LSU Track & Field’s coaching staff was completed ahead of the 2017 fall semester when head coach Dennis Shaver announced Aug. 7 the hiring of 15-year NCAA Division I coaching veteran Tamara Ards as an assistant coach with a focus on working with LSU’s sprinters, hurdlers and relays teams.
Ards returned to Baton Rouge following one season as an assistant coach at Arizona State in 2016 where she coached the women’s sprints and hurdles. Since first joining the coaching ranks in 2004, she has developed her craft with stops at Texas, Clemson, NC State, Colorado, UNLV and Eastern Michigan.
Ards career path has come full circle as she also previously spent time as part of LSU Track & Field while working under Shaver for one year as the program’s Director of Operations during the 2006 season.
Ards was instrumental in Tonea Marshall becoming one of the most elite hurdlers in the world during the 2020 indoor season. Marshall clocked a career best time of 7.86 seconds in the 60 meter hurdles at the Corky Classic on January 18. The time of 7.86 made Marshall the third fastest in NCAA history, it ranked No. 5 in the world for 2020 and was also an LSU school record. The time of 7.86 earned her National Athlete of the Week honors and she was named to the Bowerman Watch List as well.
Marshall wasn’t the only hurdler to excel under Ards as freshman Alia Armstrong clocked a PR of 7.95 at the Tyson Invitational on February 15 to stake claim to the third-fastest time in LSU history in the 60 meter hurdles. On the men’s side, Ards trained Eric Edwards Jr. (7.61/No. 3), Damion Thomas (7.68/No. 4), and Arthur Price (7.81/No. 9) to LSU top 10 marks in the 60 meter hurdles as well.
In the short sprints, Ards had Symone Mason and Thlema Davies primed and prepped to go fast at the 2020 NCAA Indoor Championships. The duo came into the NCAA Championships ranking No. 4 and No. 5 respectively in the nation. Symone Mason ran her PR of 22.76 in the finals of the 200 meters at the SEC Championships to earn a bronze medal, and Davies ran a PR of 22.80 at the Tyson Invitational on February 15. Mason (No. 3) and Davies (No. 4) both rank inside the LSU top-five in the indoor 200 meters.
Ards also worked closely with freshman Amber Anning who ran the third-fastest 400 meter time indoors in LSU history with a 52.22 at the Tyson Invitational on February 15; Anning went on to place third at the SEC Championships in the 400 meters.
In 2019, Ards tutored one of the most talented hurdling squads in America on the women’s side. Four women in the hurdles advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the Tigers and amassed a total of 15 points. Ards coached Marshall to bronze in the 100 meter hurdles with a PR and school record time of 12.66 at the NCAA Championships. In the 400 meter hurdles, Brittley Humphrey (3rd) and Jurnee Woodward (6th) scored for the Tigers. Ards also worked with the LSU women’s 4×100 meter relay that placed second at the NCAA Championships with a time of 42.29. Marshall went on to win the U23 NACAC title while representing USA with a time of 12.66 in July of 2019; Marshall also qualified for the finals of the 100 meter hurdles at the U.S. Trials and finished sixth overall with a time of 12.81. The hurdles crew scored a total of 35 points between the 100 and 400 meter hurdle events at the SEC Championships including a 1-2-3 finish by the trio of Jurnee Woodward, Brittley Humphrey, and Milan Young in the 400 hurdles. Marshall and Humphrey finished third and fourth in the 60 meter hurdles at the SEC Indoor Championships. The women’s 4×100 meter relay also won their fourth-straight SEC title in the event with a readout of 42.93 at the SEC Outdoor Championships.
On the men’s side, she helped hurdler Arthur Price become the eighth-fastest hurdler in school history with a PR of 13.59 that he ran at the NCAA East Preliminaries to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Damion Thomas scored points for LSU at both SEC meets in the 60 and 110 hurdles, while Price scored for the Tigers at the SEC indoor meet.
