Norwood medals twice at NCAA championships

LSU’s Vernon Norwood runs in the 400-meter during first-day action at the NCAA Division 1 Indoor Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. Friday. Norwood, a Morgan City High School alum, earned the silver medal during Saturday’s NCAA final in the 400-meter, while he anchored the Tigers’ 4x400-meter relay to a NCAA title in the meet’s final event Saturday evening. (Submitted Photo/Courtesy of LSU Sports Information)

That’s the most nerve-wracking feeling just sitting there waiting to see how fast they’re going to get out and if I even have a chance to win it. It is what it is when you run indoors.

LSU’s Vernon Norwood capped his first indoor season at LSU in championship style as the Morgan City High School alum anchored the Tigers’ 4x400 meter relay to a championship at the NCAA Division 1 Indoor Track and Field Championships Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M.
Norwood, along with teammates Darrell Bush, Quincy Downing and Cyril Grayson, teamed to cross the finish line with a time of 3:04.10 to top SEC rivals Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M in the race to avenge their third-place finish from the SEC Indoor Championships.
Earlier, Norwood won the silver medal in the NCAA 400 meter run with a time of 45.46.
In Saturday’s 4x400 meter relay, the three top-ranked teams in the NCAA, LSU, Florida and Texas A&M all raced together in the third heat.
The Tigers led wire-to-wire to win the national championship after Bush gave the team the lead at the break on the first leg and clocked 46.46 seconds before handing off to Downing at the first exchange with a clear five-meter lead on leadoff legs by Florida and Texas A&M. Arkansas followed well back in fourth place at the first exchange of the race.
“It was really important because you don’t want to be all bunched up as you’re trying to run the race. I knew I had to get out and give Quincy the space to run and keep the lead for us. I never slowed down, I just kept on pushing. I put it all on the line for my team, and they had my back. I did it for my grandma too, thinking of her,” Bush said in a news release.
Bush learned early Saturday morning of the sudden passing of his grandmother, Donna Roots, in his native New Jersey, according to an LSU track and field release.
Downing brought it around in 46.03 on the second leg before handing off to Grayson at the second exchange, and that’s when the fireworks went off in the race for second place behind the Tigers.
LSU’s path to the NCAA title was cleared for Grayson near the 100-meter mark on the third leg when Texas A&M’s Gregory Coleman and Florida’s Dedric Dukes took one another out of the race and earned both teams a disqualification in the official results following a lengthy protest. Grayson, who clocked an impressive 46.57-second split on the third leg, handed off to Norwood with a 10-meter lead ahead of the Razorbacks.
Norwood left little doubt as to which team would walk away with the title as he blistered the Albuquerque Convention Center track with a 45.05-second split on the anchor leg and crossed the finish line with their time of 3:04.10 to finish more than two seconds ahead of Arkansas’ 3:06.29. The Tigers also were more than one second ahead of Nebraska’s winning time of 3:05.25 in the second heat.
“I’ve got to credit it mostly to Darrell Bush. He led us off in a great way to put us in that position to start,” Norwood said in the release. “We all did a great job, Quincy and Cyril. They stayed out of trouble and all that I had to do was just do my part and bring us home. It’s a great feeling to win it in the last race here.”
The Tigers snapped an eight-year drought as they were crowned the NCAA Indoor champions in the 4x400-meter relay for the first time since 2006 with their fourth NCAA Indoor title in the event all-time.
They also extended an impressive streak as the Tigers and Lady Tigers have combined to win at least one NCAA Indoor event championship in five straight seasons dating back to 2010.
The 4x400 meter relay was Norwood’s second race of the day as little more than an hour earlier he earned his first career All-America honors with the Tigers as the NCAA Indoor silver medalist in the men’s 400-meter dash.
After squeaking into the 400-meter final in the eighth and final qualifying spot with his time of 46.18 in Friday’s preliminary round, Norwood took control of his finals heat early and cruised to the victory in the second of three heats with a time of 45.46 ahead of the Notre Dame duo of Christopher Giesting (45.74) and Patrick Feeney (46.19).
Norwood’s 45.46 earned him the silver medal as the national runner-up after Texas A&M’s Deon Lendore was crowned this year’s NCAA Indoor 400-meter champion with his time of 45.21 in the third race ahead of the 45.52 clocking by Florida’s Arman Hall and 45.64 clocking by Oregon’s Mike Berry to finish in third place and fourth place, respectively, in the final event standings.
“That’s the most nerve-wracking feeling just sitting there waiting to see how fast they’re going to get out and if I even have a chance to win it. It is what it is when you run indoors,” Norwood said of watching their third heat from the infield. “I didn’t run the right kind of race in the prelim. I messed up running that first 200 the way I did. I came back and watched the video a bunch of times and just talked with Coach (Dennis Shaver) of how I needed to run my race today. I got lane four today, so I knew I just had to go out and push it from the start.”
The Tigers cracked the Top 10 in the final men’s team standings while scoring all of their 18 points during Saturday’s competition to tie Texas A&M for eighth place overall.
Oregon became the third program in the history of the NCAA Indoor Championships to sweep the men’s and women’s NCAA Indoor team titles as the Duck men ran away with the men’s team title while totaling up 62 points to outlast the 54 points scored by runner-up Arkansas and the Duck women scored 44 points to edge Texas by the narrowest of margins as the Longhorns finished runner-up with 43.5 points.

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