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LSU senior Laura Carleton, who prepped at St. Louis Catholic. (LSU Sports / Special to the American Press)

LSU senior Laura Carleton, who prepped at St. Louis Catholic. (LSU Sports / Special to the American Press)

LSU senior’s career ends in Oregon

Last Modified: Wednesday, June 05, 2013 2:09 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Two weeks ago Laura Carleton finished a five-year journey with a slow walk across a stage in Baton Rouge.

Friday, another five-year journey will come to a close when she runs across a finish line some 2,500 miles away in Eugene, Ore.

Both signal the end to a college career full of highlights on the LSU track and in the school’s lecture halls.

You see, Carleton is not your average student-athlete, because she is so far above average in both.

The fifth-year senior from Lake Charles was a star student at St. Louis Catholic in her high school days. She was also one of the state’s best female distance runners.

But it was her brains as much as her legs that landed her at LSU, where she continued to make the most of her opportunities. That included not wasting much class time even when training.

“You have to keep things in perspective,” Carleton said. “I was there for school first. I knew that was my future.”

So Carleton went about her business and recently picked up her Master of Business Administration degree with a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average. That made her the top grade jock on campus.

Carleton’s grades led to a third consecutive selection to the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District VI First-Team for track and field.

She earned her undergraduate degree in 2011. On that day she received the University Medal for keeping the highest GPA in her graduating class.

“I don’t want to say the classes came easier, but I never really doubted myself when it came to school,” Carleton said. “I studied in high school and I didn’t really worry to much about getting good grades. I figured I would, but the running improvement has surprised me.

“I must admit I did wonder how I would do running.”

She has done just fine running as well.

Carleton will end her LSU career at the NCAA Outdoor championships Friday night when she races in the 5,000 meters against the nation’s best. She enters the event for the first time ranked ninth.

“This is the perfect way for it to end,” Carleton said. “I have always wanted to run at the national meet, to get a chance to run at the legendary Hayward Field in Eugene is exciting. I never really expected it to end like this.

“It is just great to finally be a part of this event. Here it is all about track.”

Already, Carleton is the most decorated women’s distance runner in LSU history, having achieved or surpassed most of her goals.

“Yes, but I have to make new ones, like how I finish in this race,” Carleton said. “I want to see how I do against the best girls in the country. This is the place to find out.”

Her best time this year in the 5,000 came at the Mount Sac Relays in suburban Los Angeles back in April. Carleton posted a school-record 15 minutes, 44.41 seconds in that meet that has some of the nation’s elite.

During the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships, Carleton placed fourth in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. That included a school-record time of 34:01.65 in the first ever 10,000-meter race in her LSU career. She ended the meet earning 10 points for LSU’s team score.

“While I am proud of both accomplishments, school and track, I really had to work hard on my times to get here,” Carleton said. “I put in a lot of time and training and it finally paid off and got me to nationals.”

It was during the indoor season where she really got noticed. She was the first Lady Tiger to win the SEC championship at 5,000 meters, setting the indoor school record in the process with her seasonal-best time of 16:11.58.

In addition, the Lady Tigers standout set personal bests of 9:21.92 indoors and 9:22.69 outdoors to rank No. 2 in school history in the 3,000 meters and 4:19.99 outdoors to rank No. 4 in school history in the 1,500 meters.

Now she has one final race to run and one final goal to fulfill.

“I would love to score points for the team, finish in the top eight so I can be named an All-American,” Carleton said. “If I don’t do that it’s not the end of the world, I won’t consider myself a failure.”

Hard to believe the word failure could come out of her mouth after all she has accomplished.

Now she just has a few more strides to finish her journey.

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