EUGENE, Ore. — In many ways, the LSU men’s track and field team reminds Dennis Shaver of his 2012 squad that finished second at the NCAA championships and came within two points of a national title.
“This team reminds me a lot of them,” Shaver said Tuesday. “I remember that week (in 2012). We really had almost a perfect meet … and those are rare at a meet like this.”
LSU’s hopes for its first men’s title in a decade were dashed, however, when Florida won the final event — the 4x400-meter relay — while the Tigers took third when they needed to finish first or second.
That team had the quality and depth, and perhaps more importantly, the experience to be in contention until the end and have a chance to win it.
Shaver sees some of those same characteristics in his fourth-ranked Tigers, who’ll try to be in the title mix again when the NCAA championships begin a four-day run Wednesday at Hayward Field.
The Tigers won’t have to wait long to see where they stand. A new schedule format has the men competing Wednesday and Friday, with the women taking center stage Thursday and Saturday.
LSU set the table well by qualifying 11 entrants to the national semifinals in the NCAA East preliminary rounds two weeks ago, but the Tigers will have to make the most of each one like the 2012 team did to have a shot.
Host Oregon has 23 scoring chances, while Texas A&M (15), Florida (13) and Southern Cal (12) also have more than LSU. But Shaver knows anything can happen at this meet.
The Tigers’ task starts Wednesday with 10 of their 11 scoring opportunities on the track trying to get through to Friday’s finals.
LSU has two entrants each in the 100 and 200 meters, and the 110-meter hurdles, and one in the open 400 and 400 hurdles, as well as highly ranked 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays.
“We have to maximize our points with the number of people we have qualified, but it’s the same for most everybody,” Shaver said. “If we put together a run like 2012 as the meet progresses, we’ll be really excited Friday night.
“If it comes down to the 4x400, I like our chances.”
The 4x400 relay unit of Quincy Downing, Cyril Grayson, Fitzroy Dunkley and Vernon Norwood go into the meet with the fastest seed time of the 24 teams that made it through the prelims at 3 minutes, 02.48 seconds.
The 4x100 relay team made up of Norwood, Aaron Ernest, Tremayne Acy and Joshua Thompson is seeded fifth with a time of 39.25 seconds but has run faster this season, like the 4x400 team has.
Ernest and Acy are threats in the 100 and 200, with top-five seed times in the latter, while Norwood has the fastest seed time in the open 400. Downing is seeded third in the 400 hurdles.
Also, Rodney Brown leads the nation in the discus at 213 feet, 5 inches.
Not having as many qualifiers as some other teams isn’t a concern for Shaver.
“You want to have a lot of people in the meet, but you have to hit, too,” he said. “We’ve been pretty consistent in the regular season and the postseason, and we’re healthy, so there’s no reason we can’t do it. The thing we can’t do is beat ourselves.”
The eighth-ranked Lady Tigers have 14 scoring opportunities, but with an inexperienced team that includes three freshman and six sophomores making their NCAA championships debuts, the goal is a top-five or six finish that could set the stage for the future.
The Lady Tigers are led by senior Tori Bliss, who tops the nation in the shot put with a throw of 60-8, and the second-seeded 4x100 relay team made up of sophomores Rushell Harvey and Jada Martin and freshmen Aleia Hobbs and Mikiah Brisco.
Sophomore Rebekah Wales is seeded third in the javelin, while junior Chanice Chase and freshman Daeshon Gordon each qualified in the 100- and 400-meter hurdles and could score big points.
“We’ve competed extremely well in the outdoor season, and I hope in this environment we can focus and concentrate and continue to improve. We’re young, but I’m excited to see what we can do. I think we’re going to surprise some people.”
LSU AT NCAA OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD MEET
Wednesday: Men, 6-9:30 p.m., ESPNU
Thursday: Women, 6-7:30 p.m., ESPNU; 7:30-9:30 p.m. ESPN
Friday: Men, 6:30-9 p.m., ESPN
Saturday: Women, 4-6:30 p.m., ESPN2
Where: Hayward Field, Eugene, Ore.
LOUISIANA TRACK AND FIELD QUALIFIERS
Louisiana qualifiers for the NCAA track and field championships (number in parentheses indicates national rank after NCAA East and West preliminary rounds; each event in the national semifinals has 24 qualifiers):
100: Aleia Hobbs, 11.41 (15); Mikiah Brisco, 11.45 (17).
200: Jada Martin, 22.94 (9).
100 hurdles: Daeshon Gordon, 13.10 (t7); Chanice Chase, 13.21 (t13).
400 hurdles: Chanice Chase, 57.51 (14); Daeshon Gordon, 57.52 (15).
800: Morgan Schuetz, 2:03.93 (13).
4x100: Rushell Harvey, Aleia Hobbs, Jada Martin, Mikiah Brisco, 43.14 (2).
4x400: Daeshon Gordon, Jada Martin, Travia Jones, Chanice Chase, 3:30.74 (t8).
Javelin: Rebekah Wales, 179-11 (3); Annie Simoneaux, 165-6 (9).
Shot put: Tori Bliss, 57-9¾ (1).
Triple jump: Nataliyah Friar, 41-11½ (t20).
100: Tremayne Acy, 10.18 (t14); Aaron Ernest, 10.21 (16).
200: Aaron Ernest, 20.22 (5); Tremayne Acy, 20.25 (6).
400: Vernon Norwood, 44.94 (1).
110 hurdles: Joshua Thompson, 13.74 (t13); Jordan Moore, 13.81 (21).
400 hurdles: Quincy Downing, 49.89 (3).
4x100: Joshua Thompson, Vernon Norwood, Tremayne Acy, Aaron Ernest, 39.25 (5).
4x400: Quincy Downing, Cyril Grayson, Fitzroy Dunkley, Vernon Norwood, 3:02.48 (1).
Discus: Rodney Brown, 201-2 (2).
200: Charla Craddock, Louisiana Tech, 23.27 (19).
Javelin: Ashley Aldredge, Northwestern State, 158-0 (19).
Hammer: Misha Frazier, Southeastern, 190-0 (t23).
4x100 relay: UL-Lafayette, Tyler Hughes, Hanoj Carter, Bismarck Ebiweh, Jeryl Brazil, 39.89 (22).
Hammer: Alex Young, Southeastern, 216-4 (9); Jonathan Kinchen, Southeastern, 212-7 (17).
Long jump: Jarrett Samuels, Louisiana Tech, 24-10 (21); Devon Breaux, Tulane, 24-9¾ (t22).
-- Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.