Tamara Ards Season 2024
Coach Tamara Ards returned to the LSU Track & Field program in the fall of 2017, and since then has season a plethora of success with the Tigers. The 2024 track & field season will mark Ards seventh season as an assistant coach for the Tigers, working primarily with short hurdles.
The women’s track & field team was highlighted by the display of elite talent Ards coached on the hurdles squad during the 2023 campaign.
Bowerman Watch List member, Alia Armstrong, saw another compelling year on the track under Ards. Armstrong cemented herself as the fastest hurdler in program history, clocking a time of 12.40 seconds in the 100-meter hurdle prelims of the SEC Outdoor Championships. She closed out the SEC Championships with her third hurdles title and the slightly wind-aided nation-leading time of 12.31 seconds. Armstrong was also part of the women’s 4×100-meter relay team that took home gold in the SEC Outdoor Championships with a time of 42.92 seconds.
Armstrong closed out her 2023 collegiate season with First Team All-American honors in the 100-meter hurdles and the 4×100-meter relay at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, both ending with bronze medals. The New Orleans native went on to battle in the USATF Outdoor Championships, finishing in seventh with a time of 12.70 seconds. Overall, her stellar year earned her the 2022-23 All-State Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Year award, two SEC Women’s Runner of the Week honors, two First Team All-SEC nods, and two First Team All-American nods.
Ards helped Junior Leah Phillips go sub-13 in the 100-meter hurdles for the first time in her career with 12.89 seconds at the LSU Battle on the Bayou this outdoor season. Phillips finished her outdoor season with her highest individual finish yet at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with a time of 13.07 seconds in 12th place. Indoors, Phillips finished her 2023 season as a First Team All-American after finishing in fourth at the NCAA Indoor Championships with a personal-best time of 7.95 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles. Her indoor PR corrects two 7.97 for altitude, and ranks her fourth all-time on the LSU performance list.
In her first season with the Tigers, Shani’a Bellamy saw tremendous progression in both the 100-meter hurdles and 400-meter hurdles. Ards helped coach Bellamy to her first ever sub-13 second time in the 100mH with a PR of 12.98 seconds at the NCAA East Preliminaries. Bellamy went on to finish as a First Team All-American in the 400mH at the NCAA Championships, and then finished fourth at the USATF Outdoor Championships in July. Bellamy was also crowned the NACAC U23 Champion in the 400mH with a PR of 55.48 seconds that ranks seventh in LSU performance list history. Bellamy was named the LSWA Women’s T&F Newcomer of the Year on July 21.
The men’s side for shorts hurdles futured a rising star in freshman Matthew Sophia. Week-after-week Sophia continued to put up top-10 times on the LSU performance list throughout the indoor and outdoor seasons. The Netherlands native closed out his stellar first season as the LSWA Men’s T&F Freshman of the Year after finishing in 12th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with a personal-best time of 13.59 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles. Sophia was also a two-time SEC Men’s Freshman of the Week during the 2023 season.
Coach Ards led Alia Armstrong to having the best season among collegiate hurdles during the 2022 season. After having a stellar collegiate season, Armstrong took third at the USATF Outdoor Championships to punch her ticket for the World Athletics Championships. While at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, Armstrong clocked a time of 12.31w in the 100-meter hurdles to take fourth place. Armstrong, the New Orleans native, was crowned the NCAA Champion over 100mh with a time of 12.57 seconds in the NCAA Outdoor Championship final. She racked up two First Team All-American honors during the championship after helping the 4×100-meter relay team to a fourth-place finish in the championship final. At the SEC Championships Armstrong was crowned a conference champion twice after taking gold in the 100mh and the 4×100. During the outdoors regular season Armstrong ran the collegiate all-conditions record of 12.33 (+2.5 m/s) at the Texas Relays to take first. The speedy hurdler was a member of The Bowerman Watch List throughout the whole year, while also earning the All-State Sugar Bowl’s James J. Corbett Award, All-State Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Month, USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week (03/29), and SEC Track Athlete of the Week (03/29).
Indoors, Armstrong was crowned the 60-meter SEC Champion with a final time of 7.11 seconds, which ranked third in LSU history and first in the nation for 2022. She made LSU history with the fastest time in the 60 hurdles ever, taking first at the Tyson Invitational with 7.81 seconds. Her time of 7.81 seconds also led the nation in 2022. Armstrong while being a member of The Bowerman Watch List member and being named SEC Track Athlete of the Week (02/01).
Favour Ofili had another stellar year on the track and was a semifinalist in the 200 at the World Athletics Championships and finished with silver in the 200 at the Commonwealth Games. During the outdoors collegiate postseason, Ofili closed out outdoors with three First Team All-American nods. She finished second in the 200, fourth in the 4×100-meter relay, and fifth in the 100 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. At the SEC Outdoor Championships Ofili accomplished a spectacular feat of being crowned a three-time SEC Outdoor Champion after winning the 100, 200, and 4×100. In the 100, she ran the fifth-fastest time in LSU history of 10.93 seconds to take gold at the SEC Championships. At the Tom Jones Memorial Invite the Nigerian finished with a collegiate and LSU record time of 21.96 seconds in the 200 at the Tom Jones Memorial Invite. Ofili racked up many awards and honors during the outdoor season including being a Semifinalist for The Bowerman and earning the SEC Outdoor Commissioner’s Trophy, USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week (04/19), and SEC Track Athlete of the Week (04/19, 05/04).
While in the indoor season Ofili was crowned a First Team All-American three times at the NCAA Indoor Championships. She finished second in the 200 meter with a time of 22.50, seventh in the 60 with a time of 7.25, and seventh with the 4×400-meter relay team with a squad time of 3:33.81. Ofili earned one SEC Track Athlete of the Week honor during indoors (02/08).
Leah Phillips broke out as one of the top 60-meter hurdlers in the nation for the 2022 indoor season under the tutelage of Coach Ards. Phillips finished fourth at the NCAA Indoor Championship final for 60m hurdles with a time of 8.01 seconds, earning First Team All-American honors. She also went sub-eight seconds in the hurdles for the first time to set her PR and the fourth-fastest time in LSU performance list history of 7.97 seconds at the SEC Indoor Championships.
On the men’s side, Eric Edwards Jr. had a great last season to close out his collegiate career with the Tigers. Edwards was a finalist for both the indoors and outdoors NCAA Championships in 2022. Outdoors, Edwards finished second in the 100-meter hurdles with a collegiate PR of 13.15 seconds, which ranks second in program history for LSU behind his former teammate Damion Thomas. Indoors, Edwards finished eighth with a time of 8.24 in the 60-meter hurdle final. After the collegiate season Edwards went on to the USATF Outdoor Championships, taking seventh in the nation for the 100mh.
Damion Thomas made his first Olympic team while training under the tutelage of Ards in 2021. Thomas represented Jamaica at the Tokyo Olympics and made it to the semifinals of the event. During the collegiate season, Thomas swept indoor titles at the SEC meet and NCAA meet in the 60 meter hurdles before scoring points for LSU at the NCAA outdoor meet as well. Thomas set the school record in the 110 meter hurdles at the Texas Relays with a time of 13.11 seconds, and fellow hurdler Eric Edwards Jr. clocked the third fastest 110 meter hurdle readout in school history at the LSU Alumni Gold meet with a time of 13.46 seconds.
Ards worked directly with Tonea Marshall in 2021 as she continued her rise into one of the world’s most elite hurdlers with a career best of 12.44 seconds, a time that finished the 2021 season ranked No. 4 in the world. Marshall won the SEC title in the 100 meter hurdles and didn’t lose a race all season in the hurdles outdoors. Unfortunately, a hamstring strain in the finals of the 4×100 meter relay at the NCAA Championships – about 45 minutes before the finals of the 100m hurdles – prevented her from running for a NCAA title.
Favour Ofili’s first season in Purple and Gold was a successful one as she trained with Ards. Ofili earned four All-America honors during the season and registered four LSU top 10 marks. Ofili earned three medals at the 2021 U20 World Championships in Kenya as she represented her home country of Nigeria. She clocked a personal best of 22.23 seconds in the final of the 200 meters at the world meet to earn bronze and become the sixth fastest U20 athlete of all time in the event.
Ards helped fellow hurdler Milan Young to a successful season as she won the 2021 SEC indoor title in the 60 meter hurdles with a career best time of 8.03 seconds; Young would go on to place fifth in the finals of the 60 meter hurdles at the NCAA indoor meet. Symone Mason was one of Ards’ best all-around sprinters as she qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in four events – 100 meters, 200 meters, 4x100m relay, and 4x400m relay. She helped the 4×100 meter relay to a silver showing at the NCAA outdoor meet with a time of 42.84 in the finals.
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.