Two weeks ago, Jasmin Stowers won her third consecutive title in the 60-meter hurdles at the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships — something only one woman had done before.
The feat became more special when you consider Stowers, a junior for LSU’s top-ranked women’s team, matched the accomplishment of former Lady Tigers All-American and Olympian Lolo Jones.
Jones, who did it from 2002 to 2004, went on to win the NCAA title as a junior in 2003. It’s another Jones accomplishment that Stowers would like to match after finishing sixth and eighth, respectively, at her first two NCAA indoor meets in 2011 and ’12.
Fresh off a strong performance at the SEC indoor meet held in Fayetteville, Ark., Stowers and the Lady Tigers return to the Randal Tyson Track Center for the NCAA Indoor Championships on Friday and Saturday.
Just like at the SEC meet, Stowers isn’t favored this weekend — even though she’s been a consistent performer in the 60 hurdles and 100-meter outdoor hurdles since coming to LSU from Pendleton, S.C., in the fall of 2010.
Still, her own expectations are at an all-time high after she put together a solid race in the SEC final to handily defeat Texas A&M’s Doniqué Flemings and South Carolina’s Kierre Beckles.
“I feel ready,” Stowers said Tuesday. “Actually, I think I’m capable of getting in the top three at nationals. That was my goal going into this season.”
Stowers knows the challenge will be stiffer than when she made quick work of Flemings and Beckles, who had the fastest time in the SEC going into that meet.
Stowers blasted out of the blocks and basically had the race won by the time the other seven finalists reached the first hurdle.
After gliding over the first barrier, she went on to blow away her previous season’s-best of 8.19 seconds with a winning time of 8.06. Flemings was second in 8.20, while Beckles followed at 8.24.
On Friday, the competition will get a lot tougher. Stowers, who’s ranked third in the nation, will line up against Clemson’s Brianna Rollins and Baylor’s Tiffani McReynolds.
Rollins, the runner-up at the NCAA indoor and outdoor meets last season, has recorded the fastest time this winter at 7.78 seconds, while McReynolds comes in just ahead of Stowers, at 8.02.
Based on her showing at the SEC Championships, Stowers, the fifth-place finisher in the NCAA outdoor meet last June, thinks she’s ready to run with Rollins and McReynolds even though her personal record of 8.03 seconds is slower than what they’ve run this season.
“I’m ready to fun fast,” Stowers said, noting her confidence has grown following the SEC victory. “I was a little nervous going into SECs, but I knew I would be all right if I stayed focused and visualized winning.
“I had already won twice at the SEC meet, so that one just motivates me to do well at nationals.”
The key at the conference meet, Stowers said, was her start in the final after she cruised to the fastest time in the prelims with an 8.21. Stowers said she lined up there not having a good start in her first 11 races of the season.
“I was ecstatic with that start there,” she said. “This week, I want to have that same mentality that I had at the SECs. Everything there was perfect.”
Stowers is one of the keys to LSU’s chances of winning the national title. A top-three finish would give the Lady Tigers at least six points in the team race, which would be five more than she gave them a year ago.
“Winning, or even finishing in the top three, is big because it puts points on the board,” she said. “Even one point can make a difference.”
Finishing ahead of Rollins, whom Stowers beat when they were in high school, would certainly rank right up there with winning three SEC indoor titles in a row.
“Brianna’s definitely improved since high school,” Stowers said. “I’m hoping to be right with her — or ahead of her. That would be wonderful.
“I just have to focus and stay focused,” she added. “I know I’m capable of winning, or at least placing higher than I have the last couple of years.”