Lady Tigers Win Fifth SEC Title in Six Seasons
BATON ROUGE - LSU junior Kimberlyn Duncan seems to make history each time she steps onto the track, and Sunday's finale at the 2012 SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships was no exception as she swept 100-meter and 200-meter titles in record-breaking fashion to guide the Lady Tigers to their fifth SEC Outdoor crown in six seasons at Bernie Moore Stadium.
Duncan finished as LSU's top point scorer with 22.5 points for the weekend as she also ran the anchor leg on the winning 4x100-meter relay for the Lady Tigers to kick off Sunday's finals on the track.
Duncan led an onslaught by the Lady Tigers in Sunday's finale as they claimed six SEC event titles in the final day of competition that also featured junior Charlene Lipsey winning the 800-meter title, sophomore Jasmin Stowers defending her crown in the 100-meter hurdles and the Lady Tigers running a 2012 season best in wrapping up the championship with a win in the 4x400-meter relay.
The Lady Tigers piled up 114 points while scoring in 10 of the 12 events in the meet finale to defend their home turf with 161.5 points in four days of competition in Baton Rouge. Their 161.5 points is the most by the Lady Tigers at the SEC Outdoor Championships since the 1993 season.
The Florida Gators finished in second place in the final women's team standings with 138 points followed by Arkansas (111.5) in third place, Georgia (108) in fourth place and Tennessee (97) in fifth place.
LSU captured its third-straight women's team title at the SEC Outdoor Championships, and its fifth in six seasons with victories in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The victory marks the first time since 1991 that the Lady Tigers have won at least three-straight SEC Outdoor team titles with their 13th SEC Outdoor crown in program history and 25th conference title between the indoor and outdoor seasons.
LSU Track & Field captured its 50th SEC crown all-time, as both the men and women have now claimed a total of 25 SEC team titles between the indoor and outdoor seasons.
And senior Barrett Nugent made history of his own as he became the first LSU Tiger to win three-straight SEC Outdoor titles in the 110-meter hurdles with a victory in his final SEC Championship as he paced the Tigers to a second-place finish in the final men's team standings with 118 points for the weekend.
The Arkansas Razorbacks defended their SEC Outdoor championship with an astounding 196 points over the weekend. With their 90 points on Sunday, the Tigers outlasted Georgia (109) for second place overall, while Florida (93) followed in fourth place and Mississippi State (61) trailed in fifth place in the final standings.
"I could not be more proud with the way our athletes represented themselves and this program at the SEC Championships here this weekend," said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. "We're really proud of our kids and the job that they did, and we look forward to moving on from here. It is really special for our ladies to win, but it is really special for them to win it here at Bernie Moore Stadium."
Duncan certainly stole the show and wowed a packed house at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium in setting the SEC meet record in the 100-meter dash before defending her SEC Outdoor crown in the 200 meters to cement her reputation as the NCAA's most dominant dual sprinter for the 2012 season.
But she helped open the scoring for the Lady Tigers in the first final on the track by anchoring LSU to the defense of its conference championship in the 4x100-meter relay.
Duncan joined sophomore Takeia Pinckney, senior Semoy Hackett and senior Rebecca Alexander to take the title in 43.27 seconds and defend the crown they won in Athens, Ga., a season ago. They finished well ahead of Auburn (43.67) for their 18th SEC title in the sprint relay in program history.
With LSU sitting in third place with 84.5 points heading into the 100-meter final, Duncan and Hackett put the Lady Tigers in the lead for good with a sweep of first and second places in the event.
Duncan raced into history with a dominating performance in winning the SEC 100-meter crown as she set an SEC Championships meet record and Bernie Moore Track Stadium record of 10.96 (+1.9) to become a 10th different Lady Tiger to be crowned the conference champion in the event while winning LSU's 16th league title in the sprint all-time. She is now the fourth Lady Tiger in five seasons to take the SEC 100-meter title.
With Sunday's performance, Duncan shattered the previous SEC meet record of 11.03 set by Olympic silver medalist Kerron Stewart of Auburn in 2003, and her own previous Bernie Moore Stadium record of 11.05 set just three weeks ago at the LSU Alumni Gold meet held on April 21.
What's even more impressive with her effort is that Duncan became the NCAA's No. 3-ranked 100-meter sprinter in history with her wind-legal run of 10.96 on Sunday afternoon.
Hackett, the 2011 SEC 100-meter champion, set a personal record of her own with a time of 11.10 to take second place with the NCAA's No. 5-ranked time this spring. She also cracked LSU's all-time Top 10 list with the No. 9-ranked performance in program history with her second All-SEC honor of the day.
The Lady Tigers emerged from the 100-meter final with a 7.5-point lead over Florida by a score of 104.5-97 and never looked back in claiming their fifth SEC Outdoor crown in six seasons.
