FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The Tigers and Lady Tigers went out with a bang in Sunday's finale at the 2013 SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships as they teamed to win a league-leading seven event titles and senior Kimberlyn Duncan captured the SEC's Cliff Harper Trophy as the top point scorer in three days at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
Duncan completed the sprint sweep with SEC Indoor titles in the 60 meters and 200 meters and ran the second leg on LSU's bronze-medal-winning 4x400-meter relay team to score 21.5 points for LSU as she became the 12th winner of the Cliff Harper Trophy in program history. The award is the former SEC Commissioner's Trophy.
LSU actually swept SEC Indoor titles in the 200-meter dash as sophomore Aaron Ernest claimed the men's crown with a world-leading performance for 2013.
Also winning event championships for the Lady Tigers in Sunday's finale were senior Charlene Lipsey with a school-record-setting performance in the 800 meters, senior Laura Carleton with a historic race in the 5,000 meters, junior Jasmin Stowers in the 60-meter hurdles and junior Denise Hinton in the weight throw.
The Lady Tigers piled up 96 points with their performance on Sunday to take home a runner-up finish in the final team standings with 109.5 points in three days of action at the University of Arkansas. The Lady Tigers were the silver medalists to the 114.5 points scored by the SEC Indoor champion Arkansas Razorbacks on their home track. Texas A&M followed in third place with 88 points, while Florida took fourth place with 87.5 points and Georgia rounded out the Top 5 in fifth place with 52.5 points.
It marks the second year in a row in which LSU's women have earned a second-place finish at the SEC Indoor Championships after winning their last team title in 2011.
The Tigers tallied 44 points for the meet to crack the Top 5 with a fifth-place finish in the final men's team standings. Arkansas swept team championships as the Razorback men scored a 35.5-point victory over Florida (117) with 152.5 points in the competition. Texas A&M finished in third place with 88.5 points and Georgia followed in fourth place with 56 points.
The Tigers have now earned a top-five team finish at the SEC Indoor Championships in seven of the last eight seasons dating back to the 2006 campaign.
"I'm so very proud of both our teams in the way they gave it everything they had and competed today to end this championship," said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. "You cannot look at the results from this meet and say there is another conference competing at this high of a level in our sport. And our athletes are certainly counted among that group.
"It was a lot of fun to see them raise their level of performance and compete the way they did today. It says a lot about their mindset looking ahead to the NCAA meet here in two weeks."
Duncan added to an already legendary resume as one of the greatest sprinters to step onto a track in the SEC with her sweep of 60-meter and 200-meter titles on Sunday afternoon, becoming the first to accomplish the SEC Indoor double since former Lady Tiger national champion Samantha Henry in 2009.
After earning All-SEC honors with a runner-up finish in the 60-meter final a year ago, Duncan was crowned champion in the event for the first time in her career with a run of 7.24 seconds in Sunday's final as she crossed the finish line ahead of Texas A&M teammates in Ashley Collier (7.26) in second place and Jennifer Madu (7.34) in third place.
She then became just the third sprinter in SEC history to win three-straight SEC Indoor gold medals in the 200-meter dash as she defended her crown once again in historic fashion with an indoor personal record of 22.54 to finish nearly two-tenths of a second clear of the field in a two-section final. The Aggies produced the NCAA's No. 3 and No. 4 performers this season as Ashton Purvis captured the silver medal in 22.70 to finish runner-up to Duncan in the second heat and Kamaria Brown scored the bronze medal in 22.73 to win the first heat.
With the win, Duncan joins LSU great Muna Lee as the only three-time SEC Indoor champions in the 200-meter dash as Lee won three-straight titles from 2001-03.
Duncan also regained the No. 1 spot in the NCAA and world rankings for 2013 with her effort as the No. 5-ranked 200-meter sprinter in history on the NCAA's all-time Top 10 indoor list in the event.
And with the team race in doubt as the Lady Tigers faced a one-point deficit to Arkansas heading into the final event of the meet with the 4x400-meter relay, Duncan's number was called upon by Shaver once again to run the second leg as she teamed with junior Natoya Goule, senior Siedda Herbert and sophomore Montenae Roye-Speight to run 3 minutes, 35.01 seconds in a third-place finish.
Arkansas won the 4x400 relay crown with an NCAA-leading run of 3:29.60, followed by South Carolina in second place with a time of 3:33.68 in the final event of this year's championship.
Duncan has now won 10 SEC event championships during her illustrious career, including three SEC Indoor titles (2011-13) and two SEC Outdoor titles (2011-12) in the 200 meters, two SEC Outdoor titles in the 4x100 relay (2011-12) and one SEC title each in the 60 meters (2013) and 4x400 relay (2012) indoors and 100 meters (2012) outdoors.
