The Alabama track and field team saved its best for the last day of the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships when its 4x100m relay crushed the school record and finished second overall, just 1/100th of a second out of first place.
That relay finish, along with a sixth-place finish by freshman Imani Brown in the triple jump, catapulted the Crimson Tide from 23rd after the end of day three to 11th place overall with 20 points, just a half point out of 10th place. It marks Alabama’s first top-15 finish since 2002 when Alabama also finished 11th. It was also the 12th top-15 outdoor finish for the UA men all-time.
“What an incredible week,” head coach Dan Waters said. “We went out there and competed hard in every event just as we have in every meet this year. I’m really proud of everyone here and the way they got after it. This is a great step in the development of our program.”
The 4x100m relay of juniors Alex Sanders, Diondre Batson and Akeem Haynes and senior Dushane Farrier combined to cross the line with a time of 38.54, bettering the school mark of 38.78 they set on Wednesday during the semifinals.
“It’s been great,” Farrier, the Tide’s anchor, said. “All the hard work that we’ve done from September to now has really paid off. Unfortunately we didn’t get the win, but we crushed the school record. Hats off to our coaches, our team and the whole Bama nation for supporting us from day one. It means a lot.”
The Crimson Tide quartet shaved more than 3/10ths of a second off the previous school mark set by Richard Beattie, Clive Wright, Eduardo Nava and Brad McCuaig at the 1990 NCAA Championships.
“Like our coach said, we didn’t all get the chance to compete in individual races, but we were able to come together and achieve something great,” Haynes said. “We didn’t get the win, but that makes us even hungrier for next year. This isn’t the last you’ll hear of Alabama.”
Brown, seeded 20th in the triple jump coming into the week, uncorked back-to-back career-best leaps to take sixth overall with a series-best distance of 52 feet and 2 3/4 inches on his third attempt.
On the women’s side of the meet, the Tide finished 45th with five points coming from senior Alexis Paine’s fourth place finish in the pole vault.
Senior Krystle Schade took 11th in the high jump after clearing 5 feet 10 3/4 inches. She just missed 6 feet and a top-eight finish. Senior Wilamena Hopkins, who made her first NCAA appearance since 2011 and came back from two surgeries, finished 20th in the shot put with a series-best throw of 50-4 3/4 .
“Being able to come back like this came down to dedication and trusting my coach, going along with what he told me to do, listing and understanding that what he’s asking me to do is that best thing for me – that, and prayer,” Hopkins said.
Between the men and women’s squads, seven different members of the Tide’s NCAA contingent added team points to Alabama’s championship efforts and the Tide put finishers in the top half of the field in nine different events.