EUGENE, Ore. – The LSU Track & Field teams batted .700 during Wednesday’s opening day of the 2013 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships as the Tigers and Lady Tigers combined to advance seven of their 10 semifinalists into national finals running later this weekend at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon.
The Lady Tigers were nearly perfect as five of their six semifinalists advanced on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon in Eugene as they look to continue their march toward a national championship.
The Tigers added two finalists of their own as they will return to the track for finals running Friday and Saturday on the final two days of this year’s NCAA Outdoor Championships.
“Our athletes certainly showed up ready to compete today,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver of his team’s performance. “We were nearly perfect today in getting our athletes through into finals on the track to give ourselves the opportunity to score some big points here this weekend. That’s exactly the kind of effort we needed from our group here on our first day in Eugene.”
The Tigers and Lady Tigers each ran seasonal bests while advancing to the final round of the 4x100-meter relay that will kick off Saturday’s championship finale at Hayward Field.
The Tigers took the tape in the third of three heats in the men’s sprint relay semifinal with the fourth-fastest time of the day at 38.94 seconds as the team of senior Damar Forbes, sophomore Aaron Ernest, freshman Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and junior Shermund Allsop eclipsed their previous seasonal best of 38.98 that was set in claiming the SEC championship in the event.
The Tigers will defend their national championship in the men’s 4x100-meter relay in their first final on the track on Saturday afternoon against a fast field as they will be joined in the race by the likes of Auburn (38.76), Florida (38.77), Alabama (38.78), Florida State (39.14), TCU (39.15), Arkansas (39.25) and Iowa (39.31).
The Lady Tigers ran a seasonal best of their own in a runner-up finish in the third heat of the women’s 4x100-meter relay semifinal while advancing to the final with the third-fastest time of the day.
Senior Latoya McDermott, senior Kimberlyn Duncan, junior Takeia Pinckney and junior Toshika Sylvester teamed for a seasonal best of 43.44 to finish second in their heat to the NCAA’s second-fastest sprint relay squad this season in Central Florida, as the Golden Knights crossed the finish line in 43.15. Also advancing to the NCAA final in the women’s 4x100-meter relay were Texas A&M (42.84), Clemson (43.70), Oregon (43.73), Kansas (44.32), Texas (44.54) and Southern California (44.57).
Ernest and Duncan later returned to the track for the semifinal round of the 100-meter dash as each earned their lane in Friday’s finals with an opportunity to score big points for the Tigers and Lady Tigers.
The women’s 100-meter final is shaping up to be one of the highlights of this year’s NCAA Championships as Duncan will square off against the likes of Central Florida’s tandem of Octavious Freeman and Aurieyall Scott and Oregon’s hometown favorite English Gardner for the national championship in what will surely be one of the fastest finals in meet history.
While Duncan won the third semifinal heat with a seasonal-best wind-aided time of 11.02, Scott took the first heat with a windy 11.00 and Freeman crossed the finish line with the fastest time of the day at 10.99w for a narrow victory over Gardner’s 11.00w in the second heat. Each was more than one tenth of a second ahead of the fifth-place time as they will line up side-by-side in the women’s final on Friday night.
The men will follow the women in the 100-meter final on Friday night as Ernest will line up in the fastest race in collegiate track and field for the second-straight season.
After earning All-America honors with an eighth-place finish in his first NCAA final a year ago, Ernest grabbed the eighth and final qualifying spot during Wednesday’s semifinal round with his wind-aided run of 10.08 for third place in the second heat. Like Duncan, Ernest will also return to action on Thursday for the semifinal round of the 200-meter dash at Hayward Field.
Also grabbing the eighth and final qualifying spot into the final of her event was Lady Tiger junior Nikita Tracey, who raced to third place in the first heat in the women’s 400-meter hurdles with a semifinal time of 57.14. Tracey finished third in her heat to Stanford’s Kori Carter (54.67) and Arizona’s Georganne Moline (54.89) as the Pac-12 rivals are sure to battle it out for the national title.
The Lady Tigers are also poised to score big points in Friday’s 800-meter final after senior Charlene Lipsey and junior Natoya Goule each won their semifinal heats to highlight Wednesday’s qualifying for LSU.
Lipsey raced to the fastest time of the semifinal round as she won the third heat in 2 minutes, 3.22 seconds ahead of Duke’s Cydney Ross in second place at 2:03.62. Goule cruised to victory in the first semifinals heat in 2:03.77 for the fourth-fastest time overall and third-fastest heat-winning time of the afternoon. Goule, the reigning NCAA Indoor champion, will look to complete the NCAA title sweep in Friday’s final, while Lipsey also looks to win her first career national title after winning the NCAA Outdoor silver medal a year ago.
“I definitely felt good,” Lipsey said of her semifinal race. “I’m not used to the crowd being so packed with this just being prelims, it’s not really the finals or anything. We had some great weather today. Oregon, this will probably be the best weather we’ve had when I’ve been here, so that was big today. I also had great people to run it with.”
Senior Brittany Porter and sophomore Quincy Downing nearly earned their spot in a national final for the first time in their careers with personal-best performances to help lead the charge on Wednesday afternoon.
Porter stepped onto the long jump runway for her third and final jump of the preliminary round and soared to an outdoor wind-legal PR of 20 feet, 6 ½ inches to climb into 12th place in the final event standings. She will end her collegiate career as a two-time NCAA semifinalist and All-SEC performer in the event as one of the team’s top jumpers during her tenure.
Downing slashed more than two tenths of a second off of his lifetime PR in the 400-meter dash when he crossed the finish line in 45.87 for fourth place in the third and final heat of the men’s semifinal. By clocking a PR of 45.87, Downing finished just two spots out of a lane in the final with 10th place overall in Wednesday’s semifinal round.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Downing has now run personal bests in each of his last two 400-meter races after clocking 46.08 in the quarterfinals at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds two weeks ago.
Freshman Darrell Bush followed Downing in 20th place overall in his debut in the 400 meters at the NCAA Championships as he crossed the finish line in 47.15 for eighth place in the first semifinal heat of the afternoon.
In other field-event action, seniors Joseph Caraway and Thomas Reinecke each cleared the bar at 17-2 ¾ in the men’s pole vault as Caraway tied for 15th place and Reinecke finished in 20th place overall in their first ever semifinals appearance at the NCAA Championships. Junior Denise Hinton opened the day by placing 21st in the women’s hammer throw with a series-best of 192-9 on the afternoon.
The action continues at the 2013 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships on Thursday afternoon as the Tigers and Lady Tigers return to Hayward Field for their first semifinal races on the track at 6 p.m. CT followed by the first field events of the day at 6:30 p.m. Fans can receive live updates throughout the meet by liking LSU Track & Field on Facebook and following @LSUTrackField on Twitter.
Pac-12 Live Stream will provide live streaming video of Thursday’s action at Hayward Field from 1-5:50 p.m. CT at http://lsul.su/14oZs5X. ESPN3.com will continue coverage from 5:50-10 p.m. at http://www.espn3.com.