By Sami Harb
Special to Tidesports.com
Many college track athletes ascend to the NCAA ranks in hopes of competing against the very best in their discipline. For four members of the University of Alabama track and field team, the opportunity to go up against the best is available on a daily basis.
The Crimson Tide track program boasts what is arguably the strongest discus contingent of any team in the country, made up of seniors Hayden Reed and Joe Williams and sophomores Daniel Haugh and Kord Ferguson. All four rank in the top 15 discus throwers in the NCAA.
“Whenever we show up to meets it’s never something we haven’t seen before because we’ve been seeing it in practice,” Williams said of the competition among the group. “It takes the awe off a meet, like at the national championship last year, when you’ve got three teammates all within a meter of each other and you’re in it together, it takes the luster off the meet and lets you focus like it’s any other meet.”
As Williams and Reed arrived on campus in 2013, it was Reed who first made his presence felt and he did so in a major way. After an already impressive season in which he was runner-up at SEC Championships and earned a spot on the national stage, Reed became just the second freshman in history to win the discus at the NCAA Championships.
With a freshman standing atop the podium at NCAA Championships, Crimson Tide assistant coach Doug Reynolds’ vision of building a dominant group in the discus became even more of a reality as the Crimson Tide was able to recruit Haugh out of high school and Ferguson, a transfer from Wichita State.
“I believe in building an identity as a program so that as top discus throwers are coming out (of high school), we’re always a place that they need to be looking at,” Reynolds said. “The discus is an identity event for us, it was by no means accidental that we were able to get al those guys.”
For both of them, the opportunity to come to Tuscaloosa and compete against the best was enticing.
“The competition within the group is a really big part of why I wanted to come here,” Ferguson said. “I think it’s really important in training to push yourself every day and if you see the best in practice every day, you get to a meet and nothing phases you.”
In their first outdoor season as a foursome, the success they found as a group was unmatched by any other team, as all four finished the outdoor season ranked in the top 15 in the nation in the discus.
However, perhaps their most impressive performance came as Alabama hosted the SEC Championships and Haugh, Ferguson and Williams swept the podium in the discus in that order, with Reed finishing fifth. All four eventually advanced to the NCAA Championships, becoming the first group of four from one team to qualify for the national meet in the discus.
In their second and final season together, the group is once again pushing each other towards success as once again and with just the remainder of the current season left the group is aiming to duplicate their success from SEC last season but finishing with a stronger effort at NCAAs.
“Whether it was spoken or unspoken, last year the goal was to sweep SECs and it happened,” Reynolds said. “Our goals remain the same: to win, to be at the top of the league. Our goal is to not only get all four guys to the national championship but to put all four guys in the final.”