DES MOINES, Iowa -- The top-ranked LSU track and field teams look to add another chapter in a proud legacy this week as they battle the nation’s best for outdoor supremacy at the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships beginning Wednesday at Drake Stadium.
Drake University will play host to the event for the first time since 1970 as the four-day meet will kick off Wednesday at 11 a.m. CDT. This year’s outdoor national champions will be crowned following the conclusion of Saturday’s competition.
LSU fans nationwide will have the opportunity to watch the squads in action as the CBS College Sports Network (formerly CSTV) will air live coverage of the meet on Friday from 7-10 p.m.
CBS is also scheduled to broadcast live coverage of Saturday’s dramatic conclusion to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships from 3-5 p.m.
LSU will be competing with one of the largest contingents to make the trip to Des Moines and its second largest total since the NCAA adopted the regional qualifying format in 2003 as 28 individuals and four relay teams are slated to compete. The school’s highest total came just one year ago when the squads combined to advance 29 individuals and four relay teams into the meet.
The Tigers are tied for the lead in the men’s field as they have 19 chances to score for the meet after qualifying 14 individuals and two relay teams, while the Lady Tigers are second in the women’s field with 17 scoring opportunities after qualifying 14 athletes and two relay teams of their own into this year’s national championship meet.
“This week is the culmination of a year of hard work by both of our teams, and our kids are ready and prepared for a great week of competition,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “We always try to approach a meet like this that’s spread out over four days as a different track meet each day.
“We want our athletes to stay focused and do what is necessary where we can line up on the final day on Saturday with a chance to win the team title on both the men’s and women’s sides.”
The Lady Tigers have proven to be the most dominant program in all of collegiate track and field as they have won a total of 13 outdoor national championships in program history, including an unprecedented 11 titles in a row from 1987-97. But they are looking to end the longest drought in team history with their first championship since 2003.
The LSU women must defeat defending champion Arizona State to return to the winner’s circle after finishing runner-up to the Sun Devils a year ago.
The Sun Devils have been the class of women’s collegiate track and field the last two seasons as they have won each of the last three NCAA team titles during that span, including back-to-back victories at the NCAA Indoor Championships in 2007 and 2008 to go along with their win at the NCAA Outdoor Championships a year ago.
Like any great team, the Lady Tigers will be led in the team race by a number of title contenders who find themselves in a position to challenge for individual event crowns this week.
Headlining that list is senior Kelly Baptiste, who returns to the NCAA Championships one last time as the nation’s top-ranked performer in the 100-meter dash with a seasonal best wind-aided time of 10.97 seconds. She also ranks fourth nationally in the 200 meters with a time of 22.67.
Baptiste, who missed the opportunity to compete at the NCAA Outdoor Championships a year ago due to a back injury, is back to 100 percent as proven by her victories in the 100 meters at the SEC Outdoor Championships and NCAA Mideast Regional Championships. She also won her first career NCAA title with a win in the 60-meter dash at the NCAA Indoor meet back in March.
Junior hurdler Nickiesha Wilson also has the opportunity to double this week as she will compete among the favorites in both the 100-meter hurdles and 400-meter hurdles.
Like Baptiste, Wilson boasts the nation’s fastest time in the 100 hurdles this outdoor season with a top wind-aided time of 12.63, while she is currently the third-fastest performer in the 400 hurdles with a seasonal best time of 55.71.
Sophomore middle distance runner LaTavia Thomas hopes to make it a clean sweep in the 800 meters as she enters the meet as the reigning NCAA Indoor champion in the event with her win at the indoor national meet in March. Thomas ranks third among all 800-meter runners at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with a top time this season at 3 minutes, 3.22 seconds.
If the Lady Tigers hope to contend for this year’s team title, it will be with the effort of two of the nation’s premier relay teams.
Baptiste has anchored the women’s 4x100-meter relay team of Brooklynn Morris, Samantha Henry and Juanita Broaddus to the nation’s top time this season at 42.59, while Morris, Thomas and Wilson will join Deonna Lawrence as members of the second-ranked 4x400-meter relay team that has clocked a seasonal best of 3:29.28.
“The thing that’s most important with our women is that we’re coming into the meet healthy this year after not really being at full strength a year ago,” Shaver said. “They’ve done a great job this season getting themselves ready to compete and are ready to go at it one last time against the best teams in the nation. It certainly won’t be easy.”
The Tigers are seeking their first outdoor title since 2002 as they have won a total of four NCAA outdoor championships in their illustrious history. They are also looking to continue a run of top-five finishes as they have not finished outside the top five at the meet since 1999.
The men’s race will prove to be just as difficult as the women’s as the Tigers must dethrone two-time defending NCAA Outdoor champion Florida State.
LSU’s sprints group is the unquestioned heart and soul of the team as senior Richard Thompson and junior Trindon Holliday give the Tigers a devastating 1-2 punch in the 100-meter dash with the opportunity to score big points in the event.
Thompson has been the fastest man in the NCAA to this point in the season as his seasonal best time of 9.93 is the second-fastest time in the history of collegiate track and field, while he is also among the favorites in the 200-meter dash with the second-fastest time in the nation this season at 20.18. He swept 100-meter and 200-meter titles at the conference and regional meets.
Holliday is looking to improve upon his runner-up finish in the 100 meters at the meet a year ago with his first career individual NCAA title, and he will do so as the fourth-ranked performer at the NCAA Championships with a top time this season at 10.05.
The duo has also combined to lead the Tigers’ No. 1 ranked sprint relay team that has clocked the third-fastest time in the world at 38.67.
“There’s no question that our men’s team has had a great season to this point,” Shaver said. “We’re in as good a position as we can be because we’re coming into the meet healthy following a long season. This race on the men’s side is going to be a lot like the women. We’re certainly one of the contenders going in, but you’ve got to give the edge to Florida State with what they’ve accomplished these last two years and what they have coming back.”
Live results for the 2008 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships can be found online by logging on to www.flashresults.com. Full results and daily recaps of the meet will also be posted on the official website for LSU athletics at www.LSUsports.net.
LSU’s Qualifiers for the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
Athlete, Event, Time/Mark
Preston Chatham, Javelin, 227-5
Josh Dominguez, Pole Vault, 17-5
Ryan Fontenot, 110 hurdles, 13.51w
Rabun Fox, Hammer, 215-11
Trindon Holliday, 100 meters, 10.05
Jamaal James, 800 meters, 1:47.91
Ricky Jean-Francois, Shot Put, 59-1 ¼
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
Zedric Thomas, Triple Jump, 52-3 ¼
Richard Thompson, 100 meters/200 meters, 9.93/20.18
Reuben Twijukye, 800 meters, 1:48.13
Hayes, Thompson, Mvumvure, Holliday; 4x100-meter relay; 38.67
Hayes, E. Kosgei, Twijukye, Dardar; 4x400-meter relay; 3:04.33
Athlete, Event, 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 ¼w
Brooklynn Morris, 400 meters, 52.74
Jessica Ohanaja, 100 hurdles, 12.91w
Katelyn Rodrigue, Pole Vault, 13-7 ¼
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