NAMPA, Idaho - The No. 3-ranked Lady Tigers lived up to their billing as a trophy team at this year's NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships while wrapping up the competition with the gold-medal winning run in the 4x400-meter relay on Saturday to take third place in the final team standings for the two-day meet held this weekend at the Jacksons Indoor Track.
The squad of senior Rebecca Alexander, senior Cassandra Tate, junior Siedda Herbert and senior Jonique Day went out in style by taking the relay title in 3 minutes, 31.89 seconds to score the last 10 points of the meet for the Lady Tigers as they finished in third place overall with 27 points for the weekend.
It marked the third-straight season in which the Lady Tigers took third place in the final team standings to claim a coveted team trophy signifying a top-four finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
The Oregon Ducks captured their third-straight NCAA Indoor team title on the women's side after ending 19 points clear of the field with 49 total points in two days of competition. The Kansas Jayhawks finished in second place with 30 points, while the Texas Longhorns rounded out the trophy finishes in fourth place with 25 points. Arkansas, Clemson and Texas A&M tied for fifth place overall with 24 points each.
The Tigers were led to a fifth-place finish in the final men's NCAA team standings by a pair of bronze-medal winning performances for senior Barrett Nugent in the 60-meter hurdles and the 4x400-meter relay team as they scored 27 points of their own in two days of competition at the Jacksons Indoor Track.
Like the Oregon women, the No. 1-ranked Florida Gators completed the three-peat on the men's side with their third-straight NCAA Indoor team title after scoring 52 points during the meet.
The Arkansas Razorbacks gave the Southeastern Conference a 1-2 finish in the men's team race with their 47 points for second place overall. The Arizona Wildcats followed in third place with 41 points, while the Arizona State Sun Devils finished well off the pace in fourth place with 31 points on the weekend.
ESPNU will air a two-hour broadcast of the 2012 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships on Sunday, March 18, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. CDT. Check local listings for ESPNU in your area.
"We certainly faced our share of adversity today. Not everything went our way, but I'm proud for the way our athletes competed all the way to the end to come away with two top finishes," said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. "I can't say that we fired all of our bullets today. We left some points out there that I think would have improved our position, but we finished strong with two outstanding performances in the relay to finish among the top teams in the country once again this season."
The Lady Tigers led virtually wire-to-wire to claim the 4x400-meter relay national championship with the winning run of 3:31.89 in the third finals section. Texas finished runner-up to the Lady Tigers with a time of 3:32.36, while Kansas took third place in the heat with a time of 3:33.13.
Alexander led off with a 53.47-second split to give Tate a nearly half-second lead over Texas A&M at the first exchange. Tate followed with a team-leading split of 52.07 on the second leg while increasing LSU's lead to nearly one full second over the Aggies as she gave way to Herbert on the second exchange. That is when Texas sophomore Allison Peter put the Longhorns back in the race while overtaking Herbert briefly on the backstretch on their second lap, but Herbert took back the lead down the homestretch.
After taking the baton from Herbert, Day anchored with an impressive 52.51-second split to give the Lady Tigers a half-second win over the Longhorns for this year's relay championship.
The Lady Tigers snapped a brief four-year drought with the first NCAA Indoor crown in the 4x400-meter relay since 2008 and their seventh indoor championship in the event in program history.
The Tigers nearly took home a relay title of their own as they won the second of three finals sections with a team of senior Keyth Talley (47.72), senior Riker Hylton (45.26), senior Ade Alleyne-Forte (46.51) and junior Caleb Williams (46.33) turned in a heat-winning time of 3:05.80.
After winning the second section, the Tigers anxiously awaited their fate from the infield as teams such as Arkansas, Mississippi State and Penn State lined up for the third finals section.
The Razorbacks certainly delivered on their No. 1 national ranking in the event entering the meet with the winning time of 3:04.92 to finish nearly a half-second ahead of Penn State's run of 3:05.31 for second place. The Tigers took third place after combining the three heats, while Mississippi State took third place in the third section and fourth place overall with its time of 3:05.93.
