AUBURN, Ala. -- The reputation of the LSU track and field program has been built on its success at the championship meets, and the Tigers and Lady Tigers are poised for yet another title run with the start of the 2008 SEC Outdoor Championships on Friday.
Hutsell-Rosen Track on the campus of Auburn University will play host to the four-day meet as it officially kicks off with the multi-events on Thursday. LSU will make its appearance for the first time during Friday’s action with the start of the open field and running events.
The meet will be regionally broadcast on a tape-delay basis from 6-8 p.m. CDT on Sunday, May 25, as a part of SEC-TV on Fox Sports Net-South.
The Southeastern Conference has proven to be the deepest conference in collegiate track and field once again as eight men’s teams and six women’s teams enter the meet ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation in the latest U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Top 25 power ranking released on Wednesday.
The second-ranked Lady Tigers are the defending SEC Outdoor champions and will fight to keep their crown against such nationally-ranked programs as No. 9 Florida, No. 13 Arkansas, No. 19 Ole Miss, No. 23 Tennessee and No. 25 Auburn.
The fourth-ranked Tigers, who finished runner-up to Tennessee a year ago, are looking to end an 18-year drought with their first SEC Outdoor championship since 1990. They must battle seven ranked teams to win the team title, including No. 3 Florida No. 8 Auburn, No. 14 Tennessee, No. 15 Arkansas, No. 17 Kentucky, No. 22 South Carolina and No. 24 Georgia.
Since women started competing at the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 1981, the men’s and women’s team titles have been won by the same school in the same season nine times.
LSU has accomplished the impressive sweep three times in its history and has an opportunity this weekend to do so for the first time since 1990. It also accomplished the feat in 1988 and 1989.
The squads will be well-rested heading into Friday’s competition as they have not competed in 20 days since wrapping up the regular season at the Penn Relays on April 26, marking LSU’s longest break between the final regular season meet and the SEC Championships in at least two decades.
“We’ve been looking forward to this week since the last day of the NCAA Indoor Championships back in March,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “This is always the most difficult conference championship to win, but both teams have prepared themselves well and are ready for a great start to the championship season. It’s going to be an exciting weekend.
“Because of the competition we face at the SEC Championships, this meet is always our first step in preparing for what we will see at the NCAA meet. The talent in the SEC is that deep.”
Seven LSU athletes return to defend the individual SEC titles they won at Sam Bailey Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., a year ago, which equaled Georgia for the most individual titles won in 2007.
Andrea Linton (triple jump), Jessica Ohanaja (100 hurdles), LaTavia Thomas (800 meters) and Nickiesha Wilson (400 hurdles) will lead the Lady Tigers after winning event titles in 2007, while Trindon Holliday (100 meters), Jamaal James (800 meters) and Chad Radgowski (javelin) look to keep their crowns while leading the Tigers this weekend.
In fact, Thomas and Wilson enter the 2008 SEC Outdoor Championships as the favorites in their respective events. Thomas will line up in the prelims of the 800 meters with an SEC leading time of 2 minutes, 3.22 seconds, while Wilson boasts the league’s top time in the 400 hurdles at 55.83.
Wilson is also the favorite to win the 100-meter hurdles as she leads the SEC with a time of 12.85 seconds. Senior Kelly Baptiste enters the meet as the favorite to double in both the 100 meters (11.06) and 200 meters (22.96), while both of the Lady Tigers’ NCAA leading 4x100 (42.59) and 4x400 (3:29.28) look to sweep relay titles.
While the Lady Tigers are favored to win seven event titles this weekend, the Tigers feature four favorites of their own as they feature SEC leading times in four different events on the track.
Senior Richard Thompson is looking to win his first career SEC title in the 100-meter dash as he will line up with an SEC best time of 10.0, while fellow senior Elkana Kosgei is the favorite to win his first career outdoor title in the 800 meters with a league-leading time of 1:47.42. Like the Lady Tigers, the Tigers feature the league’s top 4x100 (38.74) and 4x400 (3:04.33) relays.
“Our athletes have performed very well all season long, and we’ve reached the point in the season where we need everyone to be at their very best to contribute to the success of the team,” Shaver said. “That’s what these championship meets are all about, and it starts for us this weekend.”
LSU has enjoyed tremendous success at the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships over the years as the Lady Tigers have captured nine conference championships in 27 years, while the Tigers have won a total of 22 league titles in their illustrious history.
The women are also looking to sweep SEC Indoor and Outdoor titles for the first time since 1996 after being crowned SEC Indoor champions earlier this season.
LSU athletes are also among the league leaders year in and year out as the Tigers have won more event titles than any other team in the history of the SEC Outdoor Championships. The Tigers have won 227 individual titles and 33 relay titles for a total of 260 event wins in the history of the meet. Tennessee is a distant second with 213 event titles all-time.
The Lady Tigers have proven to be the top performers on the women’s side as they have won an SEC leading 107 event titles all-time, including 87 individual titles and 20 relay titles.
After returning to Baton Rouge, the squads will break for two weeks before returning to action at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. The two-day meet is scheduled to run from May 30-31 at John McDonnell Field on the campus of the University of Arkansas.