June 10, 2015
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EUGENE, Oregon – University of Alabama athletes had chances to qualify to finals in four events on Wednesday and managed to qualify the first two of them on the first day of competition at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon. Alabama’s men’s team qualified the 4×100-meter relay and Steven Gayle in the open 400 for finals slated to take place on Friday, June 12.
Action began Wednesday in the men’s events as the meet schedule features men’s events on Wednesday and Friday, with women’s events on Thursday and Saturday. On Wednesday, Alabama had four potential qualifiers in four men’s events, including two relays, on the first day of men’s competition.
A foursome running for the first time as a group in competition in the men’s 4×100-meter relay advanced to Friday’s final as the team of Tony Brown, Steven Gayle, Ahmed Ali and Tadashi Pinder ran 39.23 to finish third in their heat to advance with the seventh-fastest time overall of the eight qualifiers. The top two finishers in the three heats, plus the next two fastest times overall, advanced to Friday’s final.
Running in lane six of the second heat of the three-section semi-finals, the unit was led off by Brown, a Crimson Tide football player who is a 110-meter high hurdles specialist running on a relay for the Crimson Tide for only the second time during his Alabama career. Brown put the Tide in contention on the first leg with a solid first turn and handed to Gayle in a close battle for the lead. Gayle kept the Tide in contention, handing to Ali entering the second turn. Ali ran an excellent turn to put Alabama close behind LSU and Florida, handing the baton to Pinder with the Tide firmly in third position. Pinder ran well down the final straightaway to give Alabama a close third-place finish behind Florida (38.91) and LSU (38.92).
“The 4-by-1 relay did an excellent job all the way through,” Alabama head coach Dan Waters said. “We’re very proud of those guys. For a group that hadn’t competed together before to do that is impressive. They showed the kind of competitive toughness we were looking for when we put that group together. While it’s not a surprise to us to see them run that well, it’s a great feeling because of the lift it gives our team to get to the final and see those young men earn All-America status. They’re very competitive and capable of even more, so we’re excited to see how they do on Friday.”
“A great start on the first leg is a big key to any relay, and Tony certainly gave us that today,” said Matt Kane, Alabama’s assistant coach for sprints, hurdles and relays. “Tony’s inexperience didn’t concern us. He’s a competitor, he’s tough, and we knew he would come out today ready to run well. He gave us the lead and (Steven) Gayle, (Ahmed) Ali and Dash (Pinder) responded. It was what we hoped to see, and we weren’t surprised. We were in the lead all the way to the final exchange. I’m looking forward to seeing how we run on Friday. Our guys did a great job today.”
Five of the eight teams to advance to Friday’s final hail from the SEC (Arkansas 2nd, Florida 3rd, LSU 4th, Texas A&M 6th and Alabama 7th). Other finalists are TCU (1st, 38.65), Southern California (5th, 39.09) and Illinois (8th, 39.39).
About 90 minutes after running his leg of the 4×100 relay, Gayle ran in the third heat of the three-section semi-final of the men’s 400 meters and advanced to Friday’s final with the eight-fastest time overall, breaking the tape in 45.93 to finish third in his section. Gayle ran in lane 7 of the third heat and started well. He was near the lead through 200 meters and entering the final turn before LSU senior Vernon Norwood took the lead ahead of Oregon sophomore and Pac-12 champ Marcus Chambers.
Norwood finished as the heat winner and overall leader in 45.42 with defending NCAA champ Deon Lendore of Texas A&M second in 45.426. Gayle entered his section needing to run at least 46.02 to make the final and he did so. Four of the eight sprinters to advance to Friday’s final are from SEC schools: Norwood (LSU), Lendore (A&M), Najee Glass (Florida) and Gayle (Alabama).
The men’s 200 meters semifinals produced the three fastest 200-meter non-finals ever run at an NCAA meet as the top 12 semifinal times were under 20.40 with the top three qualifiers to Friday’s final running 20.03, 20.03 and 20.09, respectively. Crimson Tide junior Ahmed Ali ran in the second heat of the three-section final of the men’s 200 meters and finished sixth in his section in 20.87, well off his 2015 best of 20.46. Baylor sophomore Trayvon Bromell was the top qualifier, winning heat three in 20.023 with Florida senior Dedric Dukes winning heat two in 20.028. It was another SEC tour de force as four of Friday’s eight finalists will be SEC sprinters.
Women’s competition begins on Thursday with finals of the hammer throw (Nia Barnes and Danielle McConnell) and long jump (Quanesha Burks and Filippa Fotopoulou), along with semifinals in the 400 meters (Alex Gholston), 3,000-meter steeplechase (Katelyn Greenleaf) and 4×400-meter relay.
Men’s competition continues on Friday with Alabama athletes competing finals of the high jump (Justin Fondren), discus (defending NCAA champion Hayden Reed), triple jump (Jeremiah Green), 400 meters (Steven Gayle), 200 meters (Ahmed Ali), 4×100-meter relay and 4×400-meter relay.
The 39.23 clocking in the 4×100-meter relay is Alabama’s second-fastest time of 2015 (exceeded only by a 38.87 clocking on May 16 at the SEC Championships) and ranks just outside the Crimson Tide’s all-time top 10. A total of 24 teams competed in three heats on Wednesday.
Alabama’s 4×400-meter relay squad of Gayle, Ali, Alex Amankwah and Marlon Humphrey did not advance to Friday’s final after a fifth-place finish in the second section of the three-heat semifinals. Alabama’s foursome, running for the first time as a team due to injuries to other sprinters, ran 3:07.62, the 14th fastest time overall. The SEC showed its collective strength again in the relay, placing five teams (Florida, LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Arkansas) in Friday’s final.
2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
200 Meters (Heat 2) – 6. Ahmed Ali, 20.87 (wind: +1.8).
400 Meters (Heat 3) – 3. Steven Gayle, 45.93q.
4×100-Meter Relay (Heat 2) – 3. (Tony Brown, Steven Gayle, Ahmed Ali, Tadashi Pinder), 39.23q.
4×400-Meter Relay (Heat 2) – 5. (Steven Gayle, Ahmed Ali, Alex Amankwah, Marlon Humphrey), 3:07.62.
q=qualified for finals