Norwood's 400-meter performance ranks him in top 5 worldwide, top 3 in NCAA
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – LSU junior Vernon Norwood sprinted into the national championship race in the men’s 400-meter dash during Friday’s opener at the Tyson Invitational as he smashed his previous indoor personal best with a winning time of 45.81 seconds in the event held at the Randal Tyson Track Center at the University of Arkansas.
After watching Arkansas’ Neil Braddy run away with the first heat in 45.96 and Texas’ Zack Bilderback take the second heat in 46.47, Norwood left no doubt as to who would claim the event title as he took control of his race early and crossed the finish line nearly one second ahead of his nearest competitor with a run of 45.81 for an easy victory in the third heat.
Florida State’s Alonzo Russell trailed Norwood across the finish line in the heat with his run of 46.57, while Braddy took second place and Bilderback took third place in the overall standings.
Norwood credited a faster start as the key to his race Friday as he slashed a half second off his season-opening time of 46.31 from the Aggie Invitational in College Station, Texas, a week ago. He has quickly ascended the national rankings as the NCAA’s No. 3-ranked 400-meter sprinter with his winning performance.
“I just needed to be aggressive from the start,” Norwood said following his race. “I wasn’t too satisfied with the way I got out in the first 100 (meters) last week. I’ve got to get out faster to put myself in position to win. That’s what I did today. The competition is always good here, so you just have to get out here and compete. That’s what I wanted to do.”
One look at the national rankings will show that it will be a battle for the SEC and NCAA titles in the men’s 400 meters as the four fastest quartermilers in the country all hail from the Southeastern Conference.
While Norwood is the No. 3-ranked 400-meter runner in the NCAA and No. 5-ranked quartermiler in the world rankings for the 2014 indoor season, Texas A&M’s Deon Lendore tops the charts with his NCAA best 45.47 followed by Florida’s Arman Hall in the No. 2 spot with a seasonal best of 45.63. Braddy’s second-place time of 45.96 on Friday ranks him No. 4 nationally in the event this season.
“I respect all those guys and how good they are and what they can do,” Norwood said. “You come to LSU to run in the SEC against the best competition, and I just try to compete as hard as I can. It will be a big couple of weeks coming up. This gives me a good idea where I’m at heading to SECs and NCAAs. I’ll need to get back to practice and try to fix the things I need to work on.”
Norwood actually defended the Tyson Invitational title he won as a sophomore at South Plains College a year ago when he set his previous indoor PR of 46.02 after signing with the Tigers on National Signing Day 2013.
“Arkansas has a great track to run on,” Norwood said of his experience at the Randal Tyson Track Center. “The competition is always good here, so you’ll always have a chance to run fast on this track.”
Norwood was not the only Tiger to smash his indoor personal best during Friday’s 400-meter competition as fellow junior Quincy Downing followed by winning the fourth section with a seasonal-best time of 46.49. The Ohio native eclipsed his previous best of 46.61 set at the Aggie Invitational last week while moving into the No. 15 spot in the NCAA rankings with his performance Friday.
Norwood and Downing now look forward to leading the Tigers in the 4x400-meter relay in Saturday’s finale as they also hope to strengthen their NCAA qualifying position in the event in Arkansas this weekend.
Fans can receive live up-to-the-second coverage of the LSU Track & Field teams competing at the Tyson Invitational by following @LSUTrackField on Twitter.