LSU brings history, top ranking
Several team expect to challenge Lady Tigers for title
When the LSU Lady Tigers come into a national championship meet with the top ranking, there are 26 reasons why opposing schools take notice: the program's 11 indoor and 15 outdoor titles are a record in women's track and field.
Going into this weekend's NCAA DI Women's Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., however, LSU coach Dennis Shaver isn't counting on history or tradition to bring the Lady Tigers their first indoor title since 2004.
Although LSU has led the USTFCCCA rankings for the past four weeks, nipping at its heels are second-ranked Kansas and third-ranked Arkansas, which claimed the SEC title over LSU two weeks ago. And just behind the Razorbacks in fourth is three-time defending champion Oregon, followed by women's track powerhouse Texas A&M in fifth.
"I know on paper there are four or maybe even five teams that have an opportunity to win this NCAA championship," LSU coach Dennis Shaver said. "And to me that's what makes it really exciting."
Still, there are good reasons why LSU comes to Fayetteville as the favorite. One of them is Kimberlyn Duncan. The senior sprinter won the past two NCAA indoor/outdoor 200-meter championships and is the first winner of The Bowerman -- an award given to the top male and female athletes in NCAA track -- to return for another college season. She qualified as the top seed in the 200-meter dash and the second seed in the 60-meter dash. Duncan is also a member of the Lady Tigers' ninth-seeded 4x400 relay team.
"She is primed and ready to run a personal best at the NCAA Championships," Shaver said. "That's really the only thing we can control."
The Lady Tigers will also look to stack up the points in the 800 meters, where senior Charlene Lipsey and junior Natoya Goule enter as the top two seeds, respectively, and the only two women to have run under 2:04 so far this indoor season.
"I think it will be a fast race," Shaver said. "It's a very good quality field, one through 16. I think its' going to be a challenge to get into the top eight, and once you get into the top eight anything can happen. … I don't look for this to be a tactical race, I look for this to be a very fast, competitive face."
In total, the Lady Tigers have 10 entries in eight different events. Kansas has 11 entries, led by senior Andrea Geubelle, who is the top seed in the long jump and the second seed in the triple jump. She is the defending indoor champion in triple jump.
Arkansas has nine entries in eight events, including top seeds for senior Regina George in the 400-meters, senior Makeba Alcide in the pentathlon and the 4x400 relay. Alcide, who is from St. Lucia, set the NCAA indoor mark at the SEC championships.
The Ducks will have 13 entries in Fayetteville, including defending 60-meter winner English Gardner, who is seeded third in the event. The Aggies have 11 entries in seven events, led by sophomore Ashton Purvis, sophomore Kamaria Brown and junior Ashley Collier, who rank third, fourth and fifth respectively in the 200 meters.
"I don't think that track meet is going to be over until those 4x4s get up and run," Shaver said of the team competition.
The meet is not without star power among schools unlikely to contend for the team championship.
At the forefront are two returning 2012 Olympians: Brigetta Barrett of Arizona and Tia Brooks of Oklahoma.
Barrett, who won an Olympic silver medal in high jump for Team USA, is the two-time NCAA indoor/outdoor defending champion. The Wildcats senior is the top seed coming into Friday's competition. Brooks, meanwhile, comes into nationals with a commanding lead over the field. The senior's qualifying distance of 18.76m (61-5 1/2) is nearly a meter farther than the second place qualifier. She swept the NCAA indoor/outdoor titles in 2012.
Two other defending indoor championships have qualified for 2013. They are junior Diamond Dixon of Kansas (ninth qualifier in the 400) and senior Betsy Saina of Iowa State (first in 5,000, fourth in 3,000). Saina won the 5,000 and finished third in the 3,000 last year.