Alabama Posts Top-10 Team Finishes at NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships
Lakan Taylor’s national championship in the women’s pole vault spurred the Alabama women’s track & field team to a record point total and third place finish on the final day of the 2017 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships on Saturday at Texas A&M University’s Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium. The Alabama men posted and eighth-place finish to give the combined Crimson Tide programs their first double top-10 finish at the NCAA indoor championships.
The Tide women finished with 37 points, the most ever scored by Alabama in the women’s indoor championship to finish third behind national champion Oregon (84) and runner-up Georgia (51). USC (35) and Arkansas (32.5) rounded out the top five. The finish is only the fourth top-three placing for the women indoors. Alabama finished second in 1994 and third in 1988 and 1989.
The men tallied 22 points to finish eighth, their second top-10 finish in the last four seasons. Texas A&M won the men’s title with 46 points, to edge runner-up Florida (45.5) by a half point. Oregon (48) was third with Georgia (35.5) and Arkansas (33) rounding out the top five.
“Week in, week out, our women came to compete and had great focus and competiveness,” head coach Dan Waters said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them. They represented Alabama with class, competitiveness and dignity. I’m really proud of the men too. There are very few programs nationally with two top 10 teams and we’re one of them. We felt like we had a lot of great things happen over the weekend and you can’t ask for much more than what they gave us.”
Taylor’s performance in the pole vault capped off the meet for Alabama as she broke the school record on consecutive vaults to defeat 15 other competitors and earn Alabama’s first national championship – indoors or outdoors – in the event. She had to clear two heights beyond the previous Alabama record of 14-3 1/2 (5.35m), set by Alexis Paine in 2014, to win the championship.
The Fort Worth, Texas, native cleared 14-5 1/4 (4.40m) on her first attempt at that height to take the lead in the competition and establish a new school record. She followed that up with her winning clearance at 14-7 1/4 (4.45m), again on her first attempt, and went on to defeat runner-up Annie Rhodes of Baylor based on fewest misses. In all, Taylor missed only one attempt at the first six heights of the day before both she and Rhodes went out at 14-9 (4.50m) to end the competition.
“When I cleared the second height (14-7 1/4) on the first attempt, it just felt really great,” Taylor said. “I just had to trust in my jump and trust in my coach. Michael Bartolina an outstanding coach and I wouldn’t be here without him or all the coaches I’ve had before. They got me to this moment. I had a great practice this week, I only jumped one time before the meet. It was a great jump. I knew I could get the heights I cleared but I wasn’t expecting to come out on top.”
Taylor’s previous best finish in the pole vault at the NCAA indoor championships was sixth place in 2015.
“Lakan and I had a good meeting this summer and talked about making this a great senior year,” Waters said. “She took that to heart and has done some unbelievable things. She’s in a really great spot with her vaulting and I’m glad she was able to see it come to fruition.”
The Tide women also received another record-setting performance by the 4x400-meter relay team of freshman Takyera Roberson and seniors Alex Gholston, Diamond Gause and Domonique Williams, who finished fourth in the women’s 4x400-meter relay in a school-record time of 3:28.62.
Other scorers for the women Saturday included Alex Gholston in the 400 meters (fifth, 52.23) and Quanesha Burks in the 60 meters (seventh, 7.27).
On the men’s side, Jereem Richards continued his record-setting performance in the 200 meters as he established a new Alabama best with a time of 20.31 to finish second in the event on Saturday. The time surpasses the record 20.32 set by Diondre Batson at the 2014 NCAA championships in Albuquerque, N.M. and gives the junior five of the 10 fastest times in Alabama history.
Other men’s scorers on Saturday were Steven Gayle in the 400 meters (fourth, 46.02), Ruebin Walters in the 60-meter hurdles (fifth, 7.77) and the 4x400 relay squad of Skyler Bowden, Gayle, Jacopo Lahbi and Richards (eighth, 3:06.06).
Alabama will open the 2017 outdoor track season at the Mississippi State Relays, March 17-18 in Starkville, Miss.