FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — An expected four-team race for the women’s title in the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships was down to two by the time the last event of the three-day meet was contested Sunday.
When third-ranked Arkansas and No. 1 LSU lined up for the 4x400-meter relay, the Lady Tigers trailed by a single point and needed to win the event or finish two spots ahead of the Razorbacks to claim the title.
But after a furious Sunday rally put it in position to win, LSU came up just short when Arkansas raced to a school-record time in the relay. With 400-meter champion Regina George anchoring, the Razorbacks won in 3 minutes, 29.60 seconds, while the Lady Tigers were third in 3:35.01.
The victory gave Arkansas 1141/2 points for the three-day meet, while LSU was second with 1091/2. SEC newcomer Texas A&M (88), Florida (871/2) and Georgia (521/2) rounded out the top five.
The win for the Arkansas women gave the hosts a sweep as the top-ranked Razorbacks easily claimed the men’s title with 1521/2 points to Florida’s 117. They were followed by Texas A&M (881/2), Georgia (56) and LSU (44).
“On paper coming in, we figured Arkansas would have a 10-point advantage on us, and as the meet progressed, we slowly started reducing that number,” LSU coach Dennis Shaver said. “We did finally get it to one point (going into the 4x400).”
But after the Lady Tigers piled up 96 points on the day — including 29 in the triple jump, 5,000 meters and distance medley relay as the meet wound down — George and her teammates slammed the door.
“We knew it was going to be a four-team battle; we just didn’t know who was going to be in what position,” Arkansas coach Lance Harter said.
Arkansas and LSU separated themselves from Florida and Texas A&M, especially when the Lady Tigers got a 2-4 finish in the triple jump from Keri Emanuel (44 feet, 2 inches) and Lynnika Pitts (43-83/4), Laura Carleton won the 5,000 (16 minutes, 18.20 seconds) and the DMR was third (11:23.01).
“We actually changed some things around with the DMR because we put Laura Carleton in the 5,000, and that probably had an effect on the 4x400,” Shaver said. “At the end of the day, that combination got us some points.”
Carleton’s unexpected victory, the first in the event for the LSU women’s program at the SEC indoor, gave the Lady Tigers six individual wins on the day.
Denise Hinton won the 20-pound weight throw (69-61/4) to start the day before Jasmin Stowers won the 60-meter hurdles (8.06), Kimberlyn Duncan claimed the 60 (7.24) and 200 (22.54), and Charlene Lipsey won the 800 (2:02.48). The hurdles win was Stowers’ third straight at this meet.
Duncan’s 200 time was the fastest in the world this year and made her the No. 5 performer on the all-time collegiate list, while Lipsey set a school record and moved to eighth among all collegians.
Duncan later ran the second leg on the 4x400, which gave her the meet’s high-point honors with 211/2 points on a busy day.
“It wasn’t hard (to double in the 60 and 200) because I knew I had to get it together and focus after the 60,” Duncan said. “Winning both was a huge accomplishment, especially the 200 because the girls in my heat really pushed me.”
Lipsey also had a busy day as she won the 800 and came back to run the 1,500-meter anchor leg on the DMR, pulling her team from sixth place to third.
“I wasn’t aware of how many runners were ahead of me,” said Lipsey, who earlier defended her 800 title. “I just knew that I had to start picking people off.”
That came after Carleton ran a patient race early in the 5,000 behind a pair of Arkansas front-runners and then kicked past South Carolina’s Kayla Lampe (16:19.02) in the final 30 meters.
“It kind of caught me by surprise,” Carleton said of her win. “I said, ‘I can do this. I have a chance.’ I had to hang in there, and coach (Mark Elliott) told me to take my time and stick with the leaders.”
“Laura gave us a big opportunity because that was a huge point swing,” Shaver said. “She not only won, but it knocked a couple of Arkansas girls down and took a few of their points.”
The 16th-ranked Tigers finished in the top five when Aaron Ernest gave the program a seventh individual win Sunday in the 200.
Like Duncan, Ernest ran a world-leading time of 20.53 seconds en route to beating Texas A&M’s Ameer Webb, the reigning NCAA champion, who was third in 20.75 seconds.
Ernest also was sixth in the 60 (6.71) despite a slight hamstring problem.
“I felt good, although I actually started feeling it at about the 120 (meter) mark,” said Ernest, whose PR moved him to third on the school’s all-time list. “It was my fourth race of the meet, so I had to relax coming off the last turn. But then, I gave it my all down the stretch.”
The Tigers also got third-place finishes from Andreas Duplantis, who had a personal best in the pole vault (17-91/4) and went to fourth on LSU’s all-time list, and the 4x400 relay (3:07.86).