2013 Track & Field Season Preview: Distance
The Tigers featured a balanced attack while finishing just two points shy of a national championship at the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships as they scored 48 points for a runner-up finish in the team race in an exciting conclusion to the college season a year ago. Leading the way were 12 All-Americans scoring in events ranging from the sprints, hurdles and relays, to the jumps and throws as the Tigers again proved themselves among the best teams in all of collegiate track and field.
They will look to follow that formula for success in 2013 as they again feature one of the more balanced rosters in the country featuring All-America candidates across each of the event areas. With three-time NCAA long jump silver medalist Damar Forbes leading the way and emerging sprint star Aaron Ernest contending for NCAA titles on the track, the team boasts a host of returning firepower and an infusion of talent with one of the nation's top recruiting classes that is sure to lead LSU the pinnacle of collegiate track and field again this spring.
Third in a 10-part series previews a the men's middle distance and distance runners competing during the 2013 season.
Men's Middle Distance/Distance
The Tigers have built a strong tradition in the middle distance events under the direction of assistant head coach Mark Elliott, and they will compete in 2013 with another strong squad of 800-meter runners led by senior Howard Shepard and sophomore Quincy Downing.
After sitting out the 2012 indoor season following his transfer from the University of Louisville, Shepard made an immediate impact on the squad as one of the SEC leaders in the 800 meters. An NCAA semifinalist in the event in his first season at LSU, Shepard was the fifth-place finisher in the 800-meter final at the SEC Championships.
Shepard ranked among the NCAA leaders in 2012 as his personal best of 1 minute, 47.87 seconds put him in the No. 9 spot on LSU's all-time performance list in the 800 meters.
Downing, one of the team's five returning All-Americans from a year ago, is sure to split his time between the 400 meters and 800 meters while also providing the Tigers with depth in the 4x400-meter relay this spring. Downing certainly showed his potential as a freshman a year ago as he was both an SEC scorer in the 800 meters and national semifinalist in the 400 meters during the outdoor season. He set PRs of 46.18 in the 400 meters and 1:50.68 in the 800 meters.
Downing earned international experience a season ago when he ran the leadoff leg for the United States on the team that won the gold medal in the 4x400 relay at the IAAF World Junior Championships held in Barcelona, Spain, last summer. He scorched the track with a career-best 45.07-second split to lead the way for Team USA's gold-medal-winning run after clocking 45.67 on the leadoff leg in the preliminary round.
Joining Shepard and Downing this year will be junior college transfer Julian Parker as he makes his return to Baton Rouge following a two-year stint at South Plains College. A product of Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Parker is a talented newcomer who was a two-time All-American in the junior college ranks while competing at South Plains. He owns a personal record of 1:50.32 in the 800-meter run that was set during his sophomore season last spring.
Check back Saturday as Part 4 of LSU Track & Field's 2013 season preview will feature the men's jumpers.