LSU's Duncan follows father's advice
Sprinter relishes senior year as she flies by the competition
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Kimberlyn Duncan’s dad told her to enjoy her senior year at Louisiana State, because it would fly by. On Friday night in Fayetteville, Ark., Duncan did just that after flying by the competition on her way to another NCAA title in the 200 meters.
Duncan, who last year became the first woman to win back-to-back NCAA indoor/outdoor 200-meter championships, was all smiles after winning her fifth individual championship in 22.58 seconds at the Randal Tyson Track Center on the University of Arkansas campus.
“I feel like in college you’re never going to get thee years back, so you’ve just got to come out here and enjoy it,” Duncan said. “So that’s what I’m doing this weekend is enjoying it, and hopefully helping my team out.”
Duncan, who became the first winner of the Bowerman Award -- given to the nation’s best collegiate male and female track athletes -- to come back for another season, certainly has the bona fides to do just that. Collegiately speaking, she is in a league of her own in the 200 meters.
After missing out on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team by one spot -- the top three finishers at the Olympic Trials make the team; Duncan was fourth -- she considered foregoing her senior year to begin a professional career. Ultimately she decided finishing college was the best choice.
“It’s been worthwhile to this point because of the improvement she has made in her sprinting,” LSU head coach Dennis Shaver said.
Indeed, Duncan came into indoor nationals with the top indoor 200-meter time in the world so far this year, as well as three of the top-five times. Her time on Friday night was the second fastest in the world this year.
“She has all of the on-the-field and off-the-track characteristics that will enable her to improve in her early years as a pro,” Shaver said.
This has been somewhat of a transition season for Duncan.
“(She is) training hard and racing less, like as a pro,” Shaver said. “She definitely looks forward to representing LSU this senior season.”
The last part is crucial. Although Duncan might not be racing quite as much in general, she is still an integral part of an LSU team that is hoping to win its 27th and 28th national championships this year. So after her victory Friday night, she went back to her hotel room to watch some video and prepare for Saturday’s 60-meter dash finals, in which she had the fifth best time in prelims.
“My main goal was to come in here and help my team out as much as possible,” she said, “and [Saturday} I’m going to try to do that once again.”
When the outdoor season starts, Duncan will also run the 100-meters. She was the NCAA runner-up in each of the past two years in that event.
The results matter, of course, but Shaver said the work Duncan puts in to achieve those results is nearly as important to the team.
“I think the biggest thing is just the leadership that she brings to our group,” he said. “She’s working hard on the track, and as a result there are great performances, and I think that’s a great motivator for all of those around her.”
The one thing that Duncan doesn’t want to go fast this year, however, is the year itself. On Friday night, Duncan said something “clicked” when she heard the announcer identify her as a senior: This will be her last NCAA indoor championships, she realized. Her time with her team -- and in college -- is almost over.
So on the track, Duncan says she wants to “go out with a bang.” Everything else? She hopes to just enjoy it.
“I remember my dad said, ‘Just enjoy it, because it’s going to really fly by,’” she said. “I really didn’t pay attention, but now I’m like, ‘It’s senior year, this is it,' so I’m just trying to enjoy the college experience, and enjoy classes and also enjoy the track part of it too.”
She’s off to a good start.