"I knew I had to get it together and come back and focus," Duncan said of her attempt at the 60 and 200 double. "It's a big accomplishment for me. I felt like I could do it. I knew the girls in the heats really would push me and make me go. It's all about staying confident in myself and just going out there and trying to score as many points as possible for my team. That's my main focus."
Like Duncan, Lipsey also became one of the Top 10 performers in NCAA history while defending her SEC Indoor crown in the 800 meters in one of the most exciting finishes of the day.
Goule entered the championship as the NCAA leader with a seasonal-best time of 2:03.49, followed by Lipsey in the No. 2 spot on the national list with a best of 2:03.76 for 2013. But it was Lipsey securing top honors ahead of her teammate in Sunday's final as she shattered LSU's indoor school record with a winning run of 2:02.48 to move to the top of the NCAA rankings. Goule also bettered the previous school record with an indoor PR of 2:03.08 for the NCAA's No. 2-ranked time this season.
Lipsey and Goule each smashed the LSU's 14-year-old indoor school record of 2:03.38 set by Claudine Williams during the 1999 season.
Lipsey also anchored the Lady Tigers to a bronze-medal-winning third-place finish in the distance medley relay while running the mile leg on the third-fastest team in school history. She teamed with such Lady Tigers as freshman Andria Aguilar (1,200 meters), senior Latoya McDermott (400 meters) and junior Nikita Tracey (800 meters) to run 11:23.01 for third place.
"It means a lot for me to do what I did today because this is my last time here running for LSU," Lipsey said following the meet. "It feels great to go out a winner (in the 800 meters). It's also nice to get the school record while defending my title. Natoya is a great runner and a tough competitor, so I knew it wasn't going to be easy at all. We're looking forward to coming back here two weeks from now."
While Duncan and Lipsey each defended SEC Indoor titles won a season ago, Carleton was crowned an SEC Champion for the first time with a come-from-behind victory in the 5,000 meters.
Carleton entered the competition as the No. 3 seed in the field with a seasonal-best time of 16:11.58 run earlier this season. And while running for much of the race in the lead pack with the Arkansas duo of Diane Robison and Dominique Scott and South Carolina's Kayla Lampe, Carleton and Lampe separated themselves from the rest of the field over the final 800 meters of the race.
After Lampe raced to the front and extended her lead to 15 meters over Carleton heading into the bell lap, Carleton found a second gear and closed the gap over the final 200 meters as she sped past the Gamecock freshman on the homestretch to take the tape in 16:18.20. Lampe followed in second place with a run of 16:19.02.
Carleton's victory proved crucial in the team race as she scored a victory over her Razorback rivals as Robison followed in third place at 16:24.19 and Scott trailed in fifth place at 16:35.02.
"I guess it caught me by surprise a little bit," Carleton said of her position late in the race. "I just thought that if I ran my race I might be in a good position. Coach (Mark Elliott) told me to take my time for a good bit and have enough to make a run at the end. The real racing is at the end, and I started to really kick with 150 meters to go. I had enough to close in in the final 30 meters or so."
While Carleton crossed the finish line in first place in the 5,000-meter final, the Lady Tigers added 13 points in the triple jump as Emanuel earned All-SEC honors with a second-place finish and Pitts claimed a career-best fourth-place finish in one of the most exciting events of the weekend.
After jumping indoor PRs of 42 feet, 10 ¼ inches in the second round and 43-3 ¾ in the fourth round of jumps, Emanuel tripled 44-2 in the fifth round to move into second place in the event standings and match the leading jump of 44-2 posted by Texas A&M's LaQue Moen-Davis. Moen-Davis was awarded the SEC Indoor title with a second-best jump of 43-10 in her series, while Emanuel captured her first career All-SEC honor with the No. 4-ranked jump in the NCAA this season and No. 6-ranked jump indoors in school history.
Pitts, who qualified for the final with a lifetime PR of 43-3 on her second attempt, raised her best to 43-8 ¾ in the fourth round to lock up fourth place in the competition. She emerged from the event as a No. 6-ranked jumper nationally this season and the No. 8-ranked triple jump indoors in program history.
The Lady Tigers actually held a narrow one-point lead of 97.5-96.5 over the Razorbacks following the triple jump with only the distance medley and 4x400 relays left to run.
Hinton actually opened up the scoring in Sunday's championship finale with a dominating win in the weight throw final as she won her first career SEC championship while becoming the first Lady Tiger for program history to be crowned the SEC champion in either the weight throw indoors or hammer throw outdoors.
Hinton took the lead on her very first throw of the competition as she opened at 66 feet, 4 ½ inches before extending her lead with throws of 67-10 ¼ in the second round and 69-6 ¼ in the fifth round en route to the gold medal. She claimed the SEC Indoor crown by nearly four feet over Texas A&M's Brea Garrett in second place on 65-11 ½. Missouri's Kearsten Peoples followed in third place and Florida's Jayla Bostic trailed in fourth place overall with matching throws of 65-0 in the event.
