Track coach celebrates summer, bright futureBy Kelly Ward | 08/26/2014 11:37pm
Track and field head coach Dan Waters is beginning his fourth season in charge of the program. UA Athletics
The University of Alabama track and field team finished its 2014 campaign in June after capturing two individual national titles. The men’s team finished 15th nationally while the women’s team finished 18th. In the indoor season, the men’s and women’s teams finished sixth and 19th, respectively. The Crimson White caught up with head coach Dan Waters who is starting his fourth season at the helm.
Q: How was the summer? Some of the athletes like Hayden Reed did big things on their own.
A: Yeah, it was a fantastic summer. There were a lot of very special things that happened. Obviously, Hayden Reed had one unbelievable calendar year. He won the U.S. Juniors, the PanAmerica Juniors, the NCAA Outdoor Championships and the USA Senior Outdoor Championships all in one calendar year, which I don’t even know if that’s ever been done before. You know, he’s a very, very special young athlete in our program who’s been very successful and really a guy we can point to in the future. He also, on top of all that, was the field scholar-athlete of the year for the NCAA Outdoor season so if you put all that in, it was a pretty incredible year for him. And of course, Diondre Batson, who got hurt a little bit at the end of our spring season, was able to kind of recover from his injuries, make the USA Championships final and win the [100-meter dash at the 2014 NACAC U-23 Championships] in Canada, so a lot of really big things happened this summer. You know, we don’t get much of a break as track coaches. We pretty much go year-round, so we finished up at the end of July, and here we are, middle of August, getting ready for cross country again.
Q: You have these standout athletes, and it seems like you’re getting more and more as the team’s been ramping up. How have you been seeing the progress of your team?
A: That’s exactly right. The University of Alabama track and field team has always had great individual athletes. If you look back in history, there’s always been somebody very special: a Kirani James, a Fred Samoei, a Beth Mallory or a Flora Hyacinth. There have always been great individuals at the University. The nice thing is we have those same individuals, but we’re building a team around them. What we’ve got, we call the pillars of our program: guys like Hayden Reed, Diondre Batson, Remona Burchell and Yanique Malcolm. They’re people who are super special athletes, but then we have the [Kimberley] Ficenecs who are around, the Katelyn Greenleafs and the other athletes on our team who really round us into a very special, overall competitive group of athletes. That has always been the philosophy of our program: We wanted a complete team when we came here to the University. We feel like every year we’ve made nice steps toward that goal.
Q: You just missed out last season in cross country at regionals. What’s that like coming into this next season?
A: It was a really good cross country season for us last year, especially on the women’s side. As we talk about our athletes, our expectations, the goals and where we see a realistic milestone for our program, last year was about what we expected. We expected to finish well in the SEC. We expected to be in contention to make it to the national championship. If we would have made it to nationals last year, we would have maybe been a year ahead of the game. This year, we feel like we have the team that should be able to advance to the national championships right on schedule for our total goals. We finally have some upperclassmen, you know, some juniors and seniors who lead the team. Everything is directly following the road map we planned out when we came here a little over four years ago.
Q: Is it good to see that everything is falling into place the way you planned it?
A: Absolutely. It was part of the master plan we had when we started here, and we knew it was going to take some time. We’ve been very patient with it, but it’s nice to be at this point at the University where we have the athletes, the team, the expectation and the culture to be able to compete at the SEC and at the national level.