Williams added his first career All-America honor in the 400-meter dash on Saturday evening as he won a fifth-place finish in the national final while running 46.29 for third place in the second section. That effort added four points to LSU's tally as Williams scored a total of 5.5 points for the weekend.
Nugent emerged as the Tigers' top point scorer during Saturday's finale, and he did so in record-breaking fashion as he shattered his own school record in claiming the NCAA Indoor bronze medal in the 60-meter hurdles for the eighth All-America honor of his collegiate career.
Nugent recovered from a "poor" start after stumbling out of the blocks and hitting the first hurdle to catch his competitors and nearly claim his first NCAA Indoor crown in the closest finish of the meet.
While Jarret Eaton of Syracuse took the title with a winning time of 7.54 seconds, Nugent and Devon Hill of Miami crossed the finish line with matching times of 7.55 in a photo finish. Hill was awarded the silver medal with his official time of 7.543, while Nugent captured the bronze medal with his time of 7.550. The defending NCAA Indoor champion Andrew Riley of Illinois ran 7.58 for fourth place.
Although Nugent was within a split second of his first NCAA Indoor title in the 60 hurdles, he did shatter his own school record in the event after setting the previous mark of 7.60 as a sophomore in 2010.
"I made some mistakes. If I didn't make those mistakes, I would have won the race," Nugent said. "I kind of fell out of the blocks and hit the first hurdle, and I think I hit the last hurdle too. I think if I had just one more step, I would have caught them. You can't make mistakes like that and win at 60 meters."
While competing in the final NCAA Indoor Championships of her collegiate career, senior vaulter Rachel Laurent enjoyed the top individual performance for the Lady Tigers in Saturday's finale with a sixth place in the women's pole vault to earn her fourth career All-America honor in the event.
Laurent certainly saved her best for last in the final meet of the indoor season as she cleared a height of 14 feet, 1 ¼ inches on her second attempt to eclipse her previous seasonal best in the event.
She breezed through the competition with first-attempt clearances at 13-1 ½ and 13-5 ¼, before clearing a height of 13-9 ¼ on her second attempt and 13-11 ¼ on her first attempt to put herself in position to score points for the Lady Tigers. That's when she solidified her All-American status for the 2012 indoor season with a second-attempt clearance at 14-1 ¼ to improve upon her previous seasonal best of 13-10 ½ set with a fourth-place finish at the SEC Indoor Championships two weeks ago.
Although Laurent fouled out of the competition with the bar raised to 14-3 ¼, she secured her third career All-America honor in the pole vault in three appearances at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
Junior Charlene Lipsey added two points for the Lady Tigers with a seventh-place finish in the 800-meter run after clocking 2:06.44 in the four-lap race for her first career NCAA Indoor All-America honor for the event. She captured her first career All-America accolade in the 800 meters a year ago with a fourth-place finish in the final at the NCAA Outdoor Championships during her sophomore season.
After cruising to an easy victory in her NCAA Indoor title defense in the 200 meters Friday night, Duncan crossed the finish line with a time of 7.30 in Saturday's final of the women's 60-meter dash to capture her first career All-America honor in the short sprint and her seventh All-America selection of her career. She finished as the top point scorer for the Lady Tigers with 11 points on the weekend.
Stowers scored points for the Lady Tigers in the 60-meter hurdles for the second year in a row with eighth place in the national final as she clocked 8.16 on Saturday night. She took sixth place in the final a season ago as she is now a two-time All-American in the 60 hurdles for her career.
Senior Michael Lauro added one point for the Tigers with his efforts in the men's 35-pound weight throw as he earned an eighth-place finish with a series-best mark of 68-1 on his fifth throw to win his first career All-America honor in the event in three appearances at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
With the indoor season now in the books, the Tigers and Lady Tigers will open the 2012 outdoor season a week from now with a trip to Lafayette, La., to compete at the Louisiana Classics being held at the Ragin' Cajuns Track Stadium at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette on March 17.