LSU women win NCAA track title

gutsy 43-point final day performance by the Lady Tiger track and field team brought head coach Pat Henry his 25th NCAA national title as the women defeated Texas by 14 points to complete the sweep of the women's 2003 NCAA track crowns.

The Tigers turned in 18 points in the final day of competition to finish fourth in the men's team race.

SEC competitors Arkansas (59) and Auburn (50) finished 1-2 in the final men's team standings, while USC was third (41.5) and the Tigers followed in fourth (36).

"This was a great title because we came in with a lot of expectations," said LSU head coach Pat Henry. "This team is young, we don't have any seniors, so it really makes for a great championship. I'm just happy we got through this meet healthy. With so many rounds of competition this was a very difficult championship on the athletes."

The Lady Tigers' NCAA Outdoor title marks their 13th in program history and the first since the 2000 season. LSU has now won both the women's NCAA Indoor and Outdoor crowns during the same season nine times in the program's history, last accomplishing the feat in 1997.

With the competition winding down on the final day of competition, it was junior Nicole Toney's fourth-place finish in the triple jump put the nail in the coffin in the women's team race. Her five points scored by jumping 44-5 1/4 put LSU out of reach heading into the final event, the 4x400-meter relay.

The Lady Tiger's school record-breaking performance in that event proved to be just icing on the cake as the foursome of Nadia Davy, Monique Hall, Neisha Bernard-Thomas and Hazelann Regis nearly upset eventual champion, Texas, with a sizzling time of 3:27.88 to earn runner-up honors. The Longhorns turned in the third fastest time ever run in NCAA history (3:26.76) to take home the event title.

Building off the women's success, the Tiger 4x400 team took to the track and concluded the meet with a national championship performance in the event. The foursome of Robert Parham, Bennie Brazell, Pete Coley and Kelly Willie combined to post the second fastest time in school history, 3:02.01, to edged favorite Minnesota (3:02.33) in the race.

"We definitely wanted to get this title because we felt that other people didn't see us as a contender for the mile relay," said freshman anchor Willie. "Just to come out here and win this means a lot for our confidence."

Earlier in the evening Willie earned his second All-America honor in the open quarter, finishing fifth with the second-best time of his career, 45.28.

Also scoring for the men was junior LeJuan Simon in the triple jump. Simon jumped 52-6 to place eighth in the final standings. He was followed by teammate John Moffitt, who finished ninth overall with a leap of 51-11 3/4.

For the women, junior Neisha Bernard-Thomas had one of the Lady Tigers' most spectacular performances during the final day of competition. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native shattered the school record in the 800 meters clocking a PR of nearly two seconds to finish second overall with a time of 2:01.75. Bernard-Thomas' mark bettered the four-year old school record of 2:02.52 set by Claudine Williams in 1999.

For the second straight day Muna Lee fell just short of claiming a fifth individual NCAA national title, finishing second in the 200-meter dash. Lee led down the straightaway but was passed by South Carolina's Aleen Bailey in the final few meters. Bailey crossed the line in 22.65 and Lee followed in 22.76.

LSU concluded the season adding two national titles to its already impressive list of accomplishments. The LSU track and field program has now won a total of 28 NCAA team titles.

LSU's Track & Field National Championships
Men's Indoor Track (1) 2001
Women's Indoor Track (10) 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2002, 2003
Men's Outdoor Track (4) 1933, 1989, 1990, 2002
Women's Outdoor Track (13) 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996,1997, 2000, 2003

2003 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships
Team Scoring
(Top 20 Only)

Women's
1, LSU, 64; 2, Texas, 50; 3, South Carolina, 47; 4, Florida, 36; 5, Nebraska, 33; 6, Indiana, 32; 7, North Carolina, 30; 8, UCLA 28; 9, Stanford, 27; 10, Penn State, 24; 11, Georgia, 22; 12, Washington St., 21; 13, Southern Cal, 19; 14, Auburn, 18; 15, BYU, 17.5; 16, Cal Poly-SLO, 16.5; 17, Oregon, 14.5; 18, Miami (Fla.), 14; 19, Arkansas, 13.5; 20. Yale and Idaho, 13.

Men's
1, Arkansas, 59; 2, Auburn, 50; 3, Southern Cal, 41.5; 4, LSU. 36; 5, Nebraska, 33; 6, Florida, 32; 7, Tennessee and Stanford, 30; 9, Minnesota, 29; 10, South Carolina, 22; 11, Penn and Texas A&M, 20; 13, Oregon, 19.25; 14, Georgia and TCU, 19; 16, Middle Tennessee St., 17; 17, Texas Tech and SMU, 16; 19, UCLA, 14.5; 20, Mississippi St., 13.

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