NEW YORK - The LSU Track & Field teams added a pair of event championships with two of the NCAA's leading performances by senior Michael Lauro in the men's weight throw and junior Kimberlyn Duncan in the women's 200-meter dash while wrapping up the 2012 New Balance Collegiate Invitational on Friday night at The Armory Track & Field Center.
Their performance highlighted a weekend in which the teams combined for four event titles over two days of action en route to a second-place finish for the Tigers and a third-place finish for the Lady Tigers in the final team standings in the 12th edition of one of the nation's premier indoor meets.
The Tigers scored 75 points during the meet to finish runner-up to the 85 points scored by Texas A&M in the race for the men's team title. Mississippi State finished well behind in third place with 59 points.
The Lady Tigers totaled 60 points for the weekend to finish in third place in the final standings behind the likes of first-place Clemson (93) and second-place BYU (64) in the chase for the women's crown.
"I thought we got a little bit better as a team here this weekend," said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. "In our two days here at The Armory, we saw a number of athletes put themselves in a better position to have a chance to compete at the NCAA Championships. All we're looking for at this time of year is to improve a little bit each week to give ourselves the best chance as a team to compete in the championship meets."
Duncan was the first to step onto the track for a championship final on the final day of competition at The Armory after posting Friday's fastest qualifying time in the 200-meter prelims at 23.34 seconds.
Duncan took control of the race early and never looked back as she crossed the finish line with a national-leading time of 23.22 to become the fifth Lady Tiger in meet history to claim the women's 200-meter title at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational. She joins a distinguished list of past LSU champions that also includes Lady Tiger greats Muna Lee (2002, 2003, 2004) and Kelly-Ann Baptiste (2007).
Duncan finished ahead of Texas A&M's duo of Dominique Duncan (23.63) and Ashley Collier (23.66) to take home the victory in the championship final and extend her collegiate winning streak in the 200-meter dash to 11-straight victories in finals dating back to the 2011 indoor season.
She has not tasted defeat in the 200 meters at the collegiate level since finishing in third place in the event final at the 2011 New Balance Collegiate Invitational as a sophomore a season ago.
"I'll take it," Duncan said following her victory. "Compared to what I was running last year, I am running faster and with better technique at this time of the year. I try to take advantage of every opportunity I have to improve myself. Any improvement I have each meet, I'll take it."
While competing in just his second weight throw competition of the season, Michael Lauro moved into the Top 10 of the NCAA rankings with his performance on Saturday afternoon in capturing the fourth-straight weight throw crown by an LSU Tiger at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational.
After qualifying for the championship final with a top mark of 67 feet, 6 inches on his third attempt of the preliminary round, Lauro followed two fouls in the final with his seasonal-best mark of 68-7 ¾ on his last attempt of the afternoon to capture the weight throw title by just over seven inches over the mark of 66-10 ¾ by Iowa's Matt Banse. He continued the dominance by LSU in the event at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational as former Tiger Walter Henning claimed three-straight titles from 2009-11.
With his performance, Lauro cracked the NCAA's Top 10 this season with the 10th-ranked performance at the collegiate level for 2012. He owns a personal record in the event of 70-7 set as a junior in 2011.
"I was very surprised at how far I threw today, but very happy with the performance," Lauro said. "I have actually been throwing the weight less in practice than I ever have. My first practice this year with the 35-pound weight was on Wednesday, so I was a little bit surprised with what I threw today. We've really just training for the weight as if it is the hammer. Throwing the weight less makes it easier to throw.
"I'm looking to throw my best when it counts the most in the championship meets. Being just two feet off of my PR today shows that I'm right there with where I want to be."
Lady Tiger senior Rebecca Alexander also enjoyed one of the nation's leading performances this year in a runner-up finish in the women's 400-meter dash championship after sprinting to a new lifetime PR for the event with a time of 52.66 in the final. Alexander, who entered the meet with a previous PR of 53.03 from the SEC Indoor Championships a year ago, finished runner-up to Clemson's Marlena Wesh (52.21) with a time that ranks No. 2 on the NCAA list and just shy of the NCAA qualifying standard of 52.60.
The Lady Tigers now feature two of the NCAA's top four 400-meter runners on the women's side for this season as senior Cassandra Tate owns the No. 4-ranked performance for 2012 at 53.13.
Tiger junior Caleb Williams followed with a bronze-medal winning third-place finish in the men's final in the 400 meters as he clocked 47.28 after qualifying with Friday's fastest preliminary time at 47.14.
The Tiger jumpers continued their momentum from Friday's 1-2 finish in the men's long jump when both juniorDamar Forbes and senior Kyron Blaise again finished as the top two collegians in the triple jump in Saturday's championship finale to add 18 points toward LSU's final team score.
Fresh off his win in the long jump when he set a seasonal best of 26-0 ¾ on Friday night, Forbes leaped to a 2012 seasonal best of 51-10 ½ in the triple jump on Saturday for a fourth-place finish overall and a first-place finish among collegians in the field. Blaise followed Forbes in fifth place overall in the competition and second place among collegiate competitors with his seasonal-best mark of 51-3 ¾.
With Forbes winning the collegiate championship in the triple jump, he dethroned his teammate as winner of the event as Blaise entered the meet as the defending champion.
Lady Tiger sophomore Denise Hinton continued her early-season momentum in the weight throw with yet another personal-best performance while scoring the first points of the day for the Lady Tigers.
Hinton, who emerged as an All-America contender a week ago after throwing a school record 66-1 ½ in a runner-up finish at the Razorback Invitational, shattered her own mark in Saturday's first championship final with a series-best throw of 66-7 (20.29m) on her fifth attempt while scoring six points with her third-place finish. She moved up one spot to No. 14 in the NCAA rankings with her performance.
After qualifying for the final with a top mark of 64-11 ¼ in the preliminary round, Hinton improved in the final with her new seasonal-best toss of 66-7 to finish in third place overall behind Baylor's Erin Atkinson (67-9) and Nebraska's Alena Krechyk (67-0) for the weight throw crown.
Hinton has shown tremendous improvement this season while setting personal bests in four-straight meets with previous PR marks of 57-8 ½ at the Crimson Tide Indoor Opener on Jan. 14, 63-2 at the Texas A&M Dual Meet on Jan. 21 and 66-1 ½ at the Razorback Invitational on Jan. 28.
Junior Laura Carleton continued the momentum for the Lady Tigers with a third-place finish and personal best of her own in the women's 3,000 meters championship.
Carleton opened the 2012 indoor season with a victory in the 3,000-meter run at the Crimson Tide Indoor Opener, where she recorded the second-fastest performance in school history with a lifetime personal best of 9 minutes, 37.80 seconds. She slashed more than eight seconds from her season-opening 3k run to take third place in Saturday's final with a new lifetime PR of 9:29.44, finishing behind only Rachel Johnson of Baylor (9:28.27) and Tamara Jewett of Toronto (9:29.18) in the championship final.
With her performance, Carleton strengthened her hold on the No. 2 spot on LSU's indoor performance list in and moved to within 10 seconds of Lisa Reed's indoor school record of 9:19.11 set back in 1987.
Other LSU athletes posting new indoor personal bests in Saturday's finale include Jonique Day (24.59) in the women's 200 meters and Roger Cooke (4:27.76) and Philip Primeaux (4:23.22) in the men's mile.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers make their return trip to the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark., next weekend to compete at the 2012 Tyson Invitational being held Feb. 10-11 at the University of Arkansas. The LSU Track & Field teams have already competed at the Randal Tyson Track Center during the 2012 indoor season with their appearance at the Razorback Invitational a week ago.