When Kimberlyn Duncan signed her scholarship papers with the LSU track and field team in February 2009, the Katy, Texas, native had never heard of Bill Bowerman.
In the past 13 months, however, Duncan has become quite familiar with Bowerman, who before his death in 1999 made a name as one of the sport’s pioneers and legendary coach at the University of Oregon.
“I didn’t know about him at all,” a smiling Duncan said when asked about Bowerman, who was also a co-founder of Nike. “When I was in high school, I didn’t know a lot about track (history). I was just doing what people said I was good at.”
Even though she wasn’t heavily recruited, Duncan has developed into one of the nation’s top sprinters in her three years at LSU — which has linked her with Bowerman through an award named after him by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The Bowerman, which is college track’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, has been presented to the top male and female athlete since its creation in 2009.
“It’s a great award when you consider the contributions he made with creating better shoes for runners,” said LSU coach Dennis Shaver. “He was also heavily involved in making improvements in track surfaces.”
After being one of three finalists as a sophomore in 2011, Duncan won the prestigious award on Dec. 19 to cap a junior season in which she became the first woman to sweep the NCAA indoor and outdoor titles at 200 meters in back-to-back seasons.
Less than a month later, the first two-time finalist in the short history of The Bowerman is ready to begin her quest for a repeat — which would be a nice way to end her collegiate career.
“I know much more about him than when I first got here,” Duncan said. “The fact that I know who he is and that he helped a lot of athletes get to where we are now makes it a huge honor.
“I couldn’t have ever imagined winning this award, but I’m thankful and grateful. It was great to win it and bring something like this back to LSU.”
Duncan likely wouldn’t have been able to go for another Bowerman award had she made the U.S. Olympic Team in July.
But she finished fourth in the 200 final, one spot from competing in London, and wasn’t selected to the 4x100 relay team.
Soon after winning the award, Duncan turned her attention back to her senior season with a goal of helping the Lady Tigers win a national title and perhaps doing the indoor-outdoor 200 double for a third consecutive year and possibly representing the U.S. in the World Championships this summer.
“It won’t put any pressure on me,” she said of possibly becoming the first athlete to win two Bowermans. “I just want to go out there and have another successful season for my team. We know what the goal is and the things we have to accomplish.
“So we want to have fun and see what else we can do.”