Henry has also hired good assistants. In 1995 three of his coaches left—including Pfaff, who went to Texas, and Myrtle Chester Ferguson, now head coach at Tennessee—but the program is still cruising. "Pat Henry has the incredible ability to let his assistants coach," says Pfaff. "That sounds simple, but it's not."
The Lady Tigers have also shown a knack for peaking at the right time and for getting lucky breaks. While they have won some titles with ease—in the 1993 outdoors, for example, they scored 93 points to beat second-place Wisconsin by 49—there have been many years when LSU wasn't even favored. In 1987, when the championships were held at LSU, Alabama won the 4x400-meter relay only to be disqualified. A win would have given Alabama the title; instead, LSU won its first championship. At the 1992 outdoors, LSU trailed Florida going into the final day. Then Inger Miller of USC withdrew from the 100 and the 200, and Chryste Gaines of Stanford pulled out of the 200, both with bum hamstrings. Their absence opened the door for the Lady Tigers to score more points and overtake Florida, which had beaten LSU by 22 points in the SEC Championships three weeks earlier.
This year, as in the past, there has been talk that the Lady Tigers are too young, that they have lost too many key athletes. Hill, last year's champion in the 100 meters, is gone, as are 200-meter champ Zundra Feagin and Kim Carson, a hurdler. In March, at the NCAA indoors in Indianapolis, some observers penciled in LSU for a fifth-place finish. Instead, Texas and Florida stumbled. LSU, led by its sprinters and by triple jumper Suzette Lee (who beat her own NCAA record), won again.
"This was a special one because this is a special group," Henry says. "They didn't listen to what people said, they just did it."
Since then the Lady Tigers have continued to win. At the Penn Relays in April, LSU's 4x200-meter relay team of Hall, Peta-Gaye Dowdie, Stroman and Astia Walker clocked 1:31.27, eclipsing the previous NCAA record—held by LSU. This Lady Tigers squad has jelled much as the others. Upperclassmen have replaced the departed sprinters, and newcomers have contributed from the start. Dowdie and SaDonna Thornton, who ran with her in the 4x100-meter relay at Penn, are both true freshmen.
"The thinking hasn't changed," Hill says. "People say, 'The experience isn't there,' or 'The streak won't continue.' It's no different from what we felt. And we still won."