BATON ROUGE - The LSU Track & Field teams are ready to kick off the indoor championship season this weekend with a trip to Lexington, Ky., to compete at the 2012 Southeastern Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships beginning Friday afternoon at Kentucky's Nutter Field House.
This weekend marks the first time since the 2009 campaign that the University of Kentucky will play host to the SEC Indoor Championships at the Nutter Field House.
This year's championship kicks off on Friday afternoon with the women's pentathlon at 1:30 p.m. CT and the men's heptathlon at 2:15 p.m. Saturday's action continues at 10 a.m. with the field events followed by the first prelims on the track at 1:10 p.m. Sunday's finale at the SEC Indoor Championships is slated for a 10 a.m. start time in the field and 12:30 p.m. with finals on the track.
This year's SEC Indoor team champions will be crowned following the running of the 4x400-meter relays on Sunday afternoon in a special awards ceremony scheduled for 4:15 p.m.
Fans have the opportunity to see the Tigers and Lady Tigers in action as the meet is slated for a tape-delay nationwide broadcast by ESPNU on the afternoon of Sunday, March 11, from 4-5:30 p.m. CT.
In addition, ESPN3.com will provide a live stream of this year's SEC Indoor Championships on Saturday from 1:05-6:30 p.m. CT and Sunday from 12:25-4 p.m. CT. The University of Kentucky will stream those portions of the meet not appearing on ESPN3.com on its official website at www.ukathletics.com.
Live updates throughout the meet will also be available on the official Facebook and Twitter pages for the LSU Track & Field program. To receive these live updates, fans are invited to like LSU Track & Field on Facebook and follow @LSUTrackField on Twitter. Additional coverage for the LSU Track & Field teams on Twitter will be provided by @WillStaffordLSU by sports information director Will Stafford.
Fans are also invited to join in the Twitter conversation at the SEC Indoor Championships by tweeting the official Twitter hashtag for the meet using #SECTF.
"Each of the last six weekends have been spent building to this point of the season," said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. "Our athletes have done a tremendous job of taking the necessary steps each weekend that have now put themselves in a position to compete during the championship season."
The Lady Tigers captured their league-leading 12th SEC Indoor team title last year after scoring a decisive 135-118 victory over the homestanding Arkansas Razorbacks in the event held at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark. The Florida Gators follow LSU with the second-most women's team titles all-time at the SEC Indoor Championships with six wins since the 1984 season.
The No. 2-ranked Lady Tigers look to defend their SEC Indoor title against a field that features four other ranked teams in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Top 25 national rankings that includes No. 4 Arkansas, No. 6 Florida, No. 8 Tennessee and No. 22 South Carolina.
The No. 3-ranked Tigers hope to improve upon their third-place finish in the final team standings a season ago when they scored 98 points in three days of competition in Fayetteville.
If the Tigers hope to improve upon a third-place finish at the SEC Indoor Championships a year ago, they will do so against one of the strongest fields in recent history as the conference features six teams that will compete this weekend as part of the USTFCCCA Top 25. The No. 3-ranked Tigers are joined by the likes of No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 Florida, No. 17 Auburn, No. 22 Ole Miss and No. 24 Georgia.
Florida is the reigning SEC Indoor champion on the men's side after scoring 148 points during the event a year ago, while Arkansas finished runner-up with 136.5 points in the final 2011 team standings.
The SEC actually features a national-leading seven men's teams in the latest USTFCCCA Top 25, but the No. 10-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs do not sponsor indoor track at the conference level.
"We always expect an NCAA Championship atmosphere any time we go to the conference meet," Shaver said. "We know that it's going to be a tight battle on both sides and we'll need to compete all the way through the final events on Sunday before a team champion in crowned."
Two Lady Tigers return to the SEC Indoor Championships this weekend as defending champions for their events, as junior Kimberlyn Duncan is the favorite to retain her title in the 200-meter dash and sophomore Jasmin Stowers is a leading contender to defend her crown in the 60-meter hurdles. Duncan also owns the SEC's leading performance in the 60-meter dash this season with a personal best of 7.26 seconds.
Both Duncan and Stowers won their first career SEC titles at the SEC Indoor Championship a year ago as Duncan ran 22.78 to win the 200 meters and Stowers clocked 8.12 to win in the 60 hurdles.
Other LSU athletes sure to contend for SEC Indoor titles this weekend are seven individuals and one relay team that rank No. 1 in the conference in their respective events for the 2012 season.
That includes two NCAA leaders as junior Damar Forbes owns the nation's top mark in the long jump for the 2012 season at 26 feet, 7 ¾ inches and the Lady Tigers have run the nation's fastest 4x400-meter relay with a seasonal-best time of 3 minutes, 31.55 seconds on the campaign.
Two Lady Tigers who enter the SEC Indoor meet as the No. 2-ranked performer nationally with SEC-best times on the track are senior Rebecca Alexander with a lifetime best of 52.66 in the 400 meters and junior Charlene Lipsey with an indoor personal record at 2:03.79 in the 800 meters.
Other Tigers and Lady Tigers who own SEC-leading performances in their event this season include 2010 SEC Indoor champion Barrett Nugent in the 60-meter hurdles (7.70), junior Brittany Porter in the long jump (19-11 ¾) and sophomore Denise Hinton in the 20-pound weight throw (68-3 ¼).
After competing this weekend at the SEC Indoor Championships, LSU athletes will have one final chance to qualify for the national meet on March 2 at the LSU NCAA Indoor Qualifier being held at the Carl Maddox Field House. The teams will then head to Jacksons Indoor Track in Nampa, Idaho, for this year's NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships that is scheduled to run March 9-10.