RollTide.com contributor Pete LaFleur is profiling four of Alabama's qualifiers in the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track Championships - Diondre Batson, Elias Hakansson, Alexis Paine and Krystle Schade - over the course of the national championships.
Hall of Fame coach Dick Booth is in his fourth season on the University of Alabama track and field coaching staff as the Crimson Tide's jumps coach. As one of the world's most successful jumps coaches, Booth's career has included 49 NCAA individual champions and 167 All-America performances.
"Based on what Coach Booth has accomplished he's one of the top jumps coaches in the nation and we're excited to have him as part of our program," UA head coach Dan Waters said. "The way he thinks and coaches the sport makes him as good as any coach in any sport. His philosophies and the way he coaches have held true through decades of jumpers. He has a unique was of relating to the student-athletes and bringing the most out of them. He understands that we're trying to create something special here and is excited to be a part of that."
Under Booth's direction, Alabama jumpers have earned 13 All-America citations (six indoor, seven outdoor) and one Southeastern Conference champion in hir first three years at the Capstone. The 2014 season saw freshman Jeremiah Green (men's triple jump) and sophomore Justin Fondren (men's high jump) earn All-America honors with Green placing seventh at the NCAA Indoor Championships and Fondren finishing fifth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Green became the first freshman in Alabama history to win an SEC jumps title when he took home the triple jump title at the 2014 SEC Indoor Championships. Green was named the SEC Freshman Field Athlete of the Year by virtue of that performance.
In 2013, Kamal Fuller (men's long jump), Justin Fondren (men's high jump) and Imani Brown (men's triple jump) were outdoor All-Americans while Fuller (men's long jump) joined Jonathan Reid (men's triple jump) and Krystle Schade (women's high jump) as indoor All-Americans. In 2012, Fuller and Schade earned All-America honors in their respective events at both the NCAA indoor and outdoor meets while Tyler Campbell (men's high jump) earned the accolade outdoors.
In the summer of 2012, Booth received one of the highest honors in collegiate coaching as he was named to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Hall of Fame for a nearly 40-year career that has established him as one of the preeminent jumps coaches in the world.
"I've been extremely blessed in my career to work with tremendous athletes that possess great work ethic," Booth said upon earning the honor. "That's what my career has been, coaching great athletes who are willing to work hard. I've always aimed to build a culture where athletes are willing to work hard, whether it be at Alabama or during my time at Arkansas and Florida. You obviously can't coach talent, but it's a nice combination when you have exceptional talent and exceptional work ethic. That makes coaches look good."
In his first season at Alabama, he coached three jumpers to a combined five All-America honors including Krystle Schade finishing second in the high jump at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships. She also earned first team All-America honors during the outdoor season, as did Tyler Campbell in the men's high jump. In the horizontal jumps, Kamal Fuller earned both indoor and outdoor All-America status under Booth's tutelage.
The veteran coach joined the UA staff after two seasons at Florida where his jumpers helped the Gators to the national championship at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships. Two of his pupils in the triple jump, Christian Taylor and Will Claye, finished first and second at the NCAA Outdoor Championships as the Gators placed third in the team standings. Claye and Taylor repeated that performance at the USA Championships to earn a spot on the U.S. team for the IAAF World Championships. The NCAA title was Taylor's second straight outdoor championship and third overall under Booth. Claye was also named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association's Field Athlete of the Year during the outdoor season. At the 2012 London Olympic games, Taylor and Claye won gold and silver, respectively in the triple jump while Claye also picked up bronze in the long jump.
"I was at Arkansas when the program got rolling, then at Florida for the first two national championships in program history and now Alabama seems to be offering the same opportunity," Booth said. "I think all the pieces are coming together and with the staff that has been hired, there's not any reason we can't be extremely successful. When I saw Dan's enthusiasm and met the staff in place, I thought `this is something I want to be a part of.'"
During the 2011 indoor season his jumpers scored 30 of the Gators' 52 points that helped the squad win the NCAA Indoor National Championship. Booth had three triple jumpers finish in the top five, led by Claye's national title which he followed with a runner-up finish in the long jump.
In just two seasons his men's jumpers re-wrote the UF record books, recording the top three triple jump marks in school history and two of the top three long jump standards during the indoor season. Outdoors, he coached three of the top four triple jumpers and two of the top three long jumpers in program history.
Prior to joining the Gators, Booth spent a combined 27 seasons as the men's field-events coach at the University of Arkansas with a four year-hiatus between Razorback tenures to serve as the head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette. Every Arkansas school record-holder in the men's field events was either coached or recruited by Booth. During his four-year tenure as head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette from 1985-88, Booth was responsible for two individual national championships, five All-Americans and 19 school record-holders.
Booth served as field-events coach at the Arkansas from 1978-84 and 1988-2009. During his second stint at Arkansas, the Razorbacks captured 14 NCAA indoor track titles with a string of eight consecutive outdoor championships between 1992 and 1999 and another championship streak from 2003-06.
Booth also coached 45 individual national champions and 137 All-America honors at Arkansas as well as 11 Olympians. In addition to his current Florida standouts, Booth's former student-athletes include track and field icons such as Mike Conley, Erick Walder, Hollis Conway, Robert Howard, Edrick Floreal, Brian Wellman, Jerome Romain, Ray Doakes, Matt Hemingway, Melvin Lister and Kenny Evans.
Conley won the gold medal in the triple jump at the 1992 Olympic Games with what remains the second longest wind-aided jump in history. A year later he won the World Championship in the event and had previously won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics. Conway, one Booth's NCAA Champions at ULL, went on to win a silver medal in the high jump at the 1988 Olympics and a bronze medal in 1992 to become one of just two Americans to medal twice in the event. Conway still holds the American indoor record in the event.
A native of Blue Mound, Kan., Booth completed collegiately in the quarter mile at Ottawa University. He began his coaching career in the Kansas high school ranks with positions at Wellington (Kan.) High School, Fort Scott (Kan.) High School and Shawnee Mission South. He gained a reputation as one of the premier prep field events coach in the country while working with four state record holders in seven seasons at Shawnee Mission South.
He earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from Ottawa in 1966 and a master's degree in physical education from Kansas State in 1970.
Booth and his wife, Merry Lee, have a son, Marc, and a daughter, Reagan Russell. The family has a proud athletic tradition as Marc was a punter for Arkansas' football team, while Reagan was a member of the women's track and field team at Louisiana-Lafayette. Dick and Merry Lee are grandparents to six grandchildren.