By Hunter Jones
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
The Alabama track and field team finished the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships in Austin, Texas, with a total of 31 All-American selections along with top-10 finishes for both the men’s and women’s teams.
“Our athletes had a good focus, good determination and competed really hard,” Alabama coach Dan Waters said. “If you look at all the places that they came in ranked they probably finished higher than their ranking and obviously scored lots of good points for the team.”
The women’s 13 first-team All-Americans ranked third in the country, while the men added another four, combining for 17, sixth most in the nation.
“The program as a whole, we come in together, we draw a connection like brothers and sisters and we get along real good and we just come in and love to get the work done and just compete hard and the results show,” said junior Shelby McEwen, who took third place in the high jump. “We were short on the men’s side, six people, and we just all went out, encouraged each other to just go out and leave it all out there on the track and came out with a good performance overall.”
While the men had only six compete in the championships, Waters said he injuries left “10-15 points sitting at home.”
“It was just unfortunate, we told them that they were 100 percent healthy but I don’t think anybody ever really is so for them to go out there and compete to the very best of their ability shows great resiliency,” Waters said. “Every coach looks from that in their athletes.”
The Crimson Tide men got its third straight top-10 outdoor finish while the women got its first top-10 finish since 1993. The men and women scoring top-10 finishes in outdoord is the first since 1986.
“I think it shows our program is very strong and developing,” said junior Natassha McDonald, who earned All-America honors as part of the 4×400 relay team. “One of the commentators approached us and said that this is the first time they’ve ever talked about Alabama this much at a National Championship so nationally people are noticing us,” junior Natassha McDonald said.
Along with the sixth most All-Americans, Alabama and Florida are the only Division I teams to finish top-10 in indoors and outdoors for both the men’s and women’s teams.
“It’s also huge because all the other Division I schools, or power schools, that are known for track, they now look at Alabama like a power school,” McDonald said. “We have a better reputation than we did before so other teams are going to try hard to beat us now because we’re at the top, we’re now a track school whereas before we were just another school in the SEC.”