Former LSU sprinter Kimberlyn Duncan set for USA nationals

After closing the books on a stellar college career earlier this month, former LSU sprinter Kimberlyn Duncan will begin the next phase of her track and field career at the USA national championships that start Thursday.

Duncan is one of 13 athletes with LSU ties participating in the national championships that begin a four-day run in Des Moines, Iowa. The top three finishers in each event earn a spot on the U.S. team that will compete in the IAAF World Championships to be held Aug. 10-18 in Moscow, Russia.

Duncan, who won her sixth NCAA title at 200 meters on June 8 in Eugene, Ore., will be running as a professional for the first time Thursday afternoon when she lines up for the first round of the 100 meters. She placed third in that event at the NCAA meet after finishing second in 2011 and ’12.

The 100 semifinals and final are scheduled for Friday night before the 200 begins Saturday with the first round. The 200 semis and final are set for Sunday.

Duncan has the second-fastest time in the world and top time in the U.S. this year in the 200, posting a time of 22.35 seconds to win the title at the Southeastern Conference championships on May 12 in Columbia, Mo.

Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare is the world leader with a time of 22.31 seconds, while American Allyson Felix ranks just behind Duncan at 22.36.

LSU coach Dennis Shaver said Duncan, who has signed with the Atlanta-based Doyle Management Agency, hopes to have a contract with a shoe company finalized by the time she steps on the track in Des Moines.

“I’ve advised her that it’s in her best interests to have something done before she competes,” Shaver said Wednesday.

Duncan finished fourth in the 200 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials last summer, narrowly missing the London Olympics. She competed only in the 200 then, but Shaver said they made the decision to enter the 100 as well this time to give Duncan a better shot at making the 4x100-meter relay pool.

“She’s a pro now and the 100 is an event you need to run if you want to be in the relay pool,” he said. “That’s important to Kim because she’s always run on relays. I still don’t think she has run her best 100 races this season and I’m looking forward to her competing in that here.”

Duncan’s top wind-legal 100 time of 11.08 seconds this year ranks sixth on the U.S. list with Carmelita Jeter leading the way at 10.95.

Duncan will be joined in the 100 by former LSU star Muna Lee, a two-time Olympian whom Duncan matched when she won her seventh NCAA title — counting relays — earlier this month.

Duncan is one of four LSU athletes competing this week who just finished their college seasons, joining fellow senior Charlene Lipsey (800) from the women’s squad and sophomores Aaron Ernest (100, 200) and Rodney Brown (discus) from the men’s team.

Former LSU athletes scheduled to compete are Rebecca Alexander (400), Lolo Jones (100 hurdles), Tenaya Jones (100 hurdles), Cassandra Tate (400 hurdles), LaTavia Thomas (800 meters), Jeremy Hicks (long jump), Richard Jones (800) and Barrett Nugent (110 hurdles).

Texas A&M sophomore Kamaria Brown, a Baton Rouge native and McKinley High graduate, will line up in the 200, while former Louisiana Tech standout Chelsea Hayes, a New Orleans native, will compete in the long jump.

Hayes finished second in the long jump at the Olympic Trials last summer and finished 16th in London.

Competing in the USA Junior Nationals that will be held simultaneously with the senior meet is LSU signee Jada Martin, of Lithonia, Ga., one of the nation’s top high school sprinters the last couple of years. Martin will line up in the 100 and 200 meters.