June 18, 2014
Complete Results |
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
The Alabama track and field teams put together a big finish to the 2013-14 season last week, coming away from the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon with a pair of individual national titles to go with top-20 finishes for both the men and women's team. It was an exclamation point on year three of Dan Water's tenure as the Crimson Tide's head coach.
Led by freshman Hayden Reed's NCAA discus title, the Tide men finished 15th nationally, while the women, paced by junior Remona Burchell's NCAA title in the 100-meters, took 18th place, its first top-20 finish since 2010.
"Any time you can walk away from an NCAA Championship with individual national titles, you have to be pleased, but I think more than anything else, I'm proud of the way our team fought through every challenge and just kept striving to be the best they could be each day at practice, at every meet and every race," Waters said.
In addition to the men's and women's team posting top-20 finishes at the outdoor championships in the same year for the first time since 1994, this season also marked the first time that both the Alabama men and women finished in the top-20 at both the indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships since 1984. Alabama's men were sixth at the indoor championships, their highest finish since taking fourth in 2001, while the women were 19th, their best finish since 1995.
"This season was another step in the right direction for our program," Waters said. "Things didn't go perfectly, we had to fight through some adversity and rise to the challenge time and again, but we did that, and the result was both the men and the women finished in the top 20 at both the indoor and outdoor national championships. It is the first time in 30 years that both the men and the women finished in the top 20 at both the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships in the same year, which is pretty remarkable. But I think that shows the kind of team we have and the direction we're moving as a program."
Reed uncorked a throw of 205 feet and 10 inches (62.74 meters) on the last of six throws to beat two-time NCAA Champion and collegiate record holder Julian Wruck of UCLA by more than two and a half feet. It was the Orange, Texas native's second best throw of the season.
"Hayden Reed is a tremendous competitor, and I think that's what you saw out in Eugene," Waters said. "From his first throw he was in the mix for a top-three finish and then that last throw, he just put everything into it and came out with a national title. To have that kind of performance at the national championships as a freshman was truly impressive, especially considering the competition."
In the women's 100-meter final, even running into the wind, Burchell raced away from the elite field to win the Crimson Tide's first women's NCAA 100-meter title. Burchell overcame a strong headwind (3.4 meters per second) to clock a time of 11.25, well ahead of the rest of the field.
"As impressive as Remona's win in the 60-meters was at NCAA Indoor, the way she ran away from the field in the 100-meter finals at the NCAA Outdoors was amazing, especially considering the conditions," Water's said. "It's one of those races you'll never forget."
Burchell is the first Alabama woman to win an outdoor national title in any event since Beth Mallory won the discus title in 2005. The Montego Bay, Jamaica native adds the outdoor 100 meters title to her NCAA title in the 60 meters during indoor season, becoming the first Alabama sprinter to win indoor and outdoor titles in the same year.
"We knew coming in that Remona was a special athlete, and she proved that time and again this year," Waters said. "She was at her best on the biggest stage when the competition was the stiffest. She is someone who bought into our program, worked hand in hand with coach (Matt) Kane to get better and just went out there and performed."
Both of the Tide's outdoor national champions, as well as NCAA indoor 200-meter champion Diondre Batson, showed impressive improvement throughout the year, culminating on them being at their best when the competition was the most intense. That improvement, which was visible throughout the roster this season, is attributed to the collaboration between the coaches and the student-athletes.
"I've said it before and we saw it again this season, I think we have one of the best coaching staffs in the country," Waters said. "To have the kind of success we did this season, with points and great performances coming from all over the track, in so many different events, is a testament to our coaches and to how much our student-athletes have committed to doing things the right way here at Alabama."
In addition to national champions Reed and Burchell, Alabama saw top-end points at the NCAA Outdoor Championships from sophomore jumper Justin Fondren as well as the women's 4x100-meter relay.
Fondren took fifth place in the high jump with a leap of 7 feet, 2.5 inches (2.20 meters). The Oxford, Mississippi native was 13th in the high jump as a rookie at last year's NCAA Championships.
A day after Burchell won the NCAA 100-meter championship, she combined with senior Sarah Thomas, freshman Quanesha Burks and junior Dominique Kimpel to take sixth place in the 4x100-meter relay. The quartet crossed the line in a time of 44.19. It marked the first times since 2001 that the Crimson Tide made it to the national finals in the 4x100 and Alabama's best finish since 1993 when the Tide was second.
Overall, 19 members of the Crimson Tide contingent that competed at the NCAA Outdoor Championships were honored by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), including 14 that earned first or second team All-America honors.
"I think one thing that came out of this year is that our young athletes gained valuable experience when it comes competing at the highest level, which is important, because that's where we want to live in the years to come," Waters said. "To compete at the NCAA championships as a freshman or a sophomore and to learn what that is all about will help us take the next steps."
Altogether, Alabama sent 11 freshmen and sophomores to the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships, including six freshmen. There were also three additional student-athletes who advanced to one of the two national championships in their first year with the Crimson Tide program.