DES MOINES, Iowa — With 21 events spread out over four days of competition, the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships have been known to throw curves at title-hopeful teams in a pressure-cooker situation.
A slip or fall here, a false-start there, or even the slightest bobble in a relay can cost a team valuable points and even take it out of contention in a flash.
“All teams face adversity,” LSU coach Dennis Shaver said after the weather-plagued meet concluded Saturday, “but only one team wins.”
There was more than enough adversity for the top teams for both the men’s and women’s teams in title contention at this year’s meet.
Most notably, the Florida men as well as the Oregon and LSU women saw their title hopes fade on the final two days and watched Texas A&M take wins in the final event — the 4x400-meter relay — to sweep the team titles for the third straight year.
The women’s 4x400 was the hardest thing for Shaver to watch because LSU, which led A&M 43 ?-39 going into the relay, weren’t in it — having failed to qualify in the semis. Consequently, it didn’t control its own fate.
If LSU had been in the race, the Lady Tigers could’ve won the team title with a third-place finish even if A&M had taken first. As a result, LSU wound up third in the team race.
LSU wasn’t in the relay final because it didn’t finish in the top two of its heat and two teams earned wildcard spots Friday morning based on their times being better than the Lady Tigers.
“The turning point came (Friday),” Shaver said. “I knew it would be an issue because you need to have a team in the mile relay. But we should have run better.”
It was the final bit of zaniness in a meet Shaver said was unlike any other he’s been a part of.
“We made a couple of mistakes along the way, but they weren’t mistakes we had control over,” he said. “In all honesty, I thought we had a great championship meet.”
In addition to the women placing third, the men’s team took fourth with 46 points. The women and men also were third and fourth, respectively, at the NCAA indoor meet and LSU was the only school in the country to take home four trophies given to the top four teams at each meet.
Helping them get there, of course, were individual champions Kimberlyn Duncan and Barrett Nugent.
Duncan posted the fastest time in the world this year in winning the 200 meters after anchoring the 4x100 relay team to a win — beating four-time champion Texas A&M — with the second-fastest time run in the world. She was also second in the 100.
Nugent won the 110-meter hurdles to become the first LSU champion in that event in 24 years, while the men’s 4x400 relay team ran the second-fastest time in school history and Damar Forbes took second in the long jump.
“The goal is still to win national championships,” said Shaver, “and we’re going to keep working hard to do that.”