Tide hopes to bring consistency to NCAA'sBy Mary Grace Showfety | 03/06/2012 11:10pm
Monday afternoon, the NCAA announced the names of all track and field athletes that qualified for the NCAA indoor championships. The Crimson Tide will be represented by three athletes that will compete in the meet held in Nampa, Idaho, this weekend: Krystle Schade, Kaylon Eppinger and Kamal Fuller.
Head coach Dan Waters said the key to their success is consistency. Schade is the only member of the team that earned an automatic qualification.
“She’s one that we really challenged when we got here,” Waters said. “We challenged her to be consistent and obviously she has been amazingly consistent because she hasn’t lost yet. But at the [Southeastern Conference] Championships, she set a new bar.”
Schade’s performance at the SEC Indoor Championships meet broke Alabama’s school record and is currently the second-best high jump in the nation this season.
Schade is one of two women that the Tide will take to the indoor championships. Eppinger also participates in the women’s high jump as one of the five events that she competes in for UA.
“I don’t want to think too much about it too far into it,” Eppinger said. “But right now is basically the end. This is my last indoor championship, and this is it for NCAA’s. Basically, I’ve got the mindset to go out there and fight hard. I’m ranked seventh right now and if I can better that, I’d love to. I’m going to try my hardest.”
Eppinger, a senior, achieved her goal of breaking the school record in the five-discipline event with a final score of 4,081 at SEC indoor championships. Her score was just 69 points shy of an automatic qualifying score for the NCAA’s. She now hopes to become an All-American.
Eppinger attributes much of her personal improvement as well as the improvement of her teammates to the atmosphere they are immersed in while training. The Alabama track and field team combined the men and women’s teams this year to form one large team for the first time in school history.
“Being separated like we were was hard because we didn’t have that togetherness and bond,” Eppinger said. “Now we’re combined as one unit and we can just be Alabama. Everything was just so distant and we weren’t really interacting with one another. But now we compete together, travel together and represent Alabama as one and we’re having fun doing it. It’s a great atmosphere.”
The team now considers itself to be a stable unit and hopes to continue on the path they have begun.
Fuller, the only representative from the men’s side, hopes to give his best performance at the NCAA’s. Fuller went into the final round of the men’s long jump as the leader before he aggravated an old ankle injury.
Fuller is not just looking at this weekend, though; he is thinking about all that is to come for Alabama in the future.
“We’re just trying to build as a team on what we have so far,” Fuller said. “We’re a small team, so right now we’re just working on getting better for this year and next.”