The Lady Tiger tandem then scored the team's final points before the running of the 4x400-meter relay as they again swept the gold and silver medals in the 200-meter dash for the second year in a row.
Duncan claimed her 17th-straight 200-meter title against collegiate competition with the third-fastest effort under all conditions in NCAA history as she crossed the finish line with a wind-aided time of 22.12 in her title defense. Hackett also raced to a new 2012 seasonal best with the No. 2-ranked time in the NCAA this spring at 22.74w as she trails only Duncan on the national all-conditions list.
"My approach for my races today was just to stay confident and comfortable with what I was doing here," Duncan said. "We train hard all year for this, so I knew I was ready to go today. The (100) record is great, but going out in all of our events and trying to score as many points as possible was our main goal. I think we did that today. I'm proud of our team for what we accomplished today."
Also defending her SEC title in Sunday's finale was sophomore Jasmin Stowers, who made history a year ago as the first Lady Tiger freshman to claim the conference crown in the 100-meter hurdles.
Despite getting off to a slow start, Stowers overtook the field midway through the race, and sprinted across the finish line in 12.96 (+1.8) to finish nearly three-tenths of a second ahead of the 13.25 run by Arkansas standout Ivanique Kemp and defend her SEC championship. Stowers is now the first Lady Tigers' hurdler since Lolo Jones (2002-04) to win back-to-back conference titles in the sprint hurdles.
The Lady Tigers racked up 14 points in the event as junior Shanekia Hall followed in fifth place with an effort of 13.46 in her first SEC Championships final in the event.
"It feels great," Stowers said of defending her SEC hurdles title. "This is my fourth SEC meet, and I have won all four. I'm very excited. It's great to win it again, especially winning at a home meet. When I came out, I knew I had a bad start. I knew I had to push through and pass people and get to the line. Most of the time, I get a good start. I didn't have my best start today, but I thought I finished strong."
Lipsey added 14 points of her own to LSU's winning score as she set a pair of personal bests in taking the 800-meter title and finishing in fifth place in the 1,500-meter final on Sunday afternoon.
After running the second-fastest 1,500 meters in school history with her time of 4 minutes, 18.16 seconds, Lipsey completed the season sweep of SEC titles in the 800-meter run when she raced to a winning PR of 2:02.60 for the fourth-fastest performance all-time by a Lady Tiger.
Just when it seemed Tennessee's Chanelle Price was pulling away down the homestretch in the race to the finish line, Lipsey found another gear with 50 meters to go as she surged past Price and crossed the finish line in 2:02.60 to finish more than a half second ahead of her rival in second place at 2:03.15.
With the win, Lipsey became LSU's first SEC Outdoor champion in the women's 800-meter run since the great LaTavia Thomas in 2008, and the sixth different Lady Tiger to win the event in team history.
"It means a lot because I scored a lot of points. Points really do matter," Lipsey said. "I was just a little bit nervous because I doubled up, so I was worried that I wouldn't have enough left to win it. But with this crowd cheering me on, it gave me the extra energy to pass in the end. I probably could have done better in the 1,500, but I did get a PR. It took a lot out of my legs for the 800, but it was worth it for the points."
Two Lady Tigers also cracked the Top 10 of the NCAA rankings with seasonal-best performances in their All-SEC finishes on Sunday as senior Rebecca Alexander set a personal best of 51.83 in taking second place in the 400 meters and senior Cassandra Tate ran 56.82 for second place in the 400 hurdles.
Alexander actually came off the final turn in sixth place in the 400-meter final, but found a burst down the stretch and nearly caught Arkansas' Regina George at the finish line for the win.
Both competitors actually ran the same time of 51.83 in the final, but George was given the crown with an effort of 51.821 to Alexander's time of 51.826. Alexander, who claimed the SEC Indoor crown in the 400 meters earlier this season, emerged as the NCAA's No. 5-ranked performer in the event in 2012.
Tate followed with an All-SEC runner-up finish of her own in the final of the 400-meter hurdles as she set a seasonal best of 56.82 to finish second to Tennessee's defending champion Ellen Wortham (55.55) for a third career all-conference performance in the event. With her seasonal-best effort, Tate turned in a run of 56.82 that ranks No. 9 on the national list in the wake of the conference championship.
The Lady Tigers then wrapped up the scoring and the event by running a seasonal-best time of 3:29.25 for the win in the 4x400-meter relay as junior Latoya McDermott, Alexander, Tate and senior Jonique Day finished well ahead of Arkansas (3:31.16) for their ninth SEC Outdoor title in the mile relay.
Senior Samia Stokes added a bronze-medal winning third-place finish in the discus final after throwing an impressive PR of 181-0 in the second round to move to No. 12 in the NCAA rankings for 2012.
