BATON ROUGE -- The LSU track and field teams have put the finishing touches on their preparations for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships as they begin the national title chase Friday at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark.
The squads are expected to contend for an indoor national championship as the Lady Tigers enter meet as the nation’s top-ranked team and the Tigers are ranked No. 3 in the latest U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Top 25.
The two-day meet is scheduled to be broadcast to a national television audience on a tape-delay basis by ESPN2 on Thursday, March 20, from 3-4:30 p.m. CDT.
“We’ve been looking forward to this weekend for a while now, and it’s certainly going to be a dogfight on both the men’s and women’s sides,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “We need to show up mentally prepared and ready to compete for two days. There will be a lot of teams that show up ready to win, and we’re going to be at our best if we hope to be in contention.”
No other program has enjoyed as much success at the NCAA Indoor Championships as the Lady Tigers as they are looking to win their unprecedented 12th indoor national title in program history.
The LSU women will bring one of the nation’s largest contingents to Fayetteville as 10 athletes and the nation’s top-ranked 4x400-meter relay team are slated to compete in 13 different events. The Lady Tigers hope to break through with the team’s first NCAA indoor crown since the 2004 season after finishing runner-up to defending champion Arizona State a year ago.
The Tigers are also attempting to capture their first team title since 2004 as they have won a pair of indoor national championships in their storied history.
The Tigers will travel eight athletes and their distance medley relay team to Fayetteville this weekend as they fight it out with the likes of top-ranked Florida State, No. 2 Tennessee, No. 4 Arizona State and the fifth-ranked and homestanding Arkansas Razorbacks for indoor supremacy.
“The women’s race is going to be very tight at the top with about three or four teams with a great chance to win the track meet on Saturday. We feel like we’re one of those teams,” Shaver said. “We’re bringing more experience to the meet this year than at any point since I’ve been the head coach, and it’ll be an exciting weekend to see if we can make a run at it.
“It’s just as wide open on the men’s side, maybe as wide open as I’ve ever seen it. I don’t think you can put your finger on any one team and say that they are the clear favorite. There may be as many as five or six teams with a legitimate shot to line up and win the title. We’re hoping to be one of those teams that is in a good position on Saturday.”
The Lady Tigers are bringing some firepower to the NCAA Indoor Championships as they boast the nation’s top performer in the 60-meter dash and feature the No. 1 4x400-meter relay team.
Senior Kelly Baptiste leads the way as the nine-time All-American enters the meet with the nation’s top time in the 60 meters this year at 7.13 seconds, which she recorded in setting the new school record in a gold-medal winning performance at the SEC Championships two weeks ago.
Like Baptiste, the Lady Tigers also enter the meet with the premier 4x400-meter relay squad in all of collegiate track and field. The foursome of Brooklynn Morris, Nickiesha Wilson, LaTavia Thomas and Deonna Lawrence owns the nation’s top time this season with a seasonal best of 3 minutes, 31.89 seconds, which is nearly two seconds better than their nearest competitor.
Senior hurdler Jessica Ohanaja is the Lady Tigers’ top returning finisher from last year’s meet as she earned her first career All-America honor with a national runner-up in the 60 hurdles.
Baptiste is not the only LSU athlete who enters the meet with the nation’s top time in the 60-meter dash as fellow senior Richard Thompson is the No. 1 performer in the NCAA on the men’s side and among the national favorites with a seasonal best of 6.57 in the event.
Thompson will be joined in the event by the nation’s No. 3 performer in sophomore two-sport star Trindon Holliday, who follows closely behind Thompson with a seasonal best time of 6.60. This marks the first time in his LSU career that Holliday will compete at the NCAA indoor meet.
In addition to Holliday, six other LSU athletes will be making their first career appearance at the NCAA Indoor Championships, including seniors Kathy Coleman (long jump), Ryan Fontenot (60 hurdles), Michael Hendry (distance medley relay), Elkana Kosgei (800 meters); and sophomores John Kosgei (3,000 meters) and Katelyn Rodrigue (pole vault).
The Arizona State Sun Devils are the defending champion on the women’s side after scoring a total of 38 points at the meet last year. The Lady Tigers finished second with 33 points.
The race for the men’s title is as wide open as ever as the Wisconsin Badgers are looking to defend their title after racking up 40 points at the meet in 2007. Florida State was the runner-up a year ago with 35 points, while the Tigers scored 21 points to finish in a tie for 10th place.
The first day of the competition is scheduled to begin Friday with the men’s heptathlon at 9:45 a.m. followed by the day’s first field events at noon and first events on the track at 4:30 p.m. Saturday’s action features the conclusion of the heptathlon at 11 a.m., while the field events are slated to begin at 2 p.m. followed by the meet’s final running events at 6:15 p.m.
LSU’S 2008 NCAA INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS COMPETITORS
Athlete, Event, Top Time/Mark
Will Coppage, Long Jump, 25-4 ¾
Ryan Fontenot, 60 hurdles, 7.70
Trindon Holliday, 60 meters, 6.60
Jamaal James, 800 meters, 1:48.73
Elkana Kosgei, 800 meters, 1:48.18
John Kosgei, 3,000 meters, 7:55.49
Richard Thompson, 60 meters, 6.57
Reuben Twijukye, 800 meters, 1:48.29
E. Kosgei, Hayes, James, J. Kosgei, DMR, 9:35.31
Athlete, Event, Top Time/Mark
Kelly Baptiste, 60 meters, 7.13
Juanita Broaddus, 60 meters, 7.25
Kathy Coleman, Long Jump, 20-10 ½
Samantha Henry, 60 meters/200 meters, 7.18/23.01
Andrea Linton, Long Jump/Triple Jump, 20-10, 44-6 ¼
Brooklynn Morris, 200 meters, 23.57
Jessica Ohanaja, 60 hurdles, 8.11
Katelyn Rodrigue, Pole Vault, 13-6 ½
LaTavia Thomas, 800 meters, 2:04.66
Nickiesha Wilson, 60 hurdles, 8.12
Morris, Wilson, Thomas, Lawrence, 4x400, 3:31.89