BATON ROUGE -- The field for the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships is set, and the LSU men and women have combined to qualify 28 athletes and four relay teams into the meet as announced Tuesday by the NCAA selection committee.
The race to be crowned this year’s national champion will begin June 11 as the four-day meet is set to run at Drake Stadium on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
Both the Tigers and Lady Tigers are among the national leaders in total qualifiers for the NCAA Outdoor Championships as the men rank No. 1 with 17 scoring opportunities and the women rank No. 2 with 19 scoring opportunities for the meet.
This marks the second largest contingent of LSU athletes that will be making the trip to the meet since the NCAA instituted the regional format in 2003. The squads sent a total of 29 athletes and four relay teams to the NCAA meet a year ago for their highest total in that span.
“There are a number of great teams that will be competing in this meet and have a legitimate shot to walk away with a national championship,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “One of the things that will give us a chance to compete is the number of scoring chances that we have. That’s not to say it guarantees us any points, but our kids can’t score if they’re not at the meet.
“All of the great teams have athletes that will score eight or 10 points in an event. The teams that have the athletes capable to scratch out a few points here and there are the ones who will be in a position to win the meet going into the last events on Saturday.”
LSU walked away from the NCAA meet in Sacramento, Calif., a year ago with a pair of runner-up finishes as Florida State won the men’s title and Arizona State won the women’s crown.
“We certainly feel like we can be in the hunt in both the men’s and women’s races,” Shaver said. “But you have to consider Florida State and Arizona State the favorites going in because they were the champions last year. Both have the taste of what it’s like to win a national championship and have very strong teams once again. They will be tough for anybody to beat.”
The Lady Tigers are among the favorites to win their 12th outdoor national title in program history and 25th NCAA championship overall as they will score the majority of their points on the track.
NCAA Indoor 60-meter champion Kelly Baptiste looks to make it a sweep of NCAA sprint titles this season as she enters the meet with the nation’s fastest time in the 100-meter dash after clocking a windy 10.97 seconds to win the NCAA Mideast Regional title in the event on Saturday evening. She also boasts the fourth-fastest time in the 200 meters at 22.67.
Junior Nickiesha Wilson is also among the favorites to double at this year’s meet as she will line up with the nation’s fastest wind-aided time in the 100 hurdles at 12.63, while her seasonal best of 55.71 in the 400 hurdles ranks third nationally. Wilson received a pair of All-America honors a year ago by place third in the 100 hurdles and fourth in the 400 hurdles at the NCAA meet.
After winning the NCAA Indoor title in the 800 meters, sophomore LaTavia Thomas will look to make it a clean sweep in the event in 2008 by winning the outdoor title next week. She enters the meet with the third-fastest time in the NCAA this season at 2 minutes, 3.22 seconds.
The Lady Tigers will also compete with two of the nation’s premier relay teams as their 4x100-meter relay ranks No. 1 in the country with the third-fastest time in collegiate history at 42.59, while their 4x400-meter relay ranks No. 2 in the NCAA with a top time of 3:29.28.
As with each championship contender, the Lady Tigers feature tremendous depth as eight other athletes are making at least their second career appearance in the NCAA Championships.
Included in that number are senior Angel Boyd (100 hurdles), senior Juanita Broaddus (100 meters), senior Deonna Lawrence (400 meters), senior Brooklynn Morris (400 meters), senior Andrea Linton (triple jump), senior Jessica Ohanaja (100 hurdles), sophomore Samantha Henry (100 meters, 200 meters) and sophomore Katelyn Rodrigue (pole vault).
Among the Lady Tigers who will be making their first career appearance in the NCAA Outdoor Championships include senior Nedra Gross in the triple jump, junior Kayann Thompson in the 800 meters and freshman Kenyanna Wilson in the 100-meter dash.
“Our women are in a good position, but we’ve got to approach this as a different track meet each day,” Shaver said. “We want to give ourselves the best opportunity we can to do well in the meet, and the best way to do that is to take it one day and one event at a time.”
