Feb. 28, 2013
This Friday and Saturday, March 1-2, six athletes from the University of Alabama track and field team will compete in three separated meets across the country in attempts to qualify for the upcoming NCAA Indoor Championships slated for March 8-9 in Fayetteville, Ark. Alabama athletes competing this weekend include Elias Hakansson in the men's weight throw the LSU Last Chance Meet in Baton Rouge, La.; Alexis Paine in the women's pole vault at the Virginia Tech Qualifier in Blacksburg, Va.; and four athletes in the men's 4x400-meter relay - Joel Lynch, Ken Taylor, Dwight Davis and Quincy Smith- will compete at the Alex Wilson Invitational hosted by the University of Notre Dame at South Bend, Ind.
"We are competing these athletes in an attempt to get them qualified for the NCAA indoor meet," said UA track & field head coach Dan Waters. "Both Elias (Hakansson) and Alexis (Paine) are right on the cusp of making the field in their events. So is our 4x400 relay. This is simply one last opportunity to get them into the meet. We're confident that they can due to their consistent improvement through the season to this point."
Last weekend, Alabama's young team took a major step forward as a program as the men's and women's squads combined for 25 personal-best performances, including 10 performances that rank among the 10 best in Alabama history for their respective events, on the way to a pair of top-10 team finishes at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships at Fayetteville, Ark. The Crimson Tide men's team scored 40 points to place seventh in the team standings while the Alabama women scored 25 points to finish 10th in the team race. Twenty-nine (29) of the 40 points scored by the men's team were scored by athletes in their first year of competition at Alabama with 25.75 points scored by freshmen. Alabama features 28 freshmen on the men's roster and 23 female athletes in their first year competing for the Crimson Tide.
"I couldn't be more proud of this group and how they have developed over the course of the season," Waters said. "Considering we have such a young team that is inexperienced on the SEC level, they have really competed and advanced through the indoor season. I think we had something like 25 personal bests at the SEC Indoor meet last week. That's phenomenal. It shows the talent that they have, but also shows how they have worked with us and raised their level. It's really provided a solid benchmark for us going forward."
Hakansson and Paine are having solid seasons and hope to cap it off with a berth in the NCAA meet. Paine set a school record in the women's pole vault at the SEC Indoor meet. A senior from Mobile, Ala. (Murphy High School), Paine cleared 13 feet, 8 1/2 inches (4.18 meters) to win the event. Paine broke her old UA school record of 13-5 1/4 set on January 26 of this year. She now owns five of the top six pole vault clearances in Alabama history and is the first Crimson Tide female to win an SEC pole vault title. Hakansson, a freshman from Halmstad, Sweden, placed third in the weight throw at the SEC meet with a best of 66 feet, 6 inches (20.27 meters), the second-best throw in Alabama history behind Hakansson's school-record toss of 66-9 1/4 on February 9.
"Alexis has really developed into an excellent pole vaulter for us," said Waters. "She broke the school record and won the SEC Indoor title last weekend and she has really focused and worked hard in the event. She's been a tremendous asset to our program. She's one of the athletes that were here before we arrived and has really bought in to what we have been telling our team. She's a great example for her teammates.
"Elias is a hammer thrower in the outdoor season but had never thrown the weight before this indoor season. So, he has literally been learning the event by competing this winter and his marks, for a guy that really is just figuring out the event, are very impressive."