In 2018, Ards worked primarily with LSU’s sprinters and hurdlers. She mentored Damion Thomas (3rd place) and Tonea Marshall (6th place) to All-America honors 110 and 100 meter hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Thomas, the world U20 record holder and U20 2018 world champion in the 110 meter hurdles, registered a career-best time of 13.44 in the semifinal round of the 110 meter hurdles at the NCAA meet to rank as the second-fastest hurdler in LSU history behind Barrett Nugent’s 13.32. She also played a part in training the best women’s 4×100 meter relay in NCAA history as the foursome of Mikiah Brisco, Kortnei Johnson, Rachel Misher, and Aleia Hobbs set the collegiate record with a winning time of 42.05 at the SEC Championships to claim gold. Thomas scored points for LSU in the 60 and 110 meter hurdles at both the indoor and outdoor SEC meets, and Brittley Humphrey from the women’s side accompanied him in achieving that feat as well. Marshall and Thomas also scored points for LSU in the 60 meter hurdles at the NCAA indoor meet.
Ards’ reputation as one of the leading assistant coaches in NCAA Division I track and field was confirmed in 2016 with her appointment to Team USA’s staff at the North American, Central American & Caribbean Under- 23 Championships held in San Salvador, El Salvador last summer.
Before joining Greg Kraft’s staff at Arizona State, Ards coached three seasons at NC State from 2014-16 where she was a finalist for the annual Southeast Region Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year award as handed out by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The Wolfpack competed among the nation’s elite in 2016 while lining up in the NCAA final of the men’s 4×100-meter relay for the first time since 1991. It was a season that also saw NC State senior Alexis Perry place fifth nationally in the NCAA final of the women’s 100-meter hurdles.
While serving as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Texas in 2013, the Longhorns swept Big 12 Conference Championships during the indoor and outdoor seasons. Ards assisted the coaching staff in training athletes in the sprints, hurdles, jumps and multi-events during her stint in Austin as the Texas men proved to be among the nation’s elite in her one season.
Former Texas All-American Keiron Stewart clocked his collegiate best of 7.63 seconds en route to a fifth-place national finish in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championship in 2013. The outdoor season also saw Johannes Hock crowned the NCAA Outdoor Champion in the decathlon with teammate Isaac Murphy following in fourth place in the event at the national meet that year.
Clemson’s athletes also flourished with Ards’ coaching of the men’s and women’s hurdles, 400 and 800 meters and jumps as the program’s produced 13 All-Americans in those events in 2011 and 2012.
In 2011, American-record holder Brianna Rollins claimed the NCAA Indoor title in the women’s 60-meter hurdles while Miller Moss swept ACC Indoor and NCAA Indoor championships in the men’s heptathlon as two of the top athletes in collegiate track and field. Jasmine Edgerson was also crowned the ACC Indoor Champion in the women’s 60 hurdles that year.
The 2012 season saw both Rollins and Spencer Adams sweep ACC Indoor titles in the men’s and women’s 60-meter hurdles while the Clemson women later took home the fourth-place team trophy with their effort at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Ards was also part of four ACC-title-winning teams in her two seasons at Clemson.
“I’m truly grateful and honored to be back at LSU working with the track program once again,” Ards said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to work alongside my mentor, Coach (Dennis) Shaver, and a very passionate and knowledgeable coaching staff. We have a talented group of student-athletes coming back, so I’m eager to get started and help contribute to this program’s goal of being national champions.”
A former All-American sprinter in her own right while attending the University of Colorado from 1991-96, she captained the Buffaloes to the team title at the former Big Eight Conference Outdoor Championships in her senior season in 1996. She graduated from Colorado in May 1995 with her degree in journalism before later earning a Master of Science in physical education from UNLV in May 2010.
Ards has served as the vice-chairwoman of USA Track & Field’s Coaches Education Committee and as a USATF Level I Instructor since 2008 while providing educational opportunities for grassroots and elite coaches who work with athletes at the junior high school, high school and college levels.