As usual, the Southeastern Conference indoor championships will serve a dual purpose for the LSU track and field teams this weekend.
While the goal for the Tigers and Lady Tigers is to finish in the top half of their team races, both squads will have an eye on the NCAA championships.
The two-day SEC meet begins Friday in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Both teams hope to carry over the success they have enjoyed so far, which has helped the Lady Tigers climb to fourth and the Tigers fifth in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association rankings.
LSU is the only school in the nation to have two top-five teams on the USTFCCCA lists.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to this meet to do everything we can to score points,” LSU coach Dennis Shaver said, “but at the same time, we’re trying to better position ourselves for the next meet.
"We want some athletes to improve their performances and we’re trying to get some others into the NCAAs.”
As always, national rankings don’t matter at the SEC meet — mainly because some programs, like Shaver’s, are built more for the NCAA championships and depend on quality rather than quantity.
Still, six SEC women’s teams are in the top 20 along with seven men’s teams.
“There’s a lot you can do at the SEC meet, and one of the big things is enhancing your NCAA placement against top competition,” Shaver said. “That’s what we’re trying to get done.”
Six LSU athletes are leading the conference in their respective events going into this weekend's meet: Kortnei Johnson (60 meters), Lisa Gunnarsson (pole vault) and Ersula Farrow (800) on the women’s side and Mondo Duplantis (pole vault), Jaron Flournoy (200) and Rayvon Grey (long jump) on the men’s.
Johnson is the national leader in the 60 with a personal-record time of 7.14 seconds. Duplantis is also atop the national list with a best of 19 feet, 3 inches in the men's pole vault and Grey tops men's long jump list with a 26-5½.
JuVaughn Harrison is tied for second nationally in the men’s high jump with a best of 7-5¼, while the Lady Tigers have three other top-five performers.
The group is led by Gunnarsson, who is tied for second in the pole vault with a 14-9½, while Sha’Carri Richardson and Tonea Marshall are both fourth with times of 7.20 seconds in the 60 and 8.04 in the 60-meter hurdles.
Harrison will have a busy evening Friday as he'll take part in two events that will be running at the same time. He ranks second in the SEC in the high jump and is fourth in the long jump.