LSU track teams turn focus to outdoor season

Associated Press file photo by APRIL L. BROWN -- LSU's Cyril Grayson, right, hands the baton to teammate Darrell Bush, on the final exchange of the 4x400-meter relay at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., on March 10. Grayson and Bush are among the top returnees for the LSU men's team, which begins the season Saturday at the Auburn Indoor Invitational in Birmingham, Ala. Show caption
Associated Press file photo by APRIL L. BROWN -- LSU's Cyril Grayson, right, hands the baton to teammate Darrell Bush, on the final exchange of the 4x400-meter relay at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., on March 10. Grayson and Bush are among the top returnees for the LSU men's team, which begins the season Saturday at the Auburn Indoor Invitational in Birmingham, Ala.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — When the first day of the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships was completed late Friday night, LSU coach Dennis Shaver liked where his top-ranked Lady Tigers were sitting.

After setting the table well and qualifying everyone he thought would get through going into the meet, Shaver looked forward to LSU having a shot at ending a nine-year indoor championship drought at the national meet.

At the same time, however, Shaver cast a wary eye over his shoulder at three-time defending champion Oregon.

Even though the Ducks had just suffered a bit of a setback in fading from third place to eighth on the final lap of the distance medley relay, losing five big team points in the process, Shaver thought they were still in good shape.

Shaver’s concerns were affirmed Saturday night when Oregon came back to the Randal Tyson Track Center and piled up 44 points in just five events to overtake the top three teams in the latest U.S. Track and Field & Cross Country Coaches Association poll — LSU, Kansas and Arkansas.

Oregon wound up winning with 56 points, outdistancing Kansas and LSU by 12 and 11 points to offset scoring barrages by the Jayhawks and Lady Tigers.

The Ducks finished it off with their only win of the two-day meet in the 4x400-meter relay.

While LSU placed third for the fourth consecutive season, Shaver was already thinking about the outdoor season — where his women’s and men’s teams are traditionally stronger with the addition of another hurdles race and sprint relay as well as more field events.

“Our women scored in almost all the event areas this weekend, and that speaks to the kind of team we have this year,” said Shaver, who got wins from Kimberlyn Duncan in the 200 meters and Natoya Goule in the 800.

Duncan took her third straight indoor title in the 200, something that had never been done at the NCAA meet, and Goule broke the school record in the 800 at 2 minutes, 02.00 seconds — the sixth-fastest time in collegiate history.

LSU had two other quality finishes from Jasmin Stowers in the 60 hurdles and Charlene Lipsey in the 800 and the 4x400 relay, with Goule anchoring, finished fifth even though it wasn’t projected to score.

“We feel like we are a little more balanced this season, which is what you need to be able to contend in a meet like this. We expect similar contributions when we go outdoors.”

Shaver will also look for more from his men, who earned a 15th-place finish with 15 points after going in with just three scoring opportunities. Their finish snapped a streak of five straight top-five finishes at the indoor meet.

Damar Forbes finished second in the long jump for a third straight time at the NCAA meet, while the 4x400 relay team also finished fifth even though it wasn’t projected to score, either.

“We’re used to being in the mix for a team trophy on the men’s side, and that just wasn’t realistic for our guys this weekend,” Shaver said. “But we are really excited because we know we’ll have a much better team in the outdoor season.”