as of Friday evening.
    Cally Macumber won the mile in PR time of 4:42.30, as she pulled away from a field, which included two unattached runners who competed at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials competitors at 800 meters.
    Bradshaw won the men's 60-meter hurdles in 8:07.

    Vandy Rounds Out Kentucky Invite

    LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Vanderbilt track team finished action at the Kentucky Invitational, highlighted by performances in the 3,000 meters.
    In the 3,000 meters, senior Allie Scalf led seven Vanderbilt runners in the top 14, placing fourth with a time of 9:51.38. Amira Joseph placed sixth with a time of 9:54.16, followed by Grace Orders in eighth (10:07.20), Vanessa Valentine in ninth (10:07.90) and Rebecca Chandler rounding out the top 10 (10:11.35).
    Megan Yohe finished 12th in 10:26.36, while Claire Benjamin was 14th with a time of 10:35.26.
    In the 60 meter hurdles, Jennifer Cannon and Janetra Gleaves both reached the finals. In the prelims, Cannon was fifth with a time of 8.74, while Gleaves with sixth with a mark of 8.80. Gleaves posted a time of 8.68 to finish sixth in the finals, while Cannon was eighth with a time of 8.73.
    The mile saw Hannah Jumper get off to a solid start in 2013. The 2012 SEC Cross Country Freshman of the Year posted a time of 4:52.03 to finish fourth. She was followed across the line by fellow freshman Lily Williams in 5:00.36. Senior Kristen Findley was eighth in 5:04.04.
    Sara Barron placed fifth in the 800 meters, posting a mark of 2:12.69. Faith Washington had an impressive 200 meters time of 25.19 to finish 12th.
    "It was a very solid start to the new semester and the indoor season," Vanderbilt Head Coach Steve Keith said. "We had a number of PRs and five marks that now rank in the top-10 on the VU indoor list, as well as so very competitive places by Brionne in the high jump and the distance medley relay, both finishing second."
    Keith is very pleased with where the team is coming back from the winter break.
    "We saw a lot of progress, as well as getting a better idea of where we are in terms of fitness and technique," the coach said. "Two weeks of work before we head into three meets in-a-row will be very valuable. The team is very excited, showing good chemistry and they're ready to work hard."
    The Commodores are back in action January 25-26 when they travel to the Indiana Relays in Bloomington, Ind.

    Auburn Wins Three in Birmingham

    BIRMINGHAM – Auburn Track and Field earned three event titles and a 15-year-old school record fell on Saturday in the season opening Crimson Tide Indoor Opener on Saturday in the Birmingham CrossPlex.
    “It was a typical first meet for us,” Auburn head coach Ralph Spry said. We had some solid performances across the board, but we also have some kids that have some work to do. That’s pretty standard for the first meet. Overall, it was pretty solid across the board. It’s good to get the rust off the veterans and get the newcomers experience.”
    Leading the way were returning All-Americans Marcus Rowland and Kai Selvon in the men’s and women’s 60 meter races. Rowland had the top time in both rounds, emerging victorious with a mark of 6.64 seconds in the final.
    Rowland’s mark is the fastest 60m run recorded in the nation this season at legal elevation. Junior Keenan Brock (6.77 seconds) had the third-fastest time in the preliminary round, but did not run in the final.
    Selvon, a 2012 Olympian for Trinidad & Tobago, had the top time in the preliminary and final round of the women’s race, crossing the finish line in 7.44 seconds.
    Additionally, freshman Larissa Debich shattered Auburn’s previous freshman record in women’s pole vault with a mark of 12-1.5 feet (3.70m). The mark broke the previous record of 11-9.75 set by Hannah Johnson in 1998.
    Distance runners Niklas Buhner and Francis Hernandez came up big with a 1-2 finish in the men’s mile run. Buhner crossed the line first in 4:09.96, while Hernandez set a new PR in his first indoor race for Auburn with a mark of 4:11.84. Fifth-year senior Jeff Sanders was fifth in 4:18.70.
    In the men’s 3000 meters, Griffin Jaworski set a new personal best with a fourth-place finish in 8:29.05. Also setting a new PR was Samuel Mueller, who finished seventh in 8:33.89.
    In the throws, redshirt freshman Daina Levy placed third in the women’s weight throw with a long toss of 60-0.25 feet (18.29m). That mark is good for fourth in Auburn history. Fellow redshirt freshman Andrew Dunkleberger also came up big with a top throw of 58-3.25 feet (17.76m) to place fifth in the men’s event, a mark just outside the program’s top 10.
    Junior DJ Smith opened his third season on The Plains with second-place finish in the men’s high jump with a final clearance at 6-8.75 feet (2.05m). Senior Spencer Ferguson improved his career-best mark in the men’s 200 meters with a run of 22.12 seconds.
    Auburn’s next action is Saturday back in Birmingham at its lone home indoor meet of the season, the Auburn Indoor Invite.

    Bama Kicks Off Season With a Pair of Wins

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Two individual victories and the debuts of a bevy of newcomers highlighted action for University of Alabama track and field athletes as the Crimson Tide Track & Field team opened the 2013 indoor season by hosting the Crimson Tide Indoor Opener at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
    "I'll give it mixed reviews," said Alabama head coach Dan Waters. "We have a lot of new people, including a lot of freshmen, but today is the last day we will call them freshmen. We need them to step up and perform like veterans and we expect them to. We has some bright spots and some concerns, too.
    "We have some people that were on the shelf unavailable today that could've added some momentum, so I look forward to getting them into action. We'll be fine and it's a start. We just need to take what we did today and build from it. That's the challenge for us as coaches and for the kids as athletes."
    The Crimson Tide won one individual event in both the men's and women's divisions. There was no team scoring at the event.
    In the women's high jump, Alabama's all-America high jumper Krystle Schadewas the lone event winner for the Tide women. Schade cleared 6-0 (1.83m) to take the victory ahead of four competitors that cleared 5-10 3/4 (1.80m). Schade opened up with a miss at 5-7 (1.70m) before clearing that height, and clearing 5-8 3/4 (1.75m) and 5-10 3/4. She made her winning height on her third attempt at 6-0 to clinch the victory.
    Newcomer Chavis Ken Taylor, running for the first time in an Alabama uniform, was Alabama's lone event winner on the men's side as he took first place in the men's 800 meters in a time of 1:52.94, beating out Florida's Ryan Schnulle (1:53.32) and Juan Sanchez of Mississippi State (1:53.77). Taylor, a transfer from Benedict College, was the 2012 NCAA Division II Men's Track Athlete of the Year for the South Region before joining the Tide.
    The men's 3,000 meters was a duel between Eric Powers or Georgia Tech and Alabama's Austin Duckworth, who battled down the final stretch with Powers taking a close victory in 8:24.32. Duckworth ran a personal-best time of 8:25.17 while finishing second. Yanique Malcolmmade her Alabama debut in the women's 800-meter dash and placed third in a time of 2:11.49. Malcolm, a Jamaican who transferred to Alabama from Essex County Community College in Newark, N.J., was just .03 off her personal best in the event. Florida's Cory McGee won the race in 2:09.01.
    In the women's weight throw, Alabama's Nia Barnes and Lee Stowerscombined to produce personal-best efforts on four of their throws in the competition. Barnes ended up sixth with a best of 56 feet, 5 and 1/4 inches (17.20 meters) while Stowers was seventh with a best of 56-3 (17.14m). LSU's Denise Hinton won the event with a throw of 64-8 (19.71m).
    In the men's weight throw, Sweden native Elias Hakansson made his Crimson Tide debut and placed seventh with a best of 56-9 1/2 (17.31m). Tide teammate Charodd Richardson was ninth at 56-4 1/2 (17.18m). South Florida's Jared Thomas won the event with a toss of 62-9 1/2 (19.14m). In the men's long jump, Alabama's Kamal Fullertook second place with a leap of 24 feet, 11 1/4 inches (7.60 meters). Marquis Dendy of Florida won the event with a mark of 25-5 1/4 (7.75m).
    In the women's pole vault, the Crimson Tide's Alexis Paine finished third due to misses despite clearing the same 12-11 1/2 (3.95m) height as event winner Merrit Van Meter of Tulane and runner-up Kaitlin Petrillose of Texas. Alabama newcomer Autumn Connwas tied for eighth with a clearance of 11-7 3/4 (3.55m).
    Justin Fondren cleared 6-8 3/4 (2.05m) to tie for second in the men's high jump in the Oxford, Miss., freshman's Alabama debut. Freshman Quincy Smithof Phenix City and Smiths Station High School debuted in the men's 400 with a sixth-place finish in a time of 48.75.
    The Crimson Tide competed against a field that included some of the top programs in the nation led by two top 10 teams - Florida's men (No. 2) and women (No. 5) and LSU's men (No. 10) and women (No. 4). Other teams in the rankings that competed included Auburn's men (No. 11) and women (No. 24), Texas' women (No. 14), Florida State's men (No. 16 and Mississippi State's men (No. 20). Georgia Tech, Hinds Community College, Samford, South Florida, Southern Mississippi and Tulane (women's team only) also competed.
    Both Alabama's men's and women's squads will return to the CrossPlex at Birmingham to participate in the Auburn Invitational on Saturday, January 19.

