LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Tigers and Lady Tigers set the track on fire in Sunday's finale at the 2012 Southeastern Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships while combining for six event titles on the final day of competition at the Nutter Field House on the campus of the University of Kentucky.
Four Lady Tigers were crowned SEC Indoor champions in their individual events on Sunday afternoon as senior Rebecca Alexander (400 meters), junior Kimberlyn Duncan (200 meters), junior Charlene Lipsey (800 meters) and sophomore Jasmin Stowers (60 hurdles) earned gold medals with their performance.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers certainly left their mark on this year's SEC Indoor Championships in the gold medal sweep of 4x400-meter relay titles in Sunday's finale at the Nutter Field House.
The Lady Tigers parlayed their five SEC event championships into a second-place finish in the final team standings after scoring 109 points in three days of competition. Florida captured the women's team title at this year's SEC Indoor meet with its 132 points, followed by Arkansas (99) in third place, Tennessee (68) in fourth place and Georgia (52) in fifth place in the women's team standings.
The Tigers finished in fourth place overall in the final men's team standings with their total of 68.5 points in the competition. Arkansas racked up 151 points in three days of competition to take home the team title over Florida (137) in second place, Georgia (85.5) in third place and Auburn (56) in fifth place.
"This is a competitive track meet. That's what we expect for the SEC meet," said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. "I'm proud of our athletes in the way they competed today. We really put ourselves in a better position to compete at the NCAA Championships with some of the performances we saw today."
Both Duncan and Stowers lined up in championship finals on Sunday afternoon looking to defend each of their SEC Indoor titles won at Arkansas' Randal Tyson Track Center a season ago.
Stowers was the first to take to the track for the final of the women's 60-meter hurdles with the top prelim time already under her belt after running 8.12 seconds in Saturday's qualifying round.
And as she did as a freshman a year ago, Stowers blew away the field in this year's SEC Indoor final with a seasonal-best and personal-best time of 8.03 to win her second league championship in the 60 hurdles in as many seasons as a Lady Tiger. She also solidified her reputation as a national title contender in 2012 as she clocked the No. 4-ranked time in the NCAA rankings on the campaign. She also moved into the No. 5 spot on LSU's all-time indoor performance list in the 60-meter hurdles.
Stowers finished well ahead of the 8.11 run by South Carolina's SEC Indoor runner-up Kierre Beckles. In addition, Lady Tiger junior Shanekia Hall added six points to LSU's team total as she shattered her personal record with a time of 8.15 to finish as this year's SEC Indoor bronze medalist.
Hall also put herself in a position to represent the Lady Tigers at the NCAA Indoor Championships as her 8.15 clocking is tied for the No. 7-ranked performance in the NCAA for the 2012 season.
"Coach Shaver and I have really been working on my start during practice. That was a key component for this race today," Stowers said. "I had a decent start. It wasn't the best, but it's better than what I've had in my previous races. That really helped me along in the race. I'm just excited to win."
In what has quickly become her signature event as the nation's premier sprinter in college track and field, Duncan continued her dominance in the 200-meter dash Sunday by defending her SEC Indoor crown with a seasonal-best performance while locking up her spot in the NCAA Championships.
While lining up in the second section, Duncan took control of the race early and never looked back as she closed with a seasonal-best time of 23.07 to win her second-straight SEC Indoor 200-meter championship and claim her 13th-straight finals victory in the event against collegiate competition. LSU scored a total of 15 points in the event as Alexander followed in fourth place with a time of 23.81.
Duncan beat Auburn's Kai Selvon (23.15) to the finish line in the 200-meter dash final to capture the 15th SEC Indoor title by a Lady Tiger in the event in the meet's history.
The reigning NCAA Indoor champion in the 200-meter dash also earned her first career All-SEC honor in the 60-meter dash on the final day of competition as she clocked 7.28 to lay claim to a second-place finish behind Selvon's winning time of 7.20 in the event. Lady Tiger junior Takeia Pinckney clocked 7.39 in the final to add four points to LSU's team total with her fifth-place finish in the 60-meter dash.
"After the 60, I just had to come back and get my mind right for the 200," Duncan said. "I knew I just had to get out and finish at the line. It's my first time running on a track like this, so it's taken some time to go out there and get comfortable. I did what I had to do to get the win today."
While Duncan and Stowers each defended their SEC titles from a season ago, both Alexander and Lipsey were crowned conference champions for the first time in their collegiate careers on Sunday.
Alexander answered the question as to who would emerge as the SEC's premier quartermiler with her run in the final of the 400-meter dash as she clocked a winning time of 52.77 to win the first heat and wrap up the title ahead of the run of 52.91 by Florida's Lanie Whittaker in winning the second section. Lady Tiger senior Cassandra Tate (53.16) added three points with her sixth-place finish in the event.
Alexander snapped an eight-year drought in becoming the first Lady Tiger to win the women's 400-meter title at the SEC Indoor Championships since the great Hazelann Regis won back-to-back indoor crowns in 2003 and 2004. She is now the seventh Lady Tiger to take the title in program history.
