Alexis Paine set a school record in the women’s pole vault to lead the Alabama track and field team Saturday at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. Overall, 16 Alabama athletes competing Saturday set new personal bests, a major step forward for a young team that features 28 freshmen on the men’s roster and 23 female athletes in their first year competing for the Crimson Tide.
“Our program took a big leap today,” head coach Dan Waters said. “Considering how many first-year athletes we have competing at a meet of this quality, we couldn’t have asked for more from our team today. I am proud of the way we competed today. We raised our level, and that’s what we have been trying to do this season.”
Paine, a senior from Mobile, Ala., cleared 13 feet, 8 1/2 inches (4.18 meters) to win the event. Paine and Arkansas’ Sandi Morris both cleared 13-8 1/2, but Paine won the event due to fewer missed attempts over the course of the competition. Paine entered the competition with a clearance at 13-1 1/2 (4.00m), making that height on her first attempt, before clearing 13-5 1/4 (4.10m) on the first try as well. She then made the winning height of 13-8 1/2 on her first clearance. Two misses by Morris at 13-1 1/2 ended up being the difference in Paine’s favor.
Paine broke her old UA school record of 13-5 1/4 set on Jan. 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. And she did it against excellent competition, as Morris was ranked second nationally in the event and was competing on her home facility. Paine made the most of the order of competition, putting the pressure on Morris early and keeping the upper hand by clearing heights on her first attempt.
Freshman Elias Hakansson scored six points for the men in the weight throw with a third-place finish. Hakansson had a best throw of 66 feet, 6 inches (20.27 meters). The Florida duo of David Triassi (70-10; 21.59m) and Jeremy Postin (70-5 3/4; 21.48m), both of who are seniors, finished ahead of the freshman. Hakansson’s best throw of 66-6 is the second-best throw in Alabama history behind his school-record toss of 66-9 1/4 on Feb. 9.
Freshman high jumper Justin Fondren scored six team points for the Tide in the men’s high jump with a third-place finish. The Oxford, Miss., product cleared 6 feet, 11 3/4 inches (2.13m) to finish behind Mississippi’s Ricky Robertson, who won the event with a clearance of 7-5 (2.26m), while Arkansas’ Anthony May was second at 7-3 3/4 (2.23m). Fondren’s performance was his best of the 2013 season, eclipsing a 6-10 1/4 clearance back on Jan. 19.
In the men’s long jump, Alabama junior Kamal Fuller scored five team points for the Tide with a fourth-place finish with a best of 25-8 3/4 (7.84m), an effort that ranks third on the Alabama all-time list. Florida’s Marquis Dendy won the event at 27-1 (8.25m). Crimson Tide freshman Josh McCullan was ninth at 23-8 3/4 (7.23m), and freshman Nathan Vardaman was 10th at 23-8 1/4 (7.22m). All three Crimson Tide athletes set personal bests in the event Saturday afternoon.
Wilamena Hopkins was seventh in the women’s shot put with a toss of 50-11 1/2 (15.53m), adding two points to Alabama’s women’s team points.
In the men’s team standings, Alabama stands in fourth place heading into the final day of competition. The Crimson Tide has 17 points while standings leader Arkansas has 52. Florida is second with 34 and Georgia is third with 27. In the women’s team standings, Arkansas leads with 37 points, Georgia is second with 28, Florida is third with 27.5. Alabama is eighth with 12 points.
Leading in today’s Crimson White: