Rebecca has been extremely important to us, and not only as a NCAA-caliber (individual) performer. She’s a big part of our relays, so she’s very important to us.” Dennis Shaver, LSU track coach on Rebecca Alexander
From the time she was in middle school, Rebecca Alexander envisioned competing one day for the LSU women’s track and field team.
After all, Alexander, who lived in the Sherwood Forest area and attended Belaire High School, grew up watching many of the perennial NCAA power’s top sprinters run to glory in Bernie Moore Track Stadium.
Then, there was a family connection as her first cousin, former LSU quartermiler Reginald Dardar, competed for the Tigers from 2005-08.
As a freshman, Dardar ran the leadoff leg on the 4x400-meter relay team that won the title at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with a collegiate-record time of 2 minutes, 59.59 seconds — a mark that still stands.
The road from Belaire High to LSU wasn’t as short as it appears, however, because of a detour to Southwest (Miss.) Community, where Alexander established herself as one of the nation’s top junior college sprinters.
She won the 400 meters at the NJCAA Outdoor Championships as a freshman and claimed the title in the 200 the following year before her dreams came true and she signed with coach Dennis Shaver’s Lady Tigers.
“I knew what type of program LSU was known for, especially on the women’s side, and I wanted to help add to the legacy,” Alexander said.
“I was a little nervous when I came here, but I think anybody would be. It was a challenge because there’s a lot to live up to here.”
Alexander met the challenge in her two seasons with the Lady Tigers and will make her final appearance at Bernie Moore Stadium when LSU hosts the Southeastern Conference Championships, which are set for Thursday through Sunday.
It’s the same track that Alexander closed her high school career by sweeping the 100, 200 and 400 Class 4A titles at the 2008 state championships.
Naturally, racing to an SEC title in the 400 on Mother’s Day would be just as satisfying for Alexander, who will also compete on the Lady Tigers’ 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay teams.
The possibility of winning a team title is also in the back of Alexander’s mind, which would make the two-year wait she had to endure to get to LSU worth it.
“That’s what I was working for since I was in high school,” Alexander said. “I wanted to be here despite the fact that I had to wait. When I went to junior college, I knew what I had to do to get here.”
She certainly did that, opening some eyes by winning the national 400 title as a freshman.
“We wanted her to come out of high school,” Shaver said. “Rebecca has been extremely important to us, and not only as a NCAA-caliber (individual) performer. She’s a big part of our relays, so she’s very important to us.
“She’s a tough competitor.”
Even after waiting for two years, Alexander’s career at LSU didn’t get off to the greatest of starts.
A stress fracture in her shin kept her from running the 400 much in 2011, but she’s remained healthy this season and won the title in the SEC indoor meet in February with a time of 52.77 seconds. She placed fourth in the 200 final when she clocked a 23.81.
After winning the 400 at the conference indoor meet, Alexander failed to qualify for the final at the NCAA Championships.
But she came back and led off the Lady Tigers’ 4x400 relay team with a 53.5 split, helping them win the title with a time of 3:31.89 to go with the 4x100 NCAA outdoor crown she was a part of last June.
While she could be a part of two relay wins at the NCAA meet in Des Moines, Iowa, next month, Alexander would like nothing more than to have a big meet this weekend in front of her mom, brothers and a few of her high school coaches.
“It’s exciting,” she said of running at Bernie Moore for the final time. “Any win is good, but an individual title at home in my senior year would be nice. I’m actually more determined to perform to the best of my ability with (the SEC meet) being at home.
“A lot of people that will be here have been watching me since middle school.”
The Lady Tigers moved up two spots to second behind Clemson in the Top 25 national power rankings released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The Tigers, on the other hand, slipped three spots to ninth. … The SEC has seven men’s teams and five women’s teams in the USTFCCCA’s top 25. … Tickets for the SEC meet are available through the LSU Athletic Department. All-sessions tickets good for Friday through Sunday are available at $20 for adults and $10 for youths, while single-day tickets are priced at $10 for adults and $5 for youths. There is no admission charge Thursday for the first day of the multi-events. For more information, call the LSU Ticket Office at (225) 578-2184.