Like Alexander, Lipsey won her first career SEC championship during Sunday's finale while laying claim to the 800-meter crown in a dominating performance in the final.
Lipsey asserted herself from the gun and finished the half mile race in her time of 2 minutes, 5.55 seconds to dethrone the defending SEC Indoor champion in Tennessee senior standout Chanelle Price (2:06.45) by nearly one full second. The Lady Tigers have now won six SEC Indoor titles in the 800 meters all-time as Lipsey is the first to do so since back-to-back wins by LaTavia Thomas in 2007 and 2008.
The Lady Tigers then wrapped up the meet with a fifth event championship after earning the 4x400-meter relay title in dramatic fashion in the final event of the competition.
While running with a squad of Tate, Duncan, junior Siedda Herbert and senior Jonique Day, LSU clocked a winning time of 3:34.02 to beat Florida (3:34.03) in a photo finish. They captured their first relay title at the SEC Indoor Championships since 2008 and their 12th title in the event in championship history.
In addition, sophomore Lynnika Pitts won a bronze medal on the afternoon with a third-place finish in the women's triple jump as she nearly matched her lifetime best with a top mark of 42 feet, 2 ¼ inches.
"We really helped ourselves on the women's side in terms of putting ourselves in a position to compete at the NCAA Championships," Shaver said. "I'm excited for the opportunity we have in two weeks to really go out and compete for a national championship. It's what we work toward all year long."
The Tigers completed LSU's relay sweep with their win in the men's 4x400-meter relay finals after senior Keyth Talley, senior Riker Hylton, senior Ade Alleyne-Forte and junior Caleb Williams clocked a time of 3:06.48 to take the conference title ahead of Georgia (3:06.97) and Arkansas (3:08.21).
Williams was running third in the race after taking the stick from Alleyne-Forte on the anchor leg. And he waited patiently behind Georgia's Torrin Lawrence and Arkansas' Marek Niit as they rounded the final turn. Williams raced around Niit on the turn and sprinted past Lawrence on the homestretch before ending the race with a winning time of 3:06.48 ahead of both Georgia and Arkansas for the championship.
The squad snapped a six-year drought with its first SEC Indoor crown in the mile relay since 2006, and its ninth win in the event all-time at the indoor conference championship.
Both Williams and Hylton also made an appearance in the men's 400-meter final on Sunday afternoon, as they combined for an impressive 10 points in the event. Williams won the bronze medal with his clocking of 46.42 that won the first heat and finished in third place overall. Hylton stopped the clock in 46.63 in his fifth-place overall after taking third place behind Williams in the first heat.
Two Tigers enjoyed All-SEC performances with runner-up finishes in their events, as senior Kyron Blaise scored eight points with a silver-medal winning effort in the triple jump and freshman Aaron Ernest added eight points of his own with a second-place finish in the finals of the 200-meter dash.
Blaise jumped a seasonal best of 53-0 on his sixth and final attempt of the triple jump competition to lock up his first career All-SEC finish in the event. That effort moved Blaise into the No. 5 spot on the national performance list this season as he all but assured himself a spot in the NCAA Championships.
Junior Damar Forbes also took one step closer to NCAA qualification in the triple jump as he posted a PR of 52-10 ¼ on his final attempt to take third place with the NCAA's No. 7-ranked mark this season.
After earning a spot in the 200-meter dash final in his SEC Championships debut with a run of 21.18 with Saturday's qualifying round, Ernest raced to an indoor PR in the event for the second day in a row in winning the first heat with a time of 21.13 that held up as the second-fastest time of the day. Ernest is now the No. 24-ranked 200-meter sprinter in the NCAA for the 2012 indoor season.
"Coming into this meet, I wasn't even supposed to make the final. I guess second is pretty good since I'm not even supposed to be in the final. I'll take it," Ernest said. "I felt comfortable running on this track. It's more like outdoors. I've never run indoors before, so running on a banked track was new to me. It's really taken some time getting used to running at this level. I just try to work hard every day."
Senior Brieanna Kennedy led six other scorers on the final day of this year's SEC Indoor meet as she set a personal best with a throw of 61-9 ½ to take sixth place overall in the women's weight throw. LSU scored five points in the event as sophomore Karen Henning took seventh place with a mark of 59-7 ¾.
Two Tigers also scored two points on the afternoon with seventh-place finishes in their events after Talley clocked 6.79 in the 60-meter final and freshman Rodney Brown set a lifetime personal best by nearly two feet in the shot put with his top mark of the day at 55-1 ½ on his very first throw of the competition.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers will have one final opportunity to prepare for the national meet as they are set to host the LSU NCAA Indoor Qualifier on Friday at the Carl Maddox Field House. Boise State University will play host to the 2012 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships as the event is set to run March 9-10 at the Jacksons Indoor Track in Nampa, Idaho.