The way Kimberlyn Duncan sees it, Eugene, Ore. — and perhaps London — can wait.
With every race she runs, LSU’s junior sprinter seemingly stamps herself as a legitimate contender for the U.S. Olympic team that will compete in the London Olympics later this summer.
But the slender native of Katy, Texas, has a bit of unfinished business to attend to before turning her thoughts to the U.S. Olympic Trials to be held June 21-July 1 in Eugene: The NCAA Track and Field Championships.
After cruising to wins in the 100 and 200 meters and anchoring LSU’s 4x100-meter relay unit to a victory in the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds last weekend, Duncan is focused only on a team championship for the top-ranked Lady Tigers.
“Every now and then I think about (the trials), but the main thing is this meet coming up,” Duncan said of the four-day NCAA meet that begins Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa.
“The focus is on going out there and scoring as many points as possible and hopefully help my team win a national title,” she said. “The only thing I can do is take each meet as it comes to me.”
While she obviously has a lot at stake in the U.S. trials, Duncan is driven by the sight of the shiny rings some of her new teammates were sporting when she came to LSU as a freshman in the fall of 2009.
The rings were from LSU’s last national championship team, which came in 2008 in a meet held in the same stadium the current Lady Tigers will be competing in this week.
“I would like to get a ring,” said Duncan, who has won three NCAA individual titles in the 200 meters and one in the 4x100 relay. “I would see the girls from the ’08 team and see their rings and it was like, ‘OK, that’s one of my goals.’
“I’ve won titles as an individual, but at the end of the day you want to win a team championship.”
That’s why the Trials and perhaps a professional career, will have to wait, she said.
Duncan first has to put a wrap on one of the more successful seasons for an LSU sprinter in school history. She’ll compete in the semifinals of the 100 and 200, where she’s favored after winning at the East Prelims in 22.22 seconds — the fastest low-altitude mark in collegiate history.
Duncan also is among the athletes to watch in the 100 after winning the title in the Southeastern Conference Championships on May 13 with a time of 10.96 seconds, making her the third-fastest collegiate performer.
And there’s the 4x100 relay, where the Lady Tigers have equaled the fastest time this spring with Takeia Pinckney, Semoy Hackett and Rebecca Alexander getting the baton to Duncan for the anchor leg.
But a week from today, Duncan will put the long collegiate season behind her and set her sights on Eugene. She’ll need to finish in the top three in the 100 or 200 to earn a spot on the U.S. team, but could still be considered for the relay pool if she doesn’t make it in the individual events.
“Every now and then it kind of hits me that the Trials are in a few weeks, and if I come out of that I’ll be going to the Olympics,” Duncan said. “But then, I get back to focusing on what’s coming up first. All the training is leading up to the NCAAs and then the Trials.”
Duncan’s season has gone as planned so far, especially in her signature event — the 200. After sweeping the NCAA indoor and outdoor titles in 2011, she repeated at the indoor championships in March.
Duncan has taken 13 of the 15 races she’s run at that distance this indoor and outdoor season, losing only once in a final indoors back on Jan. 27. She was fifth in the USA Championships last June.
“Kim had a big breakout year last year, but it’s always easier to do the first time than a second or third time,” LSU coach Dennis Shaver said. “But I’ve convinced myself she’s that good. She usually backs up her races with a performance that’s equally good or better. And that’s a tribute to her.
“She’s really taken on a role as a spokesperson with our squad and showing a lot of leadership,” he said.
There’s a lot more to her than that, however.
The times of 10.96 and 22.22 nearly have Duncan in the same company with the incomparable Dawn Sowell, who in 1989 set the school records of 10.78 and 22.04 seconds that Duncan, who was born two years after Sowell competed for the Lady Tigers, is now chasing.
Duncan is second on LSU’s all-time list in the 200 and third in the 100 with D’Andre Hill between her and Sowell.
“For me to be even close to her marks gives me hope and makes me more motivated,” Duncan said of Sowell. “If I can get anywhere close to those marks I feel that I’ll be ready for the Trials and hopefully run faster than the times I’m running now — and hopefully make the (U.S.) team.”
That, of course, will have to wait.
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