The Peachtree City, Ga., native talked about bouncing back after finishing in ninth place overall despite entering her first SEC Indoor Championships as the SEC leader a year ago.
"Last year, it was all nerves. This year, I was a little bit nervous, but I just came in and wanted to have fun," Hinton said. "That's really what I did. Today was a lot of fun. I know my technique, and that just overshadowed my nerves. It was a lot of fun throwing today. I'm happy with how I threw today all the way through.
"To win a title period is very exciting. I'm ecstatic right now. I'm trying to hold it all in. Of course I wanted to PR, but a championship effort in my coach's (Derek Yush) words is scoring or throwing a PR. I've got the win, so I'd say I did pretty good today. I'm so happy right now to come back and win it this year."
While Hinton kicked off Sunday's action for the Lady Tigers with a win in the weight throw, fellow junior Jasmin Stowers opened up the finals on the track with a strong performance in defending her gold medal in the women's 60-meter hurdles for the third-straight season.
After qualifying with the fastest time of the preliminary round at 8.21 on Saturday afternoon, Stowers finished nearly two tenths of a second clear of the field in Sunday's final as she took the tape at 8.06 to win the SEC Indoor crown for the third-straight season. Like Hinton, Stowers finished ahead of her Aggie rival as Donique' Flemings took the silver medal in 8.20.
Stowers owns the NCAA's No. 3-ranked time in the NCAA this season as she is only the second hurdler in history to win three-straight SEC Indoor titles, joining Lady Tiger great Lolo Jones (2002-04).
The Lady Tigers actually scored 13 points in the women's 60-meter hurdles as senior Shanekia Hall added three points with her sixth-place finish after running 8.38 in the final.
Duncan was not the only LSU athlete who sprinted to the top of the NCAA and world rankings in taking home the SEC Indoor 200-meter crown on Sunday afternoon as emerging sprint star Aaron Ernest is an SEC Champion for the first time in his collegiate career with a dominating performance in his second SEC Indoor finals appearance.
After earning his first career All-SEC honor with a runner-up finish in the 200-meter final indoors as a freshman a season ago, Ernest equaled his lifetime PR in the event with a winning run of 20.53 to drop his NCAA-leading and world-leading times for 2013. While Ernest beat Texas A&M's defending NCAA Indoor champion Ameer Webb (20.75) to the tape in the second heat, Florida's Dedric Dukes won the silver medal with his second-place time of 20.70 to win the first heat in the finals.
Ernest also scored three points with a sixth-place finish in the 60-meter final after running 6.71 in the event.
"I knew the first heat was fast, but I was just trying to run my own race and not worry about what I couldn't control," Ernest said about his race strategy. "The key for me is my start and getting out fast in the race. I was feeling good through the first 120 meters and just tried to relax down the second bank and give it all I had down the stretch."
Duplantis matched his lifetime best with a first-attempt clearance at 17-5 ½ to move into third place overall and raised the bar to 17-9 ¼ with a third-attempt clearance as he scored the bronze with one of the leading marks in the NCAA this season. He fouled out of the competition with three misses at a height of 18-0 ½ while scoring six big points for the team.
In doing so, Duplantis vaulted into the No. 4 spot on LSU's all-time indoor performance list in the men's pole vault, even soaring past his father, Greg, in the school record books. Duplantis is now ready to make a run at an NCAA Championships berth after vaulting into a tie for the No. 12 spot in the national rankings with his performance on Sunday.
Johnson became an SEC scorer for the first time in his collegiate career after clearing 17-1 ½ on his second attempt to lock up one point with eighth place before fouling at with the bar at 17-5 ½.
Also adding to the Tigers' point total on the meet's final day were senior Caleb Williams (47.28) with a sixth-place finish in the 400-meter dash, sophomore Joshua Thompson (8.01) with a fifth-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles and sophomore Rodney Brown (56-5 ¼) with an eighth-place finish in the shot put.
The Tigers wrapped up the meet with a bronze-medal-winning third-place finish in the men's 4x400-meter relay as Williams led off a squad of sophomore Quincy Downing, freshman Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and freshman Darrell Bush that ran 3:07.89 for third place. Texas A&M won the relay crown with an SEC Indoor meet record of 3:04.18, followed by Florida in second place at 3:04.31.
Those Tigers and Lady Tigers who have yet to qualify for the 2013 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships will have one final opportunity to do so on Friday as they will host LSU's NCAA Indoor Qualifier next weekend at the Carl Maddox Field House in Baton Rouge.
The University of Arkansas will also play host to the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 8-9 at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville to wrap up the indoor season.