BATON ROUGE -- This weekend marks the beginning of yet another exciting championship season for the LSU track and field teams as they make the trip to Gainesville, Fla., to compete in the 2009 SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships starting Friday.
James G. Pressly Stadium at Percy Beard Track on the campus of the University of Florida will play host to the four-day meet as it officially kicks off Thursday with the multi-events. LSU will make its appearance for the first time during Friday’s action with the start of the open events.
The meet will be regionally broadcast on a tape-delay basis from 5-7 p.m. CT on Saturday, May 26, as part of SEC-TV on Fox Sports Net-South and Fox Sports Net-Southwest.
The Lady Tigers have dominated the SEC in recent years as they enter the meet looking for their third-straight SEC Outdoor title as the two-time defending champions of the meet. The fourth-ranked LSU women will fight to keep their crown against such nationally-ranked teams as No. 12 Tennessee, No. 14 Auburn and No. 22 Arkansas.
After finishing runner-up in each of the last two seasons, the 12th-ranked Tigers hope to end a 19-year drought with their first SEC Outdoor championship since 1990. They must battle six ranked teams to win the team title, including meet favorite and host No. 2 Florida, No. 7 South Carolina, No. 8 Arkansas, No. 13 Auburn, No. 20 Georgia and No. 25 Kentucky.
Since women started competing at the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 1981, the men’s and women’s team titles have been won by the same school in the same season nine times.
LSU has accomplished the impressive sweep three times in its history and has an opportunity this weekend to do so for the first time since 1990. It also accomplished the feat in 1988 and 1989.
The squads will be well-rested heading into Friday’s competition as they have not competed in 19 days since wrapping up the regular season at the Penn Relays on April 25, marking LSU’s second longest break between the final regular season meet and the SEC meet in at least two decades.
“Our athletes always look forward to the start of the championship season because they just seem to take their performance to another level when it counts the most,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “I don’t think there’s any doubt this is the most difficult conference championship to win, but both teams have prepared themselves well and are ready for the championship season.
“This meet is the first step in preparing for what we’ll see at the NCAA Championship. The level of talent in the SEC is that deep. Many of the events this weekend will be like an NCAA final.”
chas a chance to make history this weekend by winning the women’s 800-meter title as she would become first female athlete in league history to win three-straight outdoor conference titles in the event. Her seasonal best of 2:04.48 ranks No. 2 in the SEC this season.
Thomas was a catalyst in LSU’s championship run in each of the last two seasons as she captured her first career SEC Outdoor title in 2007 before defending her crown as a sophomore a year ago.
The Lady Tigers enter the weekend with the SEC’s leading performer in five different events, led by junior Samantha Henry’s leading time of 11.19 seconds in the 100-meter dash. Henry will also run the third leg on LSU’s league-leading 4x100-meter relay that enters the meet with the second-fastest time in the NCAA this season at 43.39.
While Thomas is seeking her third-straight SEC title in the 800 meters, senior Kayann Thompson boasts the SEC’s top time in the event at 2:04.25. Sophomore Brittani Carter is tied for the league lead with a mark of 6 feet in the high jump, while the Lady Tigers are the favorite to defend their crown in the 4x400-meter relay with an NCAA-leading time of 3:31.81.
Holliday enters the meet as the NCAA leader in the 100-meter dash with a seasonal best of 10.12 recorded in his outdoor season debut at the Texas Relays. Both Hicks and Henning rank second in the NCAA in their respective events with seasonal bests of 26-3 and 235-11, respectively.
Not only that, but the Tigers are favored to defend their SEC crown in the 4x100-meter relay with the fastest time in the SEC and third-fastest time in the nation this season at 38.89.
“We’ve reached that point in the season where it is time for each one of our athletes to raise their level of competition to contribute to the overall success of the team,” Shaver said. “They are very prepared with all of the hard work they have put into training this season, and I know they’ll put it all on the line for us this weekend. That’s what the championship season is all about.”
LSU has enjoyed tremendous success at the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships over the years as the Lady Tigers have captured 10 outdoor conference titles in their history, while the Tigers have won a total of 22 league titles in their illustrious history.
LSU athletes are also among the league leaders year in and year out as the Tigers have won more event titles than any other team in the history of the SEC Outdoor Championships. The Tigers have won 230 individual titles and 34 relay titles for a total of 264 event wins in the history of the meet. Tennessee is a distant second with 215 event titles all-time.
The Lady Tigers have proven to be the top performers on the women’s side as they have won an SEC-leading 112 event titles all-time, including 90 individual titles and 22 relay titles.
After returning to Baton Rouge, the squads will break for two weeks before returning to action at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in Louisville, Ky. The two-day meet is scheduled to run from May 29-30 at Cardinal Park Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville.