Track & Field Teams Begin Quest for Next NCAA Title
LSU Sports Interactive
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The second-ranked LSU men’s and women’s track and field teams will look to make their run at this year’s outdoor national championship as they wrap up the season at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships this week.
The four-day meet begins Wednesday at Hornet Stadium on the campus of Sacramento State University where it has been held in each of the past two seasons. This year’s national champions will be crowned following Saturday’s action.
Fans across the country will have the opportunity to watch the action as both CSTV and CBS will broadcast live from the event. CSTV will air three hours of live coverage Friday from 7:30-10:30 p.m. CDT, while CBS will follow with a two-hour broadcast Saturday beginning at noon.
LSU will be competing with a record number of athletes since the NCAA instituted the regional format in 2003 as 29 individuals and four relay teams are making the trip to Sacramento. The previous high came in 2004 when the squads combined to qualify 22 individuals and four relay teams into the meet.
The Lady Tigers lead the women’s field as they have 21 chances to score after qualifying 19 athletes and two relay teams into the meet, while the Tigers are tied for second on the men’s side with 12 chances to score as they will be represented by 10 individuals and two relay teams.
“When you’re competing in a meet like this that is spaced out over four days, it’s important to approach it with the idea that each day is a different track meet,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “We want our athletes to stay focused and do what is necessary where we can line up on the final day with a chance to win the team title on both sides.”
The Lady Tigers have proven to be the most dominant program in collegiate track and field as they have won 13 outdoor national championships in the program’s storied history. They won an unprecedented 11 straight titles from 1987-97 with their last coming in the 2003 season.
The women look to return to the winner’s circle as they will battle No. 1 Arizona State for the team title after finishing runner-up to the Sun Devils at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March. Also in the hunt for the outdoor crown will be the third-ranked squad from Texas A&M and fourth-ranked South Carolina and Texas.
Sophomore Nickiesha Wilson enters the meet as the favorite to win the 400-meter hurdles as she boasts the nation’s top time at 55.20 seconds in a winning effort at the regional meet on May 26. She is also among the contenders in the sprint hurdles with the sixth-fastest time in the nation.
The Lady Tigers’ 4x400-meter relay team is looking to defend its national title from a year ago as the foursome of Brooklynn Morris, Tanya Osbourne, Cynetheia Rooks and Deonna Lawrence enters the competition with the No. 2 time in the country this season at 3 minutes, 28.89 seconds.
The women’s sprint relay team will also be looking to win an NCAA title this season as it boasts the nation’s top time heading into the national meet. Senior Sherry Fletcher, freshman Samantha Henry, Morris and junior Kelly Baptiste have clocked a seasonal best time of 43.26.
“I thought the women would be knocking on the door within three or four years after I was named head coach,” Shaver said. “They’ve performed well throughout this postseason and have put themselves in a great position to win a team title this week. I believe they’re ready to go out and compete with the best teams in the nation.”
The Tigers are seeking their first outdoor title since the 2002 season as they have won a total of four NCAA outdoor championships in their illustrious history. They are also looking to continue a run top-five finishes as they have not finished outside the top five at the meet since 1999.
Among those who will battle the Tigers for national supremacy is No. 1-ranked Florida State, which is looking to defend its team title from a year ago. In addition, No. 3 Southern California, No. 4 Auburn and No. 5 Tennessee are in a position to compete for the championship.
Leading the way for the Tigers will be sophomore sprint standout Trindon Holliday, who is among the national favorites in the 100-meter dash along with Walter Dix of Florida State and Travis Padgett of Clemson. Holliday broke his own school record in the event at the regional meet with the sixth-fastest time in the world this season at 10.07.
Holliday is looking to become the second LSU athlete in a row to be crowned 100-meter champion at the NCAA meet after LSU great Xavier Carter became the first Tiger to do so last year with a then school-record time of 10.09 in the final.
Holliday will also anchor the Tigers’ 4x100-meter relay team that enters the meet with the fourth-fastest time in the country at 39.37. Sophomore Jeremy Hicks, junior Richard Thompson and senior Marvin Stevenson will also run on the team that looks to defend its title from a year ago.
The men also hope to defend their crown in the 4x400-meter relay as they join the women’s squad in entering the meet with the nation’s second-ranked foursome. The team of Siraj Williams, Stevenson, Armanti Hayes and Melville Rogers won an SEC title with a seasonal best 3:03.62.
“I’m just as proud if not more proud of the men’s team for what they’ve accomplished this year,” Shaver said. “They started the season not even ranked in the nation’s top 25. No one thought that they would be able to repeat last year’s success after losing Xavier Carter and Kelly Willie. That just shows the kind of competitiveness this team has to be in this position.”
The meet is scheduled to get underway Wednesday at noon with the start of the men’s decathlon competition followed by the day’s first field events at 12:30 p.m. and the afternoon’s first running events at 5 p.m. Be sure to follow all of the exciting action at www.LSUsports.net.