JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After successful showings in the Southeastern Conference Championships two weeks ago, the LSU track and field teams are down to their last seven meets of their season.
Seven meets, seven days.
That’s how coach Dennis Shaver wants his top-ranked Lady Tigers and fourth-ranked Tigers to approach the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds that begin a three-day run Thursday at the University of North Florida.
For the third straight year, the preliminary rounds are serving as a prelude to the NCAA Championships — which consist of the semifinals and finals — scheduled for June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa.
The goal is to get through the first round and quarterfinals this weekend by finishing in the top 12 and earn spots in the next round.
Which is why Shaver is viewing the preliminary rounds, semifinals and finals as seven one-day track meets.
“We’re healthy and we’ve got enough experience with the entire group,” Shaver said this week. “Hopefully, our athletes are going to take it as seven one-day meets. How you do on ‘this’ day is the most important thing.”
Shaver said he took the same approach for the SEC meet, the four-day competition that the Lady Tigers dominated, finishing first, with the men finishing second.
“We didn’t want them to let one day slip by, and they responded very well,” Shaver said. “We told them to focus on the very first thing they were called upon to do. They were focused, and they competed extremely hard.”
As a result, Shaver and his coaching staff are looking for more of the same this weekend. To have a chance at scoring points for the team at the finals, they must get through the first two rounds here.
That’s where focus and a sense or urgency come in, he said.
“I give our athletes a lot of credit for what they did at the SEC meet,” Shaver said. “We saw them take some ownership and responsibility, and they were extremely supportive of each other.
“There was a lot of energy being generated and a lot of positive thoughts.”
Success, of course, has a lot to do with that, and the Lady Tigers and Tigers have set themselves up for more of it with large contingents at this meet.
The fields for the preliminary rounds in the East and West, which are being held in Austin, Texas, are made up of the top 48 athletes in each individual event and 24 relay teams from a season-long descending-order list.
LSU has a combined 58 entries in the East meet.
The Lady Tigers have 22 athletes and a total of 27 entries, while the Tigers have 25 athletes with 31 chances for advancement.
According to the event-by-event rankings, the Lady Tigers have 15 individuals and two relays positioned in the top 12. The men have 11 individuals and two relays poised to take the next step.
“They’re doing the things that championship teams do at this time of the year,” Shaver said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to win (national titles), but we’re well-prepared.”
The Lady Tigers are led by the sprint duo of Kimberlyn Duncan and Semoy Hackett, who rank 1-2 in the 200 meters and 1-4 in the 100. Duncan and Hackett ran 1-2 in both events.
Those two are also members of the 4x100-meter relay team, along with Rebecca Alexander and Takeia Pinckney, that is tied for the top time in the nation at 42.99 seconds.
Alexander ranks second in the 400 and is also on the top-ranked 4x400 relay that includes Latoya McDermott, Cassandra Tate and Jonique Day.
Charlene Lipsey also leads the East in the 800 meters and is ranked second in the nation after winning the conference title.
Other Lady Tigers inside the top 12 in the East rankings are Tate, 400-meter hurdles (fourth); Jasmin Stowers (fourth) and Shanekia Hall (12th), 100 hurdles; Pinckney, 100 (12th); Day, 400 (11th); Rachel Laurent, pole vault (fourth); Brittany Porter, long jump (ninth); Samia Stokes, discus (fifth); Brieanna Kennedy, hammer (sixth); and Annie Simoneaux, javelin (11th).
The men’s team has only one East leader in long jumper Damar Forbes, but Barrett Nugent, the reigning NCAA champion in the 110 hurdles, ranks second in his signature event.
Nugent and Aaron Ernest, who ranks fourth in the 200 and fifth in the 100, are part of the 4x100 relay team along with Keyth Talley and Shermund Allsop that ranks fifth.
Others in the top 12 are Caleb Williams, 400 (eighth); Howard Shepard, 800 (10th); Kyron Blaise, triple jump (second) and long jump (sixth); Rodney Brown, discus (second); Michael Lauro, hammer (fifth); and Thomas Reinecke and Andreas Duplantis, pole vault (tied for 12th).
Williams is joined by Quincy Downing, Ade Alleyne-Forte and Riker Hylton on the 4x400 relay that ranks third.