"First of all, it's amazing that it takes that many points to win," Shaver said of LSU's victory. "I really did think that Florida fought hard all the way to the end. We're really proud of our kids with what they did for this meet. They really need to take care of business today, and fortunately they were able to do that across the board. I'm very proud of them for what they accomplished here at home."
Nugent led the charge for the Tigers on the final day of the SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championship on Sunday as they totaled 90 points on the day for second place with 118 points overall.
After claiming back-to-back SEC Outdoor titles in the 110-meter hurdles as a sophomore in 2010 and as a junior in 2011, Nugent lined up in Sunday's final with an opportunity to become LSU's first three-time champion in the sprint hurdles in the 80th edition of the men's SEC Outdoor Championships.
Nugent led from the start as he separated himself from the rest of the field over the fifth and sixth hurdles, while cruising to an easy victory in 13.40 (+2.7) and bringing the home crowd to its feet in celebration of his historic achievement. Florida's Eddie Lovett finished runner-up to Nugent with a time of 13.65w.
The reigning NCAA champion is the first LSU Tiger in history to win three-straight SEC titles in the 110-meter hurdles, and the first athlete to do so since South Carolina's Terrence Trammell in 1998-2000.
"It's great winning a race at home," Nugent said of his victory at Bernie Moore Stadium. "There's a really special value in the fact that this year's meet is at home. I have a lot of people from Vermillion Parish here, my family and a lot of people from back home. Especially with it being Mother's Day, it's great that I have my mom and everybody in my family here to watch me run."
Freshman Aaron Ernest proved to be the Tigers' top point scorer in his first SEC Outdoor Championships as he claimed a pair of All-SEC second-place finishes in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes.
Ernest first stepped onto the track for the 100-meter final after running the third-fastest time for the prelim at 10.19w on Saturday afternoon. He backed up that performance with a personal-best effort on Sunday as he closed strong to cross the finish line in 10.23 (+1.6) for second place in the conference final.
The men's 100-meter final actually produced a trio of seasonal-best wind-legal times by the Tigers, as the duo of senior Keyth Talley (10.33) and sophomore Rynell Parson (10.36) added nine points with fifth and sixth places in the race. Auburn's Keenan Brock took the title with a winning time of 10.17.
Ernest then returned to the track for the 200-meter final as he lined up among the favorites to take the title after earning All-SEC honors during the indoor season with his runner-up finish at the SEC Indoor meet.
He ran strong down the straightaway to cross the finish line with a career-best wind-aided run of 20.39 for second place behind the winning time of 20.32w by Ole Miss standout Isiah Young. Ernest has proven his worth as one of the SEC's elite young sprinters while claiming three All-SEC accolades in his first season with the program. He totaled 16 points in his first appearance at the SEC Outdoor Championships.
Also earning All-SEC honors for the Tigers with a personal-best performance on Sunday was senior triple jumper Kyron Blaise, who earned all-conference honors for the second time in 2012.
Blaise jumped a wind-legal PR of 54-1 ¼ in the fifth round of jumps to solidify his position in the second spot as he finished runner-up to Florida's SEC champion Omar Craddock (54-8 ¾). That jump moved the senior from Toco, Trinidad, into the No. 4 position on LSU's all-time performance list in the event.
Two other Tigers also cracked LSU's all-time Top 10 list with personal bests in the SEC finale as the duo of senior Aaron Moore (229-6) and freshman Jeremy Tuttle (227-6) opened the scoring for the Tigers this afternoon with a pair of top finishes in the men's javelin final.
Moore unleashed his series-best of 229-6 on his sixth and final throw of the meet to raise his personal best with the No. 7-ranked performance in school history while claiming the SEC Outdoor bronze medal in the javelin. Tuttle wasted no time as he eclipsed his previous PR of 216-0 by more than 11 feet en route to his fifth-place finish while posting the No. 9-ranked mark on LSU's all-time performance list.
The Tigers then wrapped up the meet on the track by taking home an All-SEC second-place finish overall in the 4x400-meter relay as the team of Quincy Downing, Robert Simmons, Ade Alleyne-Forte and Riker Hylton ran their second-fastest time of the year at 3:03.80 to finish second to Florida (3:03.44).
With their performance, the Tigers earned their 18th second-place finish all-time at the SEC Outdoor meet with their fourth runner-up finish in the team standings in the last six years.
"I knew this morning when I kind of looked at everything, it really looked like Georgia was going to be in a good position for second place in the men's team race," Shaver said. "I knew there was a chance that we might not be able to catch them with the bullets they had to fire today. But our guys really stepped it up in each of the event areas today to go out there and finish strong. They earned their finish today."
The Tigers and Lady Tigers will now turn their attention to the NCAA Championships, as they make their trip to Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., on May 24-26 for the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds being held at the University of North Florida with the first and second rounds of the national meet.
The semifinal and final rounds with the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, are slated to run June 6-9 at Drake Stadium at Drake University.