Lady Tigers finish 6th at SEC Championships

NASHVILLE - Kelly Ann Baptiste may be just a freshman, but she knows when a race doesn't go her way.

Moments after finishing sixth in the 200 meters, the talented sprinter immediately turned away from the finish line and started walking slowly across the infield at the Vanderbilt track and field stadium.


The other runners were slowly catching their breath and congratulating winner Shalonda Solomon of South Carolina, but Baptiste would have none of that. She knew she could have done better, and she wanted to figure out why immediately.


"In the 200, I was confident, but I don't know what happened," Baptiste said. "I just wasn't there. But, I scored points for the team, so that is what I'm worried about right now."


Indeed, the sixth place finish helped LSU in the long run, as the Tigers finished sixth overall at the four-day event. LSU earned 78 points, missing fifth place Auburn by just 3.5 points. South Carolina won the championship with 145.2 points.


"Coming into the track meet, I felt if the women left here in sixth place, that is probably a pretty solid finish with the group that we had here," said first-year coach Dennis Shaver.


Shaver was pleased with the overall performance, and like Baptiste, expressed disappointment in the 200 final. Baptiste had recorded the third-fastest qualifying time on Saturday at 23.27, but she managed a 23.79 in the final.


"There's a few things that could have gone a little bit better," Shaver said. "I didn't feel like Kelly ran as well in the 200 final as she should have. With what we brought to the track meet and what we were trying to get done, that was one of the few things that was disappointing."


Baptiste earned a third-place finish in the 100 meters with an 11.41 after qualifying with the fourth-fastest time.


"In the 100, I was good in the race and then I did something that was technically wrong. I just lost it from there," she said. "But it was all right."


Sophomore Tanya Osbourne's personal-best of 2:05.12 in the 800 meters was good for second place and it was the eighth best time in school history.


"Tanya Osbourse, second in the 800, with a big PR, that was nice to see," Shavers said. "We had a few hurdlers run well, particularly in the prelims, but not as well in the finals. Sometimes that happens. We have to get more consistent with our performances."


Shavers brought a freshman-heavy team with him to Nashville against the best competition to date. The all-freshman quartet in the 4x100 meter relay failed to finish when they passed the baton outside the zone on the final exchange.


"I think part of that is the anxiety of being in this kind of a meet," Shaver said. "I was really disappointed because I thought we were over that. We went to Penn, and I thought if they can handle that, they can handle anything. We came here and it didn't go so well. But I would rather it be here than at the next one, because at the next one if this happens, then we don't get to take it to the NCAA meet and I really think we are one of the top 3 or 4 teams in the country."


The 4x400 relay team was also disqualified due to a lane violation.


"The bottom line is there is not a whole lot of excuses for it because they are capable of doing it," Shaver said.


Freshman Deonna Lawrence grabbed third place in the 400 meters with a personal best time of 52.95.


LSU went 4-5 in the 100 meter hurdles, with Jessica Ohanaja and RaNysha LeBlanc earning points. Ruth Nanyinza was eighth in the 1,500 meters in 4:30.87.


In the field, freshman Amanda Harmata finished second in the javelin with a throw of 152-7 and Ruth Nanyinza was eighth.


LSU had two scorers in the triple jump, as Andrea Linton was fourth and Nedra Gross was eighth.


The Lady Tigers were the national runners-up in 2004, but they virtually have had a brand new team this season to attempt to carry on the legacy. While the SEC championships is the first of three ultra-competitive meets to conclude the year (with the NCAA regionals and NCAA championships up next), each event is a learning experience for a team loaded with potential.


"I think we are doing better than everyone else thought we would," Baptiste said. "Coming out of indoors, we were doing pretty well, and in outdoors, we are doing as good as we're supposed to do. We can do better, but we are scoring points right now. I guess we are learning at every track meet we go to."


Next up for LSU is the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in Bloomington, Ind., on May 27-28. The NCAA championships will be June 8-11 in Sacramento.

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