June 11, 2015
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EUGENE, Oregon – Crimson Tide sophomore Quanesha Burks (Hartselle, Alabama) became the Crimson Tide’s first women’s NCAA champion in a jumping event since 1989 by winning the women’s long jump with a wind-aided best of 22 feet, 8 inches (6.91 meters) on her fifth attempt of the six-round final on Thursday at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships held at Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon. Burks pulled out the victory over two competitors from the University of Oregon who were competing with a boisterous crowd cheering for them on their home field.
“I am just so thrilled to win this title with Alabama on my uniform,” said Burks, a product of Hartselle High School. “I felt great today. It’s a great event with a terrific atmosphere. The competition went about how I thought it would. Coach (Miguel) Pate had me prepared. He didn’t have to give a motivational speech when we spoke earlier today. He just said I was ready. His confidence in me made it all possible.”
“Quanesha and I plotted out the competition last week and we both knew she would probably have to jump 6.80 (22 feet, 3 ¾ inches) to win, and that’s what happened,” said Crimson Tide assistant coach Miguel Pate, a former NCAA champion for the Tide who coaches the jumps and is Burks’ primary coach. “She impressed me today. She was poised in a difficult environment, responded when the competition stepped up, and was totally composed the whole way. I can’t say enough about what she did today. That’s the best series I’ve ever seen, and to do it in this competition says everything about her ability, her competitive nature, and her maturity.”
“I was so proud of Quanesha today, not just because she won, but because she competed with such poise and maturity in an atmosphere that was boisterous with her closest competition coming from two athletes on their home field,” said Alabama head coach Dan Waters. “That’s amazing, and it makes her victory even more remarkable. To come through in that atmosphere on the fifth jump with so much on the line is an incredible accomplishment.”
Due to winds exceeding the legal limit of two meters per second, none of Burks’ jumps qualify for records purposes, but her series still stands as the finest six long jumps in Alabama history as all six marks would rank in the Crimson Tide all-time top 10. Her winning leap exceeded her school record of 22-5 1/4 (6.84m) by 2 3/4 inches.
Burks, the NCAA East Preliminary and SEC champion in the women’s long jump, has virtually re-written the all-time Alabama list in the event and currently owns nine of the 10 best marks in Crimson Tide history while having broken four times this season the former school record set by Flora Hyacinth in 1987. Burks became Alabama’s first women’s long jump NCAA champion and the Tide’s first women’s champ in a field event since Beth Mallory won the discus at the 2005 outdoor championships.
Prior to Thursday, only Disa Gisladottir (women’s high jump, 1982 and 1983) had won an NCAA outdoor jumps title for Alabama. Flora Hyacinth’s 1989 indoor title in the triple jump and Gisladottir’s 1983 indoor high jump crown were the only other NCAA jumps crowns won by Crimson Tide athletes. Current Tide assistant coach Miguel Pate, who coaches Burks, won the 2002 NCAA indoor men’s long jump title for Alabama; Andrew Owusu won the NCAA indoor men’s long jump title in 1996 and Jeff Woodard earned the NCAA title in the outdoor high jump in 1980.
Burks was the seventh jumper in the second flight and she led through the first two rounds. She started with a leap of 21-11 3/4 (6.70 meters; wind: +3.6), then went 22-1 1/2 (6.74m; w: +2.4). Prandini took the lead in the third round with a leap of 22-3 3/4 (6.80m; w: +1.7) while Burks jumped 21-8 1/4 (6.61m; w: +2.7) in the fourth round as Kentucky sophomore Sha’Keela Saunders moved ahead of Burks in to second with a leap of 22-1 3/4 (6.75m; w: +1.8).
Burks took the lead again in the fifth round with a 22-8 effort (6.91m; w: +2.6), bettering the school record by 2 3/4 inches (.07 meters) but because of the excessive wind. Burks closed with a leap of 22-1 3/4 (6.75m; w: +2.2). Prandini finished second with Saunders third and Oregon sophomore Jasmine Todd fourth.
