By Cameron Greenwood
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
Alabama’s No. 6-ranked men’s and No. 18-ranked women’s teams are headed to Eugene, Oregon, to compete in the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
The SEC has very strong track, so much so that Alabama coach Dan Waters wouldn’t be surprised to see his teams finish higher at the NCAA meets than they did in the SEC Championships.
“If that tells you anything it shows just how good our conference is,” Waters said.
Waters believes the UA men could be in the mix for the national championship in Eugene.
“I do think we will have an opportunity to have some high finishes,” Waters said. “It’s my feeling that anything can happen, there can be ups and downs but if the distance sets the tone the way they are supposed to then I like our chances.”
The men’s team features distance runner Vincent Kiprop, who has a good chance of winning his events: the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races. Last year, the national champion ran the 10,000 in 29:01.54, Kiprop’s best time this year is 28:19.07, 42 seconds faster than the previous year’s champion. The pattern follows for the 5,000 meters as well, last year’s champion won in a time of 14:35.60 and Kiprop’s season-best this year is 13:37.92, almost a full minute better.
“It’s been a great year, coach has always prepared us for strong races,” Kiprop said. “At this point, we are prepared and it’s going to be a good finish.”
The proposition of running in front of a big crowd is not one that fazes the distance runner.
“Being in a big crowd, there a lot of difficulties, but we are on a mission,” Kiprop said. “I won’t know much about anything going on outside of the track, my focus will remain in the track.”
Portious Warren will be representing the Crimson Tide woman’s team in the throwing events starting Wednesday.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” Warren said. “I have trained this year like I have never trained before so I guess it’s shown and it really means a lot to me.”
Warren has made a large impact in her first season with the Crimson Tide after she transferred from junior college Central Arizona last year. She is already the school record-holder for both indoor and outdoor shot put.
“I think I’ve proved myself and showed I can be up there among the rest,” Warren said. “Going into Eugene there are a lot of favorites who aren’t there anymore so I think I have a good chance to come in the top four.”
Despite it being on the biggest stage on the other side of the country, Water’s isn’t worried about the pressure.
“It still is just a 400-meter oval and we still have to do what our plan is when we get there,” the coach said.