BATON ROUGE – The LSU Track & Field teams are ready to open the championship season this week as they make the trip to Lexington, Kentucky, to compete at the 2014 SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships as the University of Kentucky will play host to the event beginning Thursday at its newly-built UK Outdoor Track & Field Facility.
Thursday's action at the SEC Outdoor Championships kicks off with the start of the women's heptathlon at 11 a.m. CDT and the men's decathlon at 11:30 a.m. The women's hammer throw will also be contested on the first day of the competition as the qualifying round is set to begin at 12:30 p.m. in the first scored event of the meet.
Friday's field events are slated for an 11 a.m. CDT start followed by the meet's first preliminary races on the track at 5:15 p.m. Final-round action continues Saturday at noon in the field events and 2:45 p.m. on the track and Sunday at 10 a.m. in the field events and 1 p.m. on the track.
This year's SEC Outdoor team champions will be crowned in a special awards ceremony on Sunday at approximately 4:45 p.m. CDT following the running of the 4x400-meter relays.
ESPN3.com will feature a live video stream of the SEC Championships on Saturday beginning at 3:30 p.m. CDT and Sunday beginning at 2 p.m. ESPNU will also air a two-hour tape-delay broadcast from the championship as part of the network's coverage of the Southeastern Conference on Thursday, May 22, from 7-9 p.m.
The University of Kentucky in conjunction with Branch Sports Technology will provide live results throughout the weekend at the 2014 SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships as fans can follow along by logging on to http://www.branchsportstech.com/. Fans can also receive live updates of the Tigers and Lady Tigers this weekend by following @LSUTrackField on Twitter and liking LSU Track & Field on Facebook.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers will open up the championship season ranked among the Top 10 teams in the country, as the Tigers are the No. 9-ranked men's team and the Lady Tigers are the No. 7-ranked women's team nationally with the release of this week's U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Top 25 power rankings on Tuesday.
The Lady Tigers have won the women's team title at the SEC Outdoor Championships a league-leading 13 times in their history, including a run of five wins in the last seven years as they head to Kentucky this weekend for the 2014 edition of the most competitive conference meet in the NCAA. Under the direction of head coach Dennis Shaver, the Lady Tigers have won the SEC Outdoor title in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
They saw their run of three-straight SEC Championships snapped a season ago when they scored 112 points for a runner-up finish, just five points shy of the 117 points scored by 2013 champion Texas A&M.
The Tigers totaled 72.5 points in four days of competition at the SEC Outdoor Championships a year ago to earn a fourth-place team finish in the final men's team standings. The Arkansas Razorbacks are the three-time defending SEC Outdoor Champions on the men's side following an easy victory a year ago when they scored 152.5 points during the meet to take home the title.
The SEC Outdoor Championships feature many of the nation's top-ranked teams each season, and this year is no different as the Florida Gators enter the weekend with the No. 1-ranked team in the nation in both the men's and women's sides. The men's field also features No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 4 Arkansas, No. 7 Georgia, No. 11 Alabama, No. 18 Ole Miss, No. 19 Kentucky and No. 21 Tennessee, while the women's field includes the likes of No. 4 Texas A&M, No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 Kentucky, No. 8 Arkansas, No. 13 Missouri and No. 19 Mississippi State.
Junior discus thrower Rodney Brown and the Tigers' 4x100-meter relay team both look to defend their SEC Outdoor titles won a year ago as they headline LSU's contingent making the trip to Kentucky this weekend.
Brown is LSU's newly-crowned school-record holder in the men's discus throw this season after unleashing a career-best throw of 210 feet, 10 inches at the Penn Relays on April 26 to set a new meet record while even being named the Penn Relays' Men's College Individual Athlete of the Meet. Brown's best of 210-10 is the NCAA's No. 4-ranked performance for the 2014 outdoor season.
The Tigers will look to defend their SEC sprint relay title against a field that also sports the NCAA's two fastest teams in Florida (38.29) and Texas A&M (38.30). LSU's team of sophomore Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, junior Aaron Ernest, freshman Tremayne Acy and senior Shermund Allsop owns the No. 3-ranked time in the country this spring with a seasonal best of 38.83 to this point of the campaign.
Ernest is also a favorite to take home the men's 200-meter title as his season-opening time of 20.14 seconds two weeks ago slashed more than two tenths off of his previous personal best of 20.38 and ranks him as the No. 2-ranked 200-meter sprinter in the NCAA and the No. 4-ranked performer in the World rankings for the 2014 outdoor season.
Brown and the Tigers' 4x100-meter relay team were among six winners for LSU in 2013 as Lady Tigers Kimberlyn Duncan (100 meters, 200 meters) and Natoya Goule (800 meters) and Tiger standout Damar Forbes (long jump) were also crowned SEC Champions with their efforts at the University of Missouri before also being crowned NCAA Champions in their respective events to wrap up the collegiate season a year ago.
Stowers has a chance to join elite an elite group of hurdlers as she could become just the fourth athlete in SEC history to win three SEC Outdoor titles in the event in a career. Stowers, who won back-to-back SEC titles in the sprint hurdles as a freshman in 2011 and as a sophomore in 2012, looks to join Tennessee's Benita Fitzgerald (1981-83) and LaVonna Martin (1985-88) and LSU's Lolo Jones (2002-04) as the only three-time hurdles champions in meet history.
And Stowers has already smashed her personal best in the event this season with a career-best time of 12.81 (+1.9) run at the LSU Alumni Gold on April 19 for the second-fastest wind-legal time in the NCAA in 2014.
Hinton is the SEC's leading hammer thrower this spring as she steps into the circle this weekend as LSU's school-record holder in the event with a career-best mark of 218-0 set at the LSU Invitational on May 3. Hinton's personal best of 218-0 leads the SEC by more than 10 feet and ranks her No. 3 in the NCAA rankings for the 2014 outdoor season.
Hinton looks to win her first career SEC Outdoor title in the hammer throw after scoring the SEC silver medal for her best career finish in the event a year ago. She's already won back-to-back SEC Indoor Championships in the weight throw in 2013 and 2014, while also earning her first All-America honor in the weight throw to wrap up her senior season indoors.
After competing at the SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships this weekend, the Tigers and Lady Tigers will make the trip to Jacksonville, Florida, to compete at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds being held May 29-31 at North Florida's Hodges Stadium. The semifinal and final rounds of the 2014 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships will then be held June 11-14 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.