April 22, 2009

 

Courtesy of LSU Athletics

BATON ROUGE – Each year, the last weekend of April marks LSU’s return to historic Franklin Field in Philadelphia to compete in the annual Penn Relays Carnival, and this year is no exception as the squad wraps up its regular season at the 115th running of the world’s premier relay carnival.

The action kicks off Thursday at the University of Pennsylvania with the three-day meet slated to come to a dramatic conclusion Saturday with the exciting “USA vs. The World” relay events.

Live coverage of the 115th Penn Relays will be broadcast to a worldwide audience on ESPN2 as it will air during Saturday’s competition from 3-5 p.m. CT.

This weekend marks the last time that the Tigers and Lady Tigers will have the opportunity to see competition before they open the championship season at the 2009 SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which will run from May 15-17 at Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.

“This is without a doubt one of the most exciting meets in our sport, and we enjoy the opportunity to come back and compete each year,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “The Penn Relays is an event you just have to experience as a fan of track and field. It’s exciting for our athletes to run in front of 50,000 people. We expect nothing less with great weather in the forecast on Saturday.”

As the name might suggest, relay events are the feature attraction of the Penn Relays year in and year out, and LSU will travel to Franklin Field with four relay teams that are ranked in the top six nationally in both the 4x100 and 4x400-meter relays.

The Lady Tigers were impressive in defending their crown in the 4x400-meter relay at the Texas Relays on April 4 as they set the No. 1 time in the NCAA this season at 3 minutes, 31.81 seconds.

Both of LSU’s 4x100 relays are ranked among the top three nationally as the women hold the No. 2 time in the country at 43.39 seconds, while the men have clocked the nation’s No. 3 time with a seasonal-best performance of 39.07 in the event. Not only that, but the Tigers’ 4x400-meter relay ranks No. 6 in the NCAA with a top time of 3:05.97 heading into this weekend’s action.

In all, the squads have combined to win a total of 57 Championship of America relay titles and 49 individual event titles in the rich and illustrious history of the Penn Relays.

In fact, the Lady Tigers have set the standard for all women’s programs competing each year with an impressive 39 Championship of America relay titles to their credit, which ranks No. 1 for all women’s teams at the Penn Relays. Villanova is a distant second with 26 relay titles all-time.

The 114th edition of the Penn Relays in 2008 proved to be unlike any other for LSU as the squads wrapped up the competition with a meet record six Championship of America relay crowns. Their six relay titles is a combined record for men’s and women’s programs at one university in a single year at the Penn Relays, eclipsing the mark of five set by Villanova in 1978 and LSU in 2007.

The Lady Tigers took home four distinguished Penn Relays wagon wheels in 2008 by winning an event title in the 4x100, 4x800, sprint medley and shuttle hurdle relays. The Tigers added a pair of wagon wheels of their own a year ago with wins in the 4x100 and sprint medley relays.

The men will actually look to set a meet record this weekend by winning their fifth-straight crown in the 4x100-meter relay as their current streak of four straight ties Morgan State from 1953-56.

“This meet will give us another opportunity to line up against many of the same teams we will see at the NCAA Championships and see where we stack up heading into the championship season,” Shaver said. “Consistency is something that will be very important for both of our teams as we do head into the postseason, and that is what we’ll be looking for from our teams this weekend.”

Junior LaTavia Thomas will return to her hometown of Philadelphia looking to defend the title of College Women’s Athlete of the Meet for Relay Events that she won a year ago while anchoring the Lady Tigers to wins in the 4x800 and sprint medley relays.

Thomas is in a select group of Lady Tigers who have enjoyed great success at the Penn Relays as LSU greats Cheryl Taplin (1994), D’Andre Hill (1996) and Muna Lee (2003) were also called the College Women’s Athlete of the Meet for Relay Events during their collegiate careers.

Former Lady Tiger star Kelly Baptiste is the only LSU athlete to be named the College Women’s Athlete of the Meet for Individual Events as she took home the title in 2006.