BATON ROUGE -- The LSU track and field teams will be well-represented at the 2009 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships this weekend as a total of 16 entries have been accepted into the meet beginning Friday at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station, Texas.
The third-ranked Lady Tigers will once again have one of the nation’s largest contingents as nine athletes will be competing in 10 different events.
The seventh-ranked Tigers are poised for another strong finish at this year’s national meet as they feature many NCAA title contenders with five athletes and one of the nation’s top 4x400-meter relay teams scheduled to make the trip to College Station this weekend.
Junior LaTavia Thomas will line up at this year’s meet with a chance to defend her NCAA Indoor title in the 800 meters that she won as a sophomore in 2008. Thomas set an indoor personal best of 2 minutes, 4.27 seconds in a runner-up finish at the SEC Indoor Championships on March 1 to rank No. 3 in the NCAA in the event heading into the national meet.
Junior sprinter Samantha Henry is the only LSU athlete entered in two individual events as she is set to line up in both the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes at the NCAA Indoor Championships for the second-straight season. Henry earned All-America honors with a fifth-place finish in the 60 at the NCAA Indoor meet a year ago, while she also earned a ninth-place finish in the 200 meters.
Henry is a strong national title contender as she enters this year’s NCAA meet ranked No. 2 in the country in the 60-meter dash with a seasonal-best time of 7.19 seconds. In addition, she ranks No. 9 nationally in the 200 meters with a top time of 23.30 this season.
Like Thomas, freshman Rachel Laurent also ranked No. 3 nationally in her specialty event as the SEC Indoor champion enters the meet with the nation’s No. 3 mark in the pole vault at 14-0 ½.
Other Lady Tigers who will compete include Brittani Carter (high jump), Brittany Hall (800 meters), Tenaya Jones (60 hurdles), Andrea Linton (triple jump), Kayann Thompson (800 meters) and Kenyanna Wilson (60 meters).
The Tigers feature a trio of NCAA title contenders of their own as junior Trindon Holliday (60 meters), sophomore Walter Henning (weight throw) and freshman Robert Simmons (400 meters) each rank among the nation’s top five performers in their respective specialty events.
Holliday is looking to win his first career individual NCAA championship after finishing as the national runner-up at 60 meters a year ago. The Zachary native, who clocked a personal-best time of 6.54 to finish behind teammate Richard Thompson (6.51) in the NCAA final a year ago, is the nation’s No. 2 performer in the event in 2009 with a seasonal-best time of 6.56.
Likewise, Henning ranks No. 2 nationally in the 35-pound weight throw with a top mark of 74-5 ½ set while capturing the SEC Indoor title on March 1. Henning trails the national leader by only two centimeters as Chris Rohr of Missouri is on top with a mark of 74-6 ¼.
Simmons has already established himself as one of the nation’s premier 400-meter runners during his freshman season as he ranks No. 5 in the NCAA with an overall personal-best time of 46.22.
Not only that, but Simmons will anchor the Tigers’ 4x400-meter relay team that boasts the ninth-fastest time in the NCAA this season at 3:07.29. He will be joined in the 4x400-meter relay pool by junior Armanti Hayes, sophomore Jamar Howard and freshman Ade Alleyne-Forte.
The Tigers will also feature a pair of athletes in the long jump competition as both senior Jeremy Hicks and junior Will Coppage are set to make the trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend. Hicks, who is making his first career appearance at the indoor national meet, is ranked No. 7 nationally with a mark of 25-8 ¾. Coppage will compete at the NCAA Indoor meet for the third year in a row and enters the meet ranked No. 9 in the NCAA with a mark of 25-7 ¼.
This marks the first time since winning the NCAA Indoor title in 2004 that the LSU men will be represented by at least two athletes in the long jump at the national meet.
The NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships are set to kick off Friday as Texas A&M will play host to the two-day event. The Lady Tigers have been the national runners-up in each of the last two season, while the Tigers are looking to improve upon their fourth-place finish from 2008.
LSU’S 2009 NCAA INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS QUALIFIERS
Athlete, Event, Top Time/Mark
Will Coppage, Long Jump, 25-7 ¼
Walter Henning, Weight Throw, 74-5 ½
Jeremy Hicks, Long Jump, 25-8 ¾
Trindon Holliday, 60 meters, 6.56
Robert Simmons, 400 meters, 46.22
Ade Alleyne-Forte, Armanti Hayes, Jamar Howard, Robert Simmons; 4x400 Relay; 3:07.29
Athlete, Event, Top Time/Mark
Brittani Carter, High Jump, 5-11 ½
Brittany Hall, 800 meters, 2:05.70
Samantha Henry, 60 meters, 7.19
Samantha Henry, 200 meters, 23.30
Tenaya Jones, 60 hurdles, 8.20
Rachel Laurent, Pole Vault, 14-0 ½
Andrea Linton, Triple Jump, 42-10 ¼
LaTavia Thomas, 800 meters, 2:04.27
Kayann Thompson, 800 meters, 2:05.88
Kenyanna Wilson, 60 meters, 7.28