DES MOINES, Iowa – It was just one year ago that Lady Tiger great Kimberlyn Duncan fell just one spot short of making Team USA that would compete at the 2012 Olympic Games in London last summer with a fourth-place finish in the women’s 200-meter final at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials held at Oregon’s Hayward Field in Eugene.
But Duncan would not be denied her opportunity to shine on the world stage this season while making her professional debut at the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships this weekend.
The Lady Tiger senior made the trip to Des Moines, Iowa, needing a top-three finish in the 200-meter dash to earn her spot on Team USA for the first time while making the trip to Moscow, Russia, later this summer to compete at this year’s IAAF World Championships in Athletics being held Aug. 10-18 for the highlight of the 2013 season.
And Duncan sprinted onto the international stage in Sunday’s championship finale with a dramatic come-from-behind victory to take the women’s 200-meter title with the fastest time in collegiate history.
After earning her spot in the final by winning the second of two semifinal heats earlier in the day with a wind-legal run of 22.68 (-1.1), Duncan lined up in lane No. 6 in the final with former World Champion and reigning Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix to her inside in lane No. 5 as the favorite to take the title and lead the United States into the World Championships.
Felix is certainly one of the most accomplished American sprinters of this generation, having won four Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships gold medals during her career in events ranging from the 200 meters to the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relays. She ran the fastest 200 meters in the world in 2012 with a PR of 21.69 at the U.S. Olympic Trials en route to winning the Olympic gold medal later in the season.
Felix appeared to take control of the race off the curve and heading down the homestretch, but Duncan surged over the final 50 meters to overtake the Olympic champion at the finish line and claim the U.S. title while running the fastest 200 meters of her career with a wind-aided 21.80 seconds (+3.2). Felix trailed Duncan in second place with a silver-medal-winning time of 21.85w.
Rounding out the 200-meter squad for Team USA is Jeneba Tarmoh, who followed Duncan and Felix across the finish line in the championship final with her wind-aided effort of 22.15 for third place overall.
Duncan smashed her previous career-best all conditions performance in the 200 meters when she won her third-straight NCAA Outdoor championship in the event with a wind-aided 22.04 in her final collegiate race on June 8. She now ranks No. 1 in the world under all conditions with her windy 21.80 in Sunday’s final at Drake Stadium.
“I didn’t know what to do. I was overjoyed. I’ll take that time, windy or not,” Duncan exclaimed about seeing the time of 21.80 pop up on the scoreboard after her victory. “My main thing was executing. I knew Allyson (Felix) and Jeneba (Tarmoh) were going to be on the inside beside me, so that was just the main thing, just executing the race today.”
There is no denying Duncan’s emergence as a World Championships favorite in the 200 meters following her collegiate career as the NCAA’s most dominant performer in the event of her generation.
She is the only sprinter in collegiate history to sweep NCAA Indoor and NCAA Outdoor championships in the 200 meters in three-straight years with doubles from 2011, 2012 and 2013. She also finished her career while matching LSU’s career records of seven NCAA event titles and 12 SEC event titles as one of the most decorated sprinters in the program’s history.
After signing a professional contract with Nike on Friday, Duncan will now prepare to represent the United States at the World Championships in what is sure to be a busy summer for the 21-year-old. The first round of the women’s 200-meter dash at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics is scheduled to run on Thursday, Aug. 15, in Moscow.
“I’m just overjoyed to have been here and to have the opportunity,” Duncan said. “I’m thankful to God to have come out here and run the way I did.”
Also lining up in Sunday’s finale at the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships was Duncan’s former LSU teammate Cassandra Tate, who advanced to the championship finals of the women’s 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. meet for the second-straight season. She scored a fifth-place finish in her debut at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene last summer.
And Tate raced to a seasonal best for the third-straight race in Des Moines as she crossed the finish line in 55.45 to again earn a fifth-place finish in her second-straight U.S. final.
Tate, who qualified for the final after runs of 55.99 in the qualifying round on Thursday and 55.79 in the semifinal round on Friday, has proven herself among the top Americans in the event since wrapping up her senior season in 2012 as the NCAA Champion. She followed Dalilah Muhammad (53.83), Georganne Moline (53.88), Christine Spence (54.56) and T’erea Brown (55.05) across the finish line in Sunday’s final.
Other LSU athletes competing on Sunday afternoon were former Tiger All-American Jeremy Hicks in the men’s long jump and sophomore Aaron Ernest in the men’s 200-meter semifinals at Drake Stadium.
Hicks came up just one spot short of qualifying for the long jump final with his top jump of 26 feet, ¼ inch in the third round of qualifying to finish in ninth place in the event. Ernest was the seventh-place finisher during the first of two semifinal heats of the men’s 200 meters with a time of 21.26 (-1.1) to finish in 14th place overall in the event.