    Mississippi State Turns in Strong Performance in Birmingham 

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala.- Lacing up on the road, the Mississippi State Bulldogs closed out their dual-meet action Saturday at the Crimson Tide Indoor Opener, after capturing 10 Top 5 finishes on the day.
    Highlighted by the 4x400-meter relay team's top finish (3:06.50), Daundre Barnaby, Brandon McBride, Randy Patterson and Tavaris Tate excelled while leading the Bulldogs to success.
    Erica Bougard, sophomore heptathlete, finished Top 3 in three of her five events and posted a top score (8.44) in the 60-meter hurdles.
    The Bulldogs continued their success Saturday, picking up more top victories as D'Angelo Cherry and Nathan Arnett claimed second-place spots in the 60-meter dash and 60-meter hurdles, respectively.
    Emma Neigel started competition off for MSU on Friday at the UAB Blazer Indoor Invitational, as she finished seventh in the one mile, posting a time of 5:07.91.
    The MSU women then displayed strong performances by their distance veterans, including a fourth-place finish from Cornelia Griesche (10:24.02) in the 300-meter run. Following Griesche with a Top 15 finish was Carmen Brothers, who posted a time of 10:55.03.
    Also shining for the Maroon and White on Friday was Cherry, capturing a first-place finish in the 60-meter dash, crossing the line in 6.66 seconds.
    Following their return from Birmingham, the Bulldogs begin preparation for the Auburn Invitational on Jan. 19.

    Texas A&M Sweeps Titles at 12-Team Invitational

    COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M combined for a dozen victories as they swept team titles during the 12-Team Invitational they hosted in front of 2,534 fans inside the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium on Saturday.
    The No. 4 Aggie men totaled 111.5 points of six victories to outscore the field that include Baylor (83), Stephen F. Austin (67), Texas-Arlington (62), Houston (56.5), UTSA (48), Rice (33), Sam Houston State (3), Prairie View A&M (32), Texas State (26), North Texas (18) and Texas Southern (14).
    Prezel Hardy Jr. led the A&M effort with a pair of victories, claiming the 60 meters in 6.64 and then breaking the meet record in the 200 meters with a blistering career best time of 20.78. Casey Strong improved his school record in the weight throw once again, and this time his victory included a meet record with his 64-3.75 effort.
    Among six victories the No. 6 Aggie women totaled 145 points to better a field that included Baylor (108), Houston (57), Texas-Arlington (50), Rice (43), Texas State (42), UTSA (35), Stephen F. Austin (31), North Texas (28), Prairie View A&M (23), and Sam Houston State (18).
    A&M freshman LaQue Moen-Davis produced the second best long jump in Aggie history with her winning leap of 20-11.25. Jennifer Madu claimed a second victory over 60 meters this indoor season with a time of 7.44 seconds while Kamaria Brown led an Aggie 1st through 9th finish in the 200 with a 23.57 win. Only the top three finishers per school scored in the meet.
    Texas A&M capped the meet winning each of the three relay races they contested. In the men’s 4 x 400 A&M broke the meet record with a convincing 3:06.25 behind the efforts of Carlyle Roudette (47.3), Deon Lendore (45.4), Ricky Babineaux (46.8) and Aldrich Bailey Jr. (46.7). Houston placed second in 3:09.83 while Baylor place third in 3:11.77.
    Henry Lelei led the Aggies to a meet record in the distance medley relay as he ran the opening leg of 1200 meters in 3:20.8. C.J. Brown ran the 1600 in 4:10.9 to anchor the winning effort as A&M clocked 9:57.03 while Nick Rollo (49.9) and Colin Slattery (1:53.4) handled the 400 and 800 legs. 
    In the women’s 4 x 400 relay the Aggie women held off the challenge from Baylor for a 3:43.19 to 3:43.31 victory. The A&M crew included Kanika Beckles, Donique’ Flemings, Olivia Ekponé, and Brown. 
    Other Aggie wins included Sophie Blake (4:57.77) in the mile, Raul Ramirez (2:29.43) in the 1000, and Aliese Hyde (2:16.01) in the 800.

