DES MOINES, Iowa — Lady Tiger junior Kimberlyn Duncan put on a show for the Drake Stadium faithful in Thursday’s semifinals of the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships as she broke her own low-altitude collegiate record in her second-straight 200-meter race to lead yet another strong day of qualifying for the LSU Track & Field program.
Duncan dominated the second of three semifinal heats in the women’s 200-meter dash on Thursday as she sprinted to the finish line in 22.19 seconds to advance with the top time of the day and earn her spot in the final on Saturday as the defending NCAA Champion in the event.
She led a host of five individuals and two relay teams for the LSU Track & Field teams advancing to final races to run in Saturday’s championship finale on the signature blue oval at Drake Stadium.
The Lady Tigers have been nearly perfect in their qualifying in two days in Des Moines with a 10 finalists earning their spot in this weekend’s competition on the track. The Tigers feature eight chances to score on the weekend, including five finalists on the track and three competitors in the field events.
“Not at all, not at all,” Duncan said after being asked if she expected to set a personal best in the semifinal round. “I know Coach (Dennis Shaver) has me ready to go, so I just came out to try and take the next step today. My goal first and foremost is to try and get into the final and score as many points as I possibly can for the team. We’re here to win a national championship. That is our focus.”
Duncan entered Thursday’s semifinal as the 2012 world leader in the women’s 200-meter dash with a best of 22.22 set just 12 days ago in the quarterfinal round at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. She eclipsed that mark with a new personal-best time of 22.19 (+1.9) to take the second heat and cruise into the final slated to run Saturday at 11:47 a.m. CT.
With her performance, Duncan is getting ever closer to the recognized collegiate record of 22.04 recorded at altitude in Provo, Utah, by Lady Tiger great Dawn Sowell at the 1989 NCAA Championships.
While Duncan earned an easy victory in the second 200-meter semifinal, senior teammate Semoy Hackett dominated the third heat with the second-fastest wind-legal time of her career at 22.58 (+0.9) as they were first and second, respectively, among the eight qualifiers into the final.
Both Duncan and Hackett have shown tremendous form while leading the Lady Tigers in their chase for a national championship as they will also line up in the finals of the 100 meters and 4x100-meter relay this weekend.
Sophomore Jasmin Stowers followed by earning a lane in first NCAA final in the 100-meter hurdles as an LSU Lady Tiger as she took second place in the second semifinal heat with her run of 13.01. Ohio State’s Christina Manning won the heat with a time of 12.87. The two-time NCAA Indoor All-American earned a spot in the final with the sixth-fastest time among automatic qualifiers on Thursday.
The Lady Tigers then put an exclamation point onto the end of this week’s semifinal qualifying by setting a new NCAA-leading time in the 4x400-meter relay while winning the third of three heats.
Junior Latoya McDermott, senior Rebecca Alexander, senior Cassandra Tate and senior Jonique Day set a national leading time of 3 minutes, 28.01 seconds for the No. 7-ranked performance in school history. The team not only eclipsed its previous seasonal best of 3:29.25 in winning the SEC crown, but also eclipsed a previous national best of 3:28.10 set by Kansas from the Big 12 Championships.
The Jayhawks ran the second-fastest time of the semifinal round at 3:29.07 to take the first heat, while the Oregon Ducks won the second heat with the third-fastest time of the evening at 3:29.46.
Both Alexander and Tate also have an opportunity to score points for their team on Friday as Alexander is set to run in the finals of the 400-meter dash and Tate is set to run in the finals of the 400 hurdles.
“I feel like we are,” Duncan said of her team being positioned to make a run at a national championship in the next two days. “We’ve all come here prepared and ready to go. Something we’ve been talking about is making to the final in every event that we’re in. We’ve done a great job of that.”
Senior Barrett Nugent and freshman Aaron Ernest led the charge for the Tigers on Thursday evening after advancing to finals in their respective events after also teaming in Wednesday’s 4x100-meter relay.
Nugent, the defending NCAA Outdoor champion in the 110-meter hurdles, automatically qualified for the final of the event by taking second place in the third semifinal heat with his seasonal-best wind-legal time of 13.36. Ernest advanced to the final of the men’s 200-meter dash as the last timed qualifier after earning a fourth-place finish in the third-heat with the eighth-best time of the day at 20.54.
Ernest has been impressive in his NCAA Championships debut as he will line up in three finals this week, including the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4x100-meter relay.
“After seeing what happened in those firs two (200) heats, I knew that probably the timed qualifiers might come from my heat,” Ernest said. “It’s all about just getting to the final. I’m probably going to be in either lane one or lane eight, but I’ll just have to make it work. It doesn’t matter if you don’t make it.
“I felt a little sore before the race, but I just fought through it. Hopefully, I can rest up and be ready for the 100 final tomorrow. I’m excited to be in the final of every race I came here to compete in this week.”
The Tigers ran a seasonal-best of their own in the 4x400-meter relay to wrap up Thursday’s semifinals on the track as freshman Quincy Downing, senior Robert Simmons, senior Ade Alleyne-Forte and senior Riker Hylton teamed for a run of 3:01.97 to take second place in the second heat behind Penn State’s race of 3:01.52. Hylton anchored the Tigers with a strong 44.85-second split down the stretch.
“I think that puts a stamp on the semifinals,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver in regards to his team’s performance in the 4x400-meter relay. “Our athletes are doing everything they can do to this point. I think both of our teams have really stepped it up. They are taking this idea of a seven-day meet very seriously. I think that shows the maturity of our team that they are able to take it one day at a time.”
Senior Brieanna Kennedy led the way in the field event semifinals on Thursday afternoon while earning a 13th-place finish in the women’s hammer throw for her best career finish at the NCAA Outdoor meet. She posted a series-best of 197 feet, 3 inches on her third attempt of the afternoon.
While making her first career appearance in the national semifinals, Lady Tiger junior Brittany Porter had a top jump of 20-3 ¾ in the second round of the first flight to finish in 15th place in the long jump.
Two Tigers kicked off the day with an appearance in the men’s javelin as senior Aaron Moore threw a top mark of 216-7 for 20th place and freshman Jeremy Tuttle posted a best of 212-10 for 21st place.
The LSU Track & Field teams will have an opportunity to score big points during Friday’s competition at the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships as the action gets underway in the field events at 2 p.m. CT and in their first finals on the track at 5:45 p.m. The Lady Tigers will compete in such finals as the 100 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters and 400 hurdles, while the Tigers are set to compete in such finals as the 100 meters, pole vault, triple jump and hammer throw on Friday.
ESPN3.com will feature a live video stream of Friday’s NCAA Championship events being held at Drake Stadium beginning at 5:15 p.m. before the start of the evening’s national finals on the track.
“It’s been all about getting into the final to this point,” Shaver said. “Everyone that we’ve needed to make it into a final has done just that in these first two days. We have a great opportunity now to go out there in these last couple of days and control our own destiny in a lot of ways. That’s all you can ask for.”