Duncan Defends Title at Texas Relays
AUSTIN, Texas – Senior sprint star Kimberlyn Duncan made the most of her outdoor debut in the 100-meter dash this weekend as she became the third Lady Tiger sprinter in meet history to win back-to-back titles in the women’s university final during Saturday’s finale at the 86th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays at Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Duncan also ran the second leg on LSU’s 4x100-meter relay team that set a seasonal best in a runner-up finish in the women’s invitational race to cap a strong performance by the Lady Tigers in Austin.
After qualifying with a wind-aided run of 11.15 seconds in her first 100-meter race of the season during Friday’s preliminary round, Duncan returned to the track as the favorite to defend her Texas Relays title from last season when she electrified the Mike A. Myers Stadium crowd with a career-best wind-aided effort of 10.94 for her first career relays victory.
And she surged ahead of the field midway through Saturday’s race and crossed the finish line with a winning wind-aided 11.06 to take the tape over the Texas A&M tandem of Ashley Collier (11.15w) and Ashton Purvis (11.20w). Texas Tech’s Cierra White (11.21w) trailed in fourth place and Texas A&M’s Jennifer Madu (11.26w) rounded out the top five in fifth place.
With the win, Duncan joined LSU greats Cheryl Taplin (1993-94) and Muna Lee (2003-04) as the only Lady Tigers to win back-to-back university titles in the 100-meter dash in the history of the Texas Relays.
Her windy effort of 11.06 is not only the NCAA’s leading 100-meter dash this spring, but it is also the No. 2-ranked performance worldwide in races run under all conditions.
Duncan’s win in the 100-meter final came just over an hour after she guided the Lady Tigers to their seasonal-best performance in the 4x100-meter relay while running in the women’s invitational race. Duncan teamed with junior Jasmin Stowers on the leadoff leg, junior Takeia Pinckney on the third leg and junior Toshika Sylvester on the anchor leg to take second place with 43.70 clocking behind the winning time of 42.97 by the four sprinters from Elite Speed featuring Gabby Mayo, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Scottesha Miller and LSU alum Muna Lee.
The Lady Tigers emerged from the race with the NCAA’s No. 4-ranked sprint relay team for the 2013 season with their best of 43.70 this spring.
“Our main thing coming here was just improving as a team. I think we did that this weekend,” said Duncan, who hails from Katy, Texas. “We’ve still got some work to do on the relay, but we got a little bit better. I really wanted to win the 100 again in my last Texas Relays (as a Lady Tiger), so I’m happy to do that. I feel good about where I’m at early in the season with these being my first races of the year.
“It’s been great every year I’ve come back here to the Texas Relays. I’m always happy to be back where I’ve got so many friends and family. It’s great to see them, but it’s also a lot of fun to compete here each year.”
Duncan was not the only Lady Tiger to follow her appearance in the invitational 4x100-meter relay with an impressive finish in her individual event as Stowers ran her fastest 100-meter hurdle race in two years with her third-place finish in Saturday’s championship final in the women’s university 100-meter hurdles.
After earning her spot in the final with a seasonal-best wind-aided run of 13.18 in Friday’s qualifying round, Stowers slashed three tenths of a second from her seasonal best with a windy 12.88 (+2.1) in the final to earn a third-place finish behind Clemson’s NCAA Indoor champion Brianna Rollins (12.54w) and Academy of Art’s Vashti Thomas (12.70w) in the fastest collegiate race of the year.
The NCAA Indoor bronze medalist is poised to add an NCAA Outdoor medal to her resume as she trails only Rollins in the NCAA Division 1 rankings in the No. 2 spot early in the season.
By running a wind-aided 12.88 in Saturday’s final, Stowers has already run faster than she did all of last season as a sophomore when she finished with a seasonal-best all-conditions time of 12.92 in winning her second-straight SEC Outdoor title in the 100 hurdles. She also matched her wind-legal PR of 12.88 when she won her first career SEC crown as a freshman in 2011.
“It really helps me being able to run an extra event this year,” Stowers said of her performance in running both the hurdles and sprint relay. “Coach (Dennis) Shaver said it would benefit me in the hurdles to run on our relay this year. The hurdles is really a sprint race. You need good sprint techniques to run well. I felt really good running it today. I think it also helped me that I opened up at home last weekend instead of here at Texas like I did last season. I felt confident that I would come here and run well this weekend.”
Like Duncan, sophomore Aaron Ernest was impressive in his 100-meter opener this weekend while also guiding the Tigers to a seasonal-best performance in the men’s 4x100-meter relay final on Saturday.
Ernest first took to the track for the final of the Clyde Littlefield 4x100-Meter Relay as LSU’s second leg as he teamed up with senior Damar Forbes, freshman Darrell Bush and junior Shermund Allsop in the race.
The Tigers passed the stick around the track in a seasonal-best time of 39.56 for a fourth-place finish with the fourth-fastest time in the NCAA this season. Saturday’s sprint relay final produced the six fastest relays this season as the Tigers followed Texas A&M (38.64), Florida (38.99) and TCU (39.54) across the finish line. LSU was followed in the race by Tennessee (39.75) and Baylor (39.84).