    Florida Starts Season Strong at Crimson Tide Indoor

    The Gator track & field teams opened up 2013 on a strong note, turning in 17 top-three finishes and six event victories on Saturday at the Crimson Tide Indoor Opener at the Birmingham CrossPlex in Birmingham, Ala.
    “I think that anybody who knows us and knows our program expects us to perform at a high level and when we’re recruiting athletes, we don’t recruit them to be successful when they’re juniors and seniors. We expect them to come in and contribute right away and that’s what you saw with our freshman class today,” Florida head coach Mike Holloway said.
    “I’m very proud of all of (the freshmen) and I think as a whole, the team performed at a high level,” Holloway continued. “I wanted to see some pride, I wanted to see some passion and I wanted to see execution. We had all of those today.”
    Sophomore throwers Jayla Bostic (Wellington, Fla.) and David Levin (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) threw career bests in the weight throw on Saturday, as Bostic tossed a career-best 18.85m/61-10.25 to finish second in the women’s weight throw. On the men’s side, Levin bested his previous career mark by over five feet, throwing 18.44m/60-6 to come in third.”
    “We have the best throws coach in the country in Steve Lemke,” Holloway said. “Every year, whether it’s Mariam (Kevkhishvili), Kemal (Mesic), (David) Triassi, (Jeremy) Postin and now these two, the hits keep on coming with (Coach Lemke). When you put a team like this together, you have a lot of integral parts and the throws coach is a huge part of the program.”
    Florida’s sprinting corps had a solid day at the CrossPlex, as the men’s 4x400-meter relay, comprised of just sophomores and freshmen, led the way with a time of 3:07.59. Najee Glass (Woodbridge, N.J.), Hugh Graham, Jr. (Miami, Fla.), Dedric Dukes (Miami, Fla.) and Arman Hall (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) combined for the second-fastest time in the NCAA so far in 2013.
    Hall and Glass also turned in stellar performances in the men’s 200 meters, finishing in 21.22 and 21.38 to cross in second and fourth overall, respectively.
    The women’s 4x400-meter relay also turned in a time that ranks second in the NCAA, as Lanie Whittaker (Miami, Fla.), Destinee Gause (Reynoldsburg, Ohio), Kyra Jefferson (Detroit, Mich.) and Ebony Eutsey (Miami, Fla.) teamed up to finish in 3:38.65, good for second behind Texas.
    Sophomore jumper Ciarra Brewer (Union City, Calif.) showed her versatility by capturing the women’s long jump title at the CrossPlex with her leap of 6.09m/19-11.75. Brewer is the reigning SEC Outdoor Champion in the women’s triple jump. The Gators swept both long jump titles, as sophomore Marquis Dendy (Middletown, Del.) claimed the men’s title by jumping 7.75m/25-5.25, good for second in the NCAA this year.
    Two-time defending SEC Champion hurdler Eddie Lovett (West Palm Beach, Fla.) was impressive on Saturday, winning both his prelim and final, taking the title in 7.76 for the fourth-fastest time of his career and the third-fastest time in the NCAA this year.
    “I was so impressed with Eddie today,” Holloway noted. “For him to run by himself and beat the field by that much, that was impressive and it’s easily the fastest he’s ever opened up (a season).”
    Freshman Moriel Pitt (West Palm Beach, Fla.) won his section of the men’s 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.98, taking both the preliminary round and the final in his first meet as a Gator.
    Junior Cory McGee (Pass Christian, Miss.), an experienced 800-meter runner outdoors, took the track on Saturday and ran the 800 indoors for the first time in her collegiate career. McGee was impressive, recovering from a stumble to win the race in 2:09.01 which is good for 11th all-time in Florida history and second in the nation so far this season.
    “Across the board, I was just very pleased with the effort and the focus of our athletes today, Holloway said.”
    The Gators return to Gainesville to host their only home meet indoors in 2013, the Gator Invitational. The one-day meet will take place all day on Thursday, January 17th. Live results can be found on GatorZone with a full recap and results later in the day.

