Laissez les bon temps rouler is Cajun French for “let the good times roll.” It’s a well-loved part of south Louisiana’s vibrant celebration of life.
The LSU women’s 4×1 has made it literal this year, clocking three world-leading marks that found their fastest a Collegiate Record 42.05 at a spectacular SEC Championships that produced two other women’s CRs (see separate stories on Sydney McLaughlin & Keturah Orji).
LSU head Dennis Shaver knows a few things about sprint relays, having worked guiding the most prolific national champion women’s foursome to more than half of its record 15 titles.
But last year a combination of early-season success (=CR 42.12) and late-season failure (not qualifying for NCAA final) has given this year’s Bayou Bengals new determination.
Shaver can be as matter-of-fact as any coach and he initially described the new 42.05 CR as “a real conservative run. In the championship part of the season our first goal is to get the stick around the track.” He quickly followed up by saying how proud he was of the group, noting that three are from Louisiana and two from hometown Baton Rouge.
His “conservative” observation was evident immediately as leadoff runner Mikiah Brisco—the homegrown reigning national 100 champ—clearly was fastest but nearly ran up on Texan Kortnei Johnson on the first exchange. In evaluating if this group can run faster, Shaver said “at least a 10th with a better first pass” in noting it was by far the duo’s worst of the year.
Johnson, owner of a pair of sub-11 windy times this season, lost initial momentum but regained to be even with Kentucky a lane outside with Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (who just minutes later would clock a near-CR 12.40 in the hurdles). The second handoff, one that Shaver called “pretty good,” was to the only newcomer to this year’s foursome—400-meter specialist Rachel Misher, daughter of LSU’s ’75 NCAA 60H champ Allen Misher.
The final exchange was “conservative” again, but New Orleanian Aleia Hobbs—low-altitude CR holder at 10.85—was in the lead and added to it as the Tigers won the SEC for the 21st time in its 38-year women’s history. Shaver noted that runner-up Kentucky’s 42.30 would win the nationals “in most years. And if they drop Sydney McLaughlin in there they can probably run faster.”
“We’ll look at the video some more and figure where we can make more improvements,” said Shaver, whose team carried their own gold baton—“we get the lightest one we can.” He chalked up last year’s disappointing nationals to a meet-committee ruling not allowing them to use the relay tape they had used all year.
“At this time of year, we just concentrate on the process,” he said. “It’s a matter of the kids running well and having fun. Times usually come down at this time of year, especially if the conditions are good.” □