The Tigers will compete with firepower of their own as they will be led by the efforts of senior sprinter Richard Thompson, who boasts the second-fastest 100-meter time in collegiate history at 9.93. Thompson, who is the reigning NCAA Indoor champion at 60 meters, will also line up with the second-fastest 200-meter time in the NCAA this season with a seasonal best 20.18.
Joining Thompson in the 100-meter dash will be last year’s NCAA runner-up Trindon Holliday, who is currently ranked fourth nationally in the event with a top time of 10.05.
The duo has been a devastating 1-2 punch for the Tigers in the sprints this season as they kicked off the year by sweeping the top two spots in the 60-meter dash at the NCAA Indoor meet back in March. They will also run on the Tigers’ NCAA leading 4x100-meter relay that enters the meet with the top time in the country this year at 38.67.
The Tigers will also look to score big points in the 4x400-meter relay as the squad will line up in the prelims with the fourth-fastest time in the nation at 3:04.33.
Like the Lady Tigers, the Tigers feature a host of athletes who will be making a return trip to the NCAA Championships, including senior Ryan Fontenot (110 hurdles), senior Reuben Twijukye (800 meters), junior Chad Radgowski (javelin) and sophomore Preston Chatham (javelin).
Eight others will be making their first career appearance at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, including senior Elkana Kosgei (800 meters), junior Rabun Fox (hammer), junior Ricky Jean-Francois (shot put), junior John Kosgei (1,500 meters), sophomore Josh Dominguez (pole vault), sophomore Jamaal James (800 meters), freshman Gabriel Mvumvure (200 meters) and freshman Zedric Thomas (triple jump).
“We have to be at the top of our game when the first gun goes off on Wednesday,” Shaver said. “We’re competing with a lot of confidence right now, and we’re pretty healthy for this time of the season. We’ve got our kids ready to go and it’s going to be an exciting weekend for both teams.”
LSU’s Qualifiers for the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
Athlete, Event(s), Time/Mark
Preston Chatham, Javelin, 227-5
Josh Dominguez, Pole Vault, 17-5
Ryan Fontenot, 110 hurdles, 13.51w
Rabun Fox, Hammer Throw, 215-11
Trindon Holliday, 100 meters, 10.05
Jamaal James, 800 meters, 1:47.91
Ricky Jean-Francois, Shot Put, 59-1 ╝
Elkana Kosgei, 800 meters, 1:47.05
John Kosgei, 1,500 meters, 3:42.98
Gabriel Mvumvure, 200 meters, 20.68w
Chad Radgowski, Javelin, 237-2
Richard Thompson, 100 meters/200 meters, 9.93/20.18
Reuben Twijukye, 800 meters, 1:48.13
Zedric Thomas, Triple Jump, 52-3 ╝
Hayes, Thompson, Mvumvure, Holliday; 4x100-meter relay; 38.67
Hayes, E. Kosgei, Twijukye, Dardar; 4x400-meter relay; 3:04.33
Athlete, Event(s), Time/Mark
Kelly Baptiste, 100 meters/200 meters, 10.97w/22.67
Angel Boyd, 100 hurdles, 12.93w
Juanita Broaddus, 100 meters, 11.17
Nedra Gross, Triple Jump, 43-8w
Samantha Henry, 100 meters/200 meters, 11.27/22.90
Deonna Lawrence, 400 meters, 52.74
Andrea Linton, Triple Jump, 44-5 ╝w
Brooklynn Morris, 400 meters, 52.74
Jessica Ohanaja, 100 hurdles, 12.91w
Katelyn Rodrigue, Pole Vault, 13-7 ╝
LaTavia Thomas, 800 meters, 2:03.22
Kayann Thompson, 800 meters, 2:04.82
Kenyanna Wilson, 100 meters, 11.31w
Nickiesha Wilson, 100 hurdles/400 hurdles, 12.63w/55.71
Morris, Henry, Broaddus, Baptiste; 4x100-meter relay; 42.59
Morris, Wilson, Broaddus, Lawrence; 4x400-meter relay; 3:29.28