DES MOINES, Iowa - After two days of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, the LSU women’s team had to feel good about its chances of being in the thick of the title chase with No. 1 Oregon and second-ranked Texas A&M.
Instead of putting itself in position to be in the hunt going into the final day, however, third-ranked LSU took a step back on a gloomy Friday at Drake Stadium.
While they aren’t mathematically out of it yet, the Lady Tigers have only three solid scoring chances remaining Saturday. On the other hand, Oregon and Texas A&M have five and three scoring opportunities, respectively, and appear to be in slightly better shape to make it a two-team duel to the end.
Oregon surged into the lead Friday night on the strength of victories by Melissa Gergel in the pole vault and Anne Kesselring in the 800 meters, and grabbed the upper hand in trying to unseat two-time champion Texas A&M.
Oregon has 33 points, while Oklahoma (29), Stanford (25) and A&M (23) follow with LSU in seventh (20?). Florida State’s men lead the way with 29 points, while Virginia Tech and Florida are tied for second (28). LSU is eighth with 17 points.
Florida State bolted to the top when Ngonidzashe Makusha, who essentially won the rain-delayed long jump before leaving the stadium Thursday night, set a collegiate record when he took the 100 meters in 9.89 seconds on a rain-slickened track.
The LSU women, who started the day with 1? points, got a 2-5 finish from Kimberlyn Duncan and Kenyanna Wilson in the 100 meters to give them a boost as the first few running finals were being contested.
The Lady Tigers actually sandwiched a fifth-place effort by Cassandra Tate in the 400-meter hurdles and a fourth-place finish by Charlene Lipsey in the 800 final around the 100 to get into contention.
Duncan, who ran a personal-record of 11.09 seconds, was edged at the finish line by Oklahoma’s Candyce McGrone, who won in 11.08. Wilson clocked in with an 11.22.
Duncan, the reigning NCAA indoor champion at 200 meters, was one of six runners spread in a line across the track before McGrone gained a slight advantage in the final strides.
“All I know is I lined up and focused on my race,” Duncan said when asked if she realized how close the race was. “I always focus only on my race. It’s focus and run.
“This is big because last year nobody expected me to be here,” she said. “To become an All-American is a huge accomplishment. Coach (Dennis Shaver) told me I could compete, and I was hoping to be in the top three. So top two is a huge accomplishment.”
Shortly after that, Lipsey, who wasn’t expected to even be in the 800 final, raced to a fourth-place finish in a time of 2 minutes, 3.73 seconds. It was the second personal best in three days for Lipsey, who clocked a 2:03.96 in Wednesday night’s semifinals to earn a spot in the final.
“Nobody had me making the final, and coming in fourth and getting some points is going to make a difference,” said Lipsey. “I was just happy to make the final at first. But I didn’t finish eighth, so I’m more than happy with it.”
Minutes later, the Lady Tigers took a big hit when Tate, who had finished fifth in the hurdles in 56.03 seconds about an hour earlier, was disqualified for running out of her lane - wiping away four valuable team points.
Their only other points Friday came in the pole vault where Rachel Laurent finished seventh with a best of 13 feet, 9? inches.
The day got off to a bad start as it was when the second day of competition resumed Friday morning. The Lady Tigers’ 4x400 relay team, which was third in its heat Thursday night before rain and lightning halted the meet, was edged out of Saturday’s final by Florida and North Carolina.
Florida ran a 3:31.06, and North Carolina came in with a 3:31.67 to better LSU’s time of 3:32.88 and earn the two wild-card spots in the final.
The Lady Tigers’ only scoring chances on Saturday are Duncan and Semoy Hackett in the 200 meters and the 4x100 relay, which means they may not have enough ammunition to catch Oregon or Texas A&M.
On the men’s side, long jumper Damar Forbes passed on his final attempt, but still finished second in the rain-delayed competition to Makusha with a personal best of 27-0.
Also, the 4x400 relay team of Robert Simmons, Ade Alleyne-Forte, Caleb Williams and Riker Hylton won its heat in 3:04.38 to advance to Saturday’s final.
In finals Saturday, LSU will have a 4x100 relay team as well as Horatio Williams in the 200, Barrett Nugent in the 110 hurdles and the 4x400. Zedric Thomas and Kyron Blaise will also be in the triple jump.