The Tigers featured a balanced attack while finishing just two points shy of a national championship at the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships as they scored 48 points for a runner-up finish in the team race in an exciting conclusion to the college season a year ago. Leading the way were 12 All-Americans scoring in events ranging from the sprints, hurdles and relays, to the jumps and throws as the Tigers again proved themselves among the best teams in all of collegiate track and field.
They will look to follow that formula for success in 2013 as they again feature one of the more balanced rosters in the country featuring All-America candidates across each of the event areas. With three-time NCAA long jump silver medalist Damar Forbes leading the way and emerging sprint star Aaron Ernest contending for NCAA titles on the track, the team boasts a host of returning firepower and an infusion of talent with one of the nation's top recruiting classes that is sure to lead LSU the pinnacle of collegiate track and field again this spring.
First in a 10-part series previews the men's sprints and relays that are sure to burn up the track during the 2013 season.
Men's Sprints & Relays
The foundation of the LSU Track & Field program has been built on its success in the sprints and relays as the Tigers feature one of the more talented squads each year in their quest for a national championship. This year's edition will highlight the future of the program as a talented crop of freshmen and sophomores will provide the core of LSU's sprint group.
Caleb Williams is the only senior in the group with NCAA Championships experience as he is looking to build on a breakout junior season in which he earned All-America honors in the 400-meter dash for the first time in his collegiate career. Already an All-American as a member of LSU's 4x400-meter relay team, Williams earned a fifth-place finish in his first national final in the open 400 meters at the NCAA Indoor Championships a year ago.
Despite seeing his outdoor season cut short due to a hamstring injury, Williams' status as one of the NCAA's elite quartermilers has been solidified after claiming five All-America honors and setting personal records of 46.08 seconds indoors and 45.61 outdoors in the event during his collegiate career.
Williams will team with rising sophomore and World Junior Championships gold medalist Quincy Downing to provide the Tigers a strong foundation in the 4x400-meter relay as each ran on the squad that captured NCAA bronze medals during the indoor and outdoor seasons in 2012.
While Williams helped lead the team to a third-place finish nationally indoors a year ago, Downing emerged as a strong leg for the Tigers in Williams' absence during the outdoor season as he teamed with seniors Ade Alleyne-Forte, Riker Hylton and Robert Simmons to run the third-fastest time in school history at 3 minutes, 1.21 seconds for a third-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Downing, who set a 400-meter PR of 46.18 during his rookie season, also ran the leadoff leg for the United States in a gold-medal-winning run in the 4x400 relay at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain, last summer.
With Alleyne-Forte, Hylton and Simmons now pursuing post-collegiate careers, the Tigers will rely on a strong recruiting class to reload their relay roster in 2013.
The 2012 season also saw the emergence of New Orleans native Aaron Ernest as one of the rising sprint stars in collegiate track and field while winning a trio of All-America honors in his debut at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Ernest scored 7.5 points for the Tigers in his first career appearance at the NCAA Championships as he finished in fifth place in the 200 meters, eighth place in the 100 meters and ran the second leg on LSU's national champion 4x100-meter relay squad. Ernest teamed with Barrett Nugent, Keyth Talley and Shermund Allsop to win the program's eighth NCAA title all-time in the sprint relay as they ran the seventh-fastest time in collegiate history at 38.38 in the national final.
Ernest, who also won three All-SEC honors during his rookie season, took his performance to another level over the summer when he represented the United States at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain. He swept sprint silver medals while setting new personal bests of 10.17 in the 100 meters and 20.53 in the 200 meters before anchoring the USA to a gold medal in the 4x100 relay with a world junior record of 38.67.
While Williams and Ernest provide the Tigers with a strong foundation in both the sprints and relays, they are joined by a talented crop of underclassmen to round out the squad.
Allsop returns to LSU for his junior season after anchoring the Tigers to an NCAA crown in the 4x100 relay in his first NCAA Championships a year ago. A native of the Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago, Allsop smashed personal bests as an NCAA Championship qualifier in both the 100 meters (10.29) and 200 meters (20.71) during his sophomore season in 2012.
Also returning to the squad this season are a pair of NCAA qualifiers in the 100 meters in junior Rynell Parson and sophomore Trevor Sansone. Parson, the former World Youth Record Holder in the event with a PR of 10.23, was the fifth-place finisher in the 100-meter final at the SEC Championships a year ago. Sansone set a personal best of 10.54 in the event in his freshman season while also seeing action on the 4x100 relay team during the regular season.
Joining the Tigers this season as part of their recruiting Class of 2012 are freshmen Darrell Bush (Woodbury, N.J.), Cyril Grayson (Kenner, La.) and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (Mandeville, Jamaica). Mitchell-Blake signed with the Tigers with PRs of 10.49 in the 100 meters and 21.49 in the 200 meters, while Bush has run 46.95 and Grayson has run 47.16 in the 400 meters.
The Tigers are also happy to welcome two members of the LSU football team to the track during the spring season as freshmen Kavahra Holmes (Breaux Bridge, La.) and Derrick Raymond (New Orleans, La.) are sure to be the next generation of two-sport stars at LSU. With a top time of 46.07 set during his prep career, Holmes was the No. 2-ranked 400-meter recruit in the country as a former AAU Junior Olympics champion in the event. Raymond posted personal bests of 10.52w in the 100 meters and 21.51w in the 200 meters during his high school career.
Check back Thursday as Part 2 of LSU Track & Field's 2013 season preview will feature the women's sprints and relays.