Crimson Tide freshman Filippa Fotopoulou finished 21st in her NCAA meet debut with a best of 19-4 3/4 (5.91m; w: +3.8). “Getting to compete in a meet of this nature today can only help Filippa,” Waters said. “She came a long way this year, and we’re very proud of her.”
Alabama sophomore Alex Gholston ran in lane 7 of the first section of the three-heat semifinals in which the first two finishers from each section, plus the next two fastest times overall, advanced to Saturday’s final. Gholston ran 52.80 to finish fifth in her heat that was won by Texas sophomore Kendall Baisden (51.53). Gholston, making her first NCAA meet appearance, ended up as the 11th-fastest overall in the field of 24 sprinters who competed on Thursday.
Running in lane eight of the first of three sections of the 4×100-meter relay semifinals, Alabama’s quartet of Dominique Kimpel, Quanesha Burks, Alex Gholston and Sarah Thomas finished fifth in their heat while posting the 11th-fastest time of the 24 competing teams, breaking the tape in 44.34. Only the top eight teams advanced to Saturday’s final, so Kimpel, Burks, Gholston and Thomas earned Second Team All-America honors for their performance. The race marked the final event of the collegiate careers for Kimpel and Thomas. Running without collegiate leader Remona Burchell hindered Alabama’s chances. Burchell’s 2015 season ended prior to the NCAA East Preliminary in late May due to hamstring issues, ending the three-time NCAA sprint champ’s collegiate career.
LSU won the first section in 43.32 with Oregon second at 43.49 and Kentucky third (43.92). Texas A&M posted the fastest time of the day, a 43.00 clocking in heat three, while Texas went 43.12 to post the No. 2 time. A&M, Florida (43.30), LSU, Kentucky and Ole Miss (44.10) gave the SEC five of the eight times to qualify for Saturday’s final.
Crimson Tide junior Katelyn Greenleaf capped an impressive season on Thursday, a season in which she has broken the school record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase three times while running the five fastest times in the event in Alabama history. She entered the NCAA meet seeded 18th of the 24 entries, running in the first heat of two sections of the semifinals. Greenleaf placed ninth in her section on Thursday, 17th overall, in 10:21.85. Thursday’s performance ranks No. 5 on the all-time Alabama list, and Greenleaf now owns the five fastest times in Alabama history, including seven of the top eight all-time. Starting in position five of her section, Greenleaf was in ninth through the first lap before moving up to eighth, a position she held for most of the race. The top five qualifiers to Saturday’s final ran in Greenleaf’s section led by North Dakota State junior Erin Teschuk (9:53.93).
“On the whole we had a pretty uneven season, but I am impressed, proud and excited for our team because we had a group of younger athletes competing here in several events for the first time,” Waters said. “Katelyn Greenleaf in the steeple, Dani McConnell in the hammer, Filippa in the long jump – all of them now have a feel of what this is like and they realize that they belong at this level. It’s what Quanesha went through last year, and you see where it took her this year. So, I am excited for the future but also proud of the seniors who stepped up this year.
“Remona Burchell is a special athlete who will always be remembered for her excellence as an athlete, but we will always be thankful for her leadership and how she created a new level of expectations for our entire women’s team. Sarah Thomas, Dominique Kimpel and Nia Barnes all did so much to help us develop a way of doing things in our program that will help us long after they are gone. They are all excellent young people and I fully expect them to be successful people in their lives ongoing.”
2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships
Thursday, June 11, 2015
400 Meters (Semifinals – Heat 1) – 5. Alex Gholston, 52.80.
3,000-Meter Steeplechase (Semifinals – Heat 2) – 9. Katelyn Greenleaf, 10:21.85.
4×100-Meter Relay (Semifinals – Heat 1) – 5. (Dominique Kimpel, Quanesha Burks, Alex Gholston, Sarah Thomas), 44.34.
Long Jump (Finals) – 1. Quanesha Burks, 22-8 (6.91m) (w: +2.6); 21. Filippa Fotopoulou, 19-4 3/4 (5.91m) (w: +3.8).
Hammer Throw (Semifinals – Flight 1) – 8. Nia Barnes, 189-11 (57.88m); 11. Danielle McConnell, 185-3 (56.46m).