Ernest was even more impressive when he returned to the track to run the final of the men’s university 100-meter dash as he claimed the silver medal in his first final of the outdoor season. After running a wind-aided 10.29 in his first 100-meter race of the season on Friday morning, Ernest dropped his seasonal best with a wind-legal 10.18 (+1.6) for the third-fastest performance worldwide in 2013.
The Tiger sophomore finished runner-up to Texas A&M senior Ameer Webb (10.14), while Jackson State’s Brent Lee (10.33) followed well back in third place in the race.
Ernest’s wind-legal 10.18 on Saturday afternoon is just one one-hundredth of a second off of his personal record of 10.17 that he twice set as a freshman a season ago. He ran 10.17 in the NCAA semifinal en route to an All-American eighth-place finish in the final at the NCAA Championships and in a silver-medal-winning finish for the United States at the IAAF World Junior Championships last summer.
Ernest talked about his performance after seeing his first action of the 2013 outdoor season this weekend while nursing a foot injury following his appearance at the NCAA Indoor Championships three weeks ago.
“I opened pretty well in the 100 this weekend. I’m happy with it,” Ernest said. “I’m not really thinking about (my injury) too much. I felt great today, and I think that showed. I did not even practice until this Wednesday when I spiked up for the first time since NCAA Indoors. I’m really happy with my start to the year being able to run so close to my PR this early.”
Fellow sophomore Rodney Brown enjoyed a silver-medal-winning performance of his own during Saturday’s finale at the 86th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays while smashing his personal best in discus and inching so very close to LSU’s 24-year-old school record in the event.
Brown found himself in sixth place heading into the final following a top mark of 190 feet, 9 inches in the preliminary round, but surged into second place overall when he launched a lifetime PR of 206-3 on his fifth toss of the afternoon to finish runner-up to the winning mark of 216-7 by UCLA’s national leader Julian Wruck. Not only did Brown eclipse his previous best by more than nine feet after opening the season with a best mark of 197-1 at the Louisiana Classics, but he has already raised his PR by nearly 16 feet this spring after opening with a best of 190-8 from a year ago.
Brown also finds himself less than three feet from the 24-year-old school record of 209-1 set during the 1989 season by former NCAA Champion and Tiger great John Nichols.
A native of nearby Chappell Hill, Texas, Brown certainly made the most of his homecoming this weekend as LSU’s top finisher in the men’s university discus final since Nichols took three Texas Relays titles in 1989, 1990 and 1992. Brown even improved upon a fifth-place finish in the discus in his Texas Relays debut as a freshman last spring.
“I never had a chance to compete at the Texas Relays while in high school, so it means a lot to me to throw a big PR here in my home state,” said the product of Navasota High School. “Last year really lit a fire under me. I’ve worked very hard on my technique and in training over the past year. I’m trying not to chase marks so much, but to have the right technique I need to go out there and throw far.”
The Tigers and Lady Tigers even wrapped up this year’s meet by running seasonal-bests in the 4x400-meter relay as the men took fourth place and the women took sixth place in the final events of the day.
The Tigers had a fourth-place finish in the Cleburne Price, Jr. 4x400-Meter Relay Invitational as the team of sophomore Quincy Downing (46.42), freshman Darrell Bush (45.57), freshman Cyril Grayson (46.13) and senior Caleb Williams (47.15) clocked a seasonal best of 3 minutes, 5.27 seconds to follow Florida (3:02.65), Texas A&M (3:02.76) and Baylor (3:03.90) across the finish line.
The Lady Tigers ran a seasonal best of their own at 3:32.04 as senior Siedda Herbert (53.96), junior Nikita Tracey (52.95), sophomore Montenae Roye-Speight (53.45) and junior Natoya Goule (51.68) teamed to claim the sixth spot in the race behind Florida (3:27.61), Texas (3:27.65), Texas A&M (3:28.27), Arkansas (3:28.42) and Illinois (3:31.63).
In the wake of Saturday’s 4x400-meter relay finals, the Tigers rank No. 4 and the Lady Tigers rank No. 6 on the NCAA’s performance list for the 2013 outdoor season.
“We really took a big step forward as a team here this weekend,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “I’m very proud with the way both of our teams competed today to finish off a great weekend. We did some great things across the board in each of the event areas that are really going to help us as we move forward. That’s what we try to do as a team each week, get just a little bit better than we were the week before.
“We’ll have a great chance to achieve that again next weekend when we go out West to face a very good UCLA team in a dual meet that we’re all looking forward to. It should be a lot of fun.”
The Tigers and Lady Tigers are back on the road next week as they spend part of their Spring Break week in Los Angeles, Calif., for its dual meet with the UCLA Bruins on Saturday, April 6, at UCLA’s Drake Stadium. They will then return home to play host to the Battle on the Bayou on April 13 and the LSU Alumni Gold meet on April 20 at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium in Baton Rouge.