The Alabama Track and Field team got off to a strong start in front of 9,165 fans on day one of the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships being held at venerable Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus this week.
On Wednesday, the Crimson Tide advanced both the men's and women's 4x100-meter relays as well as the fastest 100-meter runner in the world this year to the championship finals.
"For us to do a great job early, it sets the tone and gets everyone excited," Matt Kane, UA's sprints coach said. "They get inspired when they see their teammates who have been working hard next to them every day start doing well, and they just feed off that."
In the women's 4x100-meter relay, freshman Quanesha Burks, junior Remona Burchell, junior Dominique Kimpel and senior Sarah Thomas raced around the oval in a time of 43.76. It was the Tide's fastest time this season and third fastest all time. Their time puts them fifth going into finals.
"I felt like we were moving out there," Dominique Kimpel said. "I wish my handoff could have been better, but that's something to work on going into finals."
It marks the first time since 2001 that Alabama has had a women's 4x100m relay advance to the finals of the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
"The way we set it up was to put pressure on the other teams and get way out in front," Kane said. "We run our best legs early and try to put pressure on other teams and make them make mistakes. We try to get a lead, and running a 43.7 at the right time makes you feel really good. They're really excited for the finals."
Burchell came back later in the day and blazed to a 10.95, the fastest wind-aided 100-meter time in the world this year. The only runner under 11 seconds on the day, she goes into the finals as the top seed.
"I was running to advance today," Burchell said. "I don't really show my excitement much, but it was a good race, it felt good."
Having two races on the day actually helped Burchell along Kane said.
"After the 4x100, I could tell she felt really good," Kane said. "I felt like it would be a good performance if she just reacted and did her job. Running the 4x100 helps her a lot - she's able to get the wheels turning and that helps her run fast in the 100."
The Crimson Tide quartet of senior Alex Sanders, sophomore Dwight Davis, senior Akeem Haynes and senior Diondre Batson posted a time of 39.36 to take second in the third of three heats of the men's 4x100m. Batson, in his first complete race since before the Southeastern Conference Championships, ran the anchor leg and roared past at least two teams to pull the Crimson Tide into the finals.
The men's and women's 4x100m relay finals are Saturday, while Burchell will run for the national title on Friday.
800 meters: After leading for 600 of 800 meters in Heat 1 of the men's 800 semifinals, junior Alex Amankwah fell to the back of the pack in the final stretch, clocking a time of 1:51.43 to finish eighth in the heat and 24th overall.
4x100-meter relay: Senior Diondre Batson returned to action for the first time since suffering an injury at the SEC Championships to lead the men's 4x100-meter relay team to the finals. Using the quartet of senior Alex Sanders, sophomore Dwight Davis, senior Akeem Haynes and Batson, Alabama was in good position when Batson took the final handoff and cruised into a second-place finish in heat three with a time of 39.36, automatically qualifying the Tide for the finals on Saturday. Alabama's group finished eighth overall.
100 meters: Using a tailwind of 2.3 meters per second, junior Remona Burchell blazed a 10.95 in the semifinals of the women's 100 meters. Her time is the fastest wind-aided time in the world for 2014, and it was the best 100 time at the NCAA Championships under any conditions since 2004. She was the top qualifier Wednesday and will enter Saturday's finals as the top seed in the event.
800 meters: Alabama senior Yanique Malcolm led a strong field in the first semifinal heat of the women's 800 meters was unable to hold the lead in the final 150 meters. The SEC 800-meter champion clocked a time of 2:05.05 and finished fifth in Heat 1, which included five of the top nine times and top qualifier Laura Roesler (2:02.60) of Oregon. Malcolm placed ninth overall and did not advance to Friday's finals.
4x100-meter relay: Alabama's foursome of freshman Quanesha Burks, junior Remona Burchell, junior Dominique Kimpel and senior Sarah Thomas clocked a season-best time of 43.76 in the women's 4x100-meter relay to advance to Saturday's finals. Alabama was in an automatic qualifying position heading into the final leg, but a strong rally by Texas left the Tide in third. The Tide's time of 43.76, which ranks third in Alabama history, was the best non-automatic qualifying time and fifth overall, propelling the Tide tandem to the finals.
Shot Put: Redshirt freshman Kyle Felpel set a personal record of 19.18 meters (62 feet, 11.25 inches) in the men's shot put to finish 12th overall. He was unable to advance to the finals. Felpel's best attempt came on his second attempt of the day after an initial throw of 18.91 meters (62 feet, 0.5 inch). He concluded the day—and a stellar postseason—with a third and final throw of 18.75 meters (61 feet, 6.25 inches). Felpel's top six marks of the season in the shot put came in the final two postseason meets—the NCAA East Preliminary and the NCAA Championships.
Hammer Throw: Junior Nia Barnes finished 20th with a mark of 57.11 meters (187 feet, 4 inches) in the women's hammer throw. Barnes launched her best mark on her first attempt of the day, fouled on her second attempt, and threw 56.23 meters (184 feet, 5 inches) on her third and final try. She placed ninth in her flight and did not advance to the finals.
Long Jump: Freshman Quanesha Burks jumped 6.12 meters (20 feet, 1 inch) but was unable to advance to the finals of the women's long jump. Burks jumped 5.89 meters (19 feet, 4 inches) on her first attempt before pausing to run on the women's 4x100-meter relay. When Burks returned to the long jump runway, she again jumped 5.89 meters on her second attempt and spanned 6.12 meters on her third and final attempt.
NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Day 1
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
800 meters (Semifinals) - 24. Alex Amankwah, 1:51.
4x100-meter relay (Semifinals) - 8. Alabama (Alex Sanders, Dwight Davis, Akeem Haynes, Diondre Batson), 39.36.
Shot Put - 12. Kyle Felpel, 19.18m (62-11.25).
100 meters (Semifinals) (w: +2.3 m/s) - 1. Remona Burchell, 10.95.
800 meters (Semifinals) - 9. Yanique Malcolm, 2:05.05.
4x100-meter relay (Semifinals) - 5. Alabama (Quanesha Burks, Remona Burchell, Dominique Kimpel, Sarah Thomas), 43.76.
Long Jump (w: +2.0 m/s) - 18. Quanesha Burks, 6.12m (20-1).
Hammer Throw - 20. Nia Barnes, 57.11m (187-4).
INFORMATION SOURCE: UA Athletics Department