    Ernest Leads Winners for LSU in Alabama

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Tiger sophomore Aaron Ernest made sure that his homecoming Saturday night was one to remember when he smashed his indoor personal record with a run of 20.80 seconds to take the men's 200-meter crown at the second-annual Crimson Tide Indoor Opener at the Birmingham Sportsplex.
    Ernest led a host of five event winners for the LSU Track & Field program in Saturday's opener as he was joined on the winner's podium by senior Kimberlyn Duncan (60 meters), junior Denise Hinton (weight throw) and fellow sophomores Tori Bliss (shot put) and Quincy Downing (400 meters).
    Ernest had never run faster than 21.47 in an indoor 200-meter race on a banked track before Saturday, but the Alabama native took the title by nearly a half second with his season-opening effort.
    Running in lane No. 5 in the ninth and final 200-meter section with Mississippi State All-American Tavaris Tate to his outside in lane No. 6, Ernest pulled even with Tate down the backstretch and pulled away around the final turn before crossing the finish line in 20.80 ahead of Tate's 21.33. Florida freshman Arman Hall actually finished second in the heat and the event with his opening run of 21.22.
    While highlighting Saturday's meet in Birmingham, Ernest became the No. 5-ranked performer indoors in the men's 200-meter dash in the history of the LSU Track & Field program.
    While he ran an indoor best of 21.13 on an oversized track to claim All-SEC honors a season ago with his second-place finish at the SEC Indoor Championships held at Kentucky's Nutter Field House, Ernest only managed a best of 21.47 for an oversized track at Arkansas' Randal Tyson Track Center at the Razorback Invitational in his second 200-meter race of his freshman season in 2012.
    "I knew I could try to catch him at the start," Ernest said of running to the inside of Tate. "Once I did that, I thought I could maybe hold up through the end. I struggled running on a bank last year, but I'm so much more familiar with it now. I've put in a lot of work to come out and have a great start to the year."
    Ernest credits his hard work in fall training for a quick start to the 2013 indoor season as he is already in a position to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships in March.
    He also continues his momentum from a breakout freshman season outdoors in 2012 when he captured an impressive three All-America honors in his debut at the NCAA Outdoor Championships before winning a haul of three medals for the United States at the IAAF World Junior Championships. Ernest was the silver medalist in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes and a gold medalist in the 4x100 relay.
    "Running at World Juniors was a great experience for me," Ernest said. "I used my success there to really push me through the summer and fall to come out and have a great indoor season this year. Not qualifying for NCAAs really bothered me last year. I want to make sure that doesn't happen again."
    Before Ernest took the title in the 200-meter final, Downing ran an indoor personal best of his own to win the men's 400-meter title with a season-opening run of 47.72 to win the sixth heat.
    Like Ernest, Downing also won a gold medal for the United States at the World Junior Championships for his efforts as Team USA's leadoff leg in 4x400-meter relay. Downing emerged as one of the NCAA's top young 400-meter talents while setting a lifetime PR of 46.18 as a freshman outdoors a year ago.
    Hinton got the No. 4-ranked Lady Tigers off to a fast start in their season opener with a dominating win in the first event of the meet as she captured her fifth career weight throw crown.
    And Hinton wasted no time in solidifying her position at the top of the leaderboard with an opening throw of 64 feet, 8 inches that held up for a nearly three-foot victory over runner-up Jayla Bostic of Florida with her top mark of 61-10 ¼ set during the third round of throws.
    Hinton, who holds LSU's school record in the event with a career-best of 69-9 ¾, is eyeing a return to the NCAA Championships in the weight throw as she is already ahead of last year's pace when she kicked off her sophomore season at 58-7 ½ for fifth place at the Crimson Tide Indoor Opener. She also had marks of 63-6 in the fourth round, 62-2 ¼ in the sixth round and 62-1 in the third round on Saturday.
    Also improving on her season-opening performance from last year was Lady Tiger junior Karen Henning, as she threw a best of 58-4 ½ on her fifth attempt for a fourth-place finish in the competition.
    Duncan captured her first 60-meter title in nearly two years with a dominating effort in Saturday's final in the women's "A" section. After cruising to an easy heat win with a season-opening run of 7.41 seconds in the preliminary round, Duncan took control of the race early and crossed the finish line in 7.39, in front of Florida State's Marecia Pemberton (7.47) and Florida's Shayla Sanders (7.47) for the win.
    Duncan is already ahead of last year's pace as she did not break 7.40 in the 60-meter dash a year ago until her seventh race at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York. She also claimed her first event crown in the 60 meters since her sophomore season at the LSU Twilight held on Feb. 18, 2010.
    The reigning Bowerman Award winner is the two-time defending NCAA Indoor champion for 200 meters and enters the 2013 season with a streak of 18-straight collegiate wins in her signature event.
    Bliss became the third Lady Tiger to take home an event title for Saturday's Crimson Tide Indoor Opener with her best performance in the shot put in her second season as a Lady Tiger.
    Like Hinton, Bliss opened with her best mark of the day as she threw a lifetime personal best of 51-9 ¾ to take control of the event in the first round of throws to eclipse her previous PR of 51-7 and move one spot into the No. 4 spot on LSU's all-time indoor performance list in the event. Bliss won the event crown by a margin of 8 ¾ inches over the 51-1 by Florida State's Chelsea Whalen.
    While the Tigers and Lady Tigers combined for five event wins in their season opener, there were six that claimed runner-up honors during the meet in their first action of the 2013 indoor campaign.
    Taking home second-place finishes for the Tigers were senior Joseph Caraway with an indoor PR of 17-0 ¾ in the pole vault, sophomore Joshua Thompson with a time of 8.02 in the 60-meter hurdles and a squad of Downing, freshman Cyril Grayson, freshman Darrell Bush and Caleb Williams with a run of 3:09.81 in the men's 4x400-meter relay in the final event of the competition.
    Among the Lady Tigers scoring silver medals were junior Keri Emanuel with a top effort of 19-8 ¾ in the long jump, junior Jasmin Stowers with a run of 8.44 in the "A" section of the 60-meter hurdles and senior Shanekia Hall with a time of 8.37 in the "B" section of the 60-meter hurdles.
    Setting indoor PRs with their performance were Bush (48.26) in the 400 meters, seniors Siedda Herbert (24.38) in the 200 meters and Charlene Lipsey (55.44) in the 400 meters, junior Jaora Johnson (16-6 ¾) in the pole vault and sophomores Rodney Brown (59-11 ¼) and Jeremy Tuttle (58-2 ½) in the weight throw and Kaitlyn Moreau (17-3 ½) in the women's long jump.
    Brown's fourth-place finish in the men's weight throw competition is most notable as he became the 10th-ranked performer in school history in his first collegiate appearance in the event.
    "It looked like a season opener for us in so many ways, but we did some really good things here today for our first time out," said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. "What we like to see from our athletes for a meet like this is improvement in their performance from this meet a year ago. We saw a lot of that today.
    "We also saw many of our younger athletes step up and have good meets for us. That just shows you what kind of potential we have in our teams moving forward this season and into the future."
    The Tigers and Lady Tigers return to action next weekend with a trip to College Station, Texas, with their appearance at the Texas A&M Tri-Meet being held at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 19. The LSU teams will square off against NCAA title contenders Texas A&M and Arkansas for both the men's and women's sides in a scored competition early in the indoor season.