The brief message accompanying a photo in a tweet from the LSU track and field’s official account Wednesday said it all: Focused On Us.
On the eve of the start of the NCAA East Preliminary rounds that begin a three-day run Thursday in Jacksonville, Florida, LSU’s highly ranked men’s and women’s teams were focused on one thing for the competition being held at the University of North Florida.
For LSU coach Dennis Shaver and his teams, no trophies will be awarded this weekend; the only things at stake are tickets to the national semifinals and finals to be held June 5-8 in Austin, Texas.
So, the second-ranked Tigers and sixth-ranked Lady Tigers will only be focused on getting as many athletes to the next round each time they line up to compete this weekend.
The top 12 athletes from each individual event and top 12 schools from the relays will advance to the semifinals to go against the survivors from the West Preliminary rounds being held this weekend in Sacramento, California.
Shaver has had an easy way to boil things down for his teams since the current qualifying format was adopted in 2010, and it’s no different this season.
The road to Austin, Texas, and the NCAA semifinals and finals begins Thursday for the LSU men's track and field teams.
“It’s a five-day national championship meet,” he said earlier this week.
Three days at the preliminary rounds for the combined genders and then two days of national semifinals and finals for men and women in Austin are all that’s left to this season.
But, he emphasized, the only way to get to Austin is to perform in Jacksonville.
That will be the task for the 38 individuals who will be competing for LSU.
The Tigers have qualified 20 individuals in 13 events, which has produced 25 scoring opportunities to get through the first round and quarterfinals — which includes the East’s No. 1-ranked 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay teams.
On the other hand, the Lady Tigers will have 18 individuals in 13 events with a total of 24 opportunities to reach the national semifinals.
So, with little margin for error, it’s imperative to get off to a good start, Shaver said.
Much like her sprinting ability, the past two months have been a blur for Sha’Carri Richardson.
“No day is more important than the first day,” he said. “When that day is over, then the next day is the most important. We just have to qualify like we need to.”
To him, that means not worrying about anything any other team is doing.
Case in point would be No. 1 Texas Tech on the men’s side. While the Tigers are doing their thing in Jacksonville, the Red Raiders will be competing in Sacramento.
“I couldn’t care less what they’re doing over there,” Shaver said. “At the end of the day, we have t take care of our business and get our people to the semifinals in Austin.”
While noting that the prelims are important to advance to the quarterfinals, that round is also huge because it will determine how lanes are awarded — specifically for the 200 and 400 meters, 400-meter hurdles and 4x100 relay.
A poor time in Jacksonville could land an individual or a relay team in Lane 1 or the far outside lane in Austin — handing them a severe disadvantage even before the starter’s pistol is fired.
“That’s critically important,” Shaver said. “How you get seeded for Austin (the semifinals) will have a lot to do with whether you get to the finals there or not.”