Burks on top
HHS grad wins NCAA long jump title for Alabama
University of Alabama Athletics Communications
EUGENE, Oregon – Crimson Tide sophomore and 2013 Hartselle High School graduate Quanesha Burks became the Tide’s first women’s NCAA champion in a jumping event since 1989.
She won the women’s long jump with a wind-aided best of 22 feet, 8 inches on her fifth attempt of the six-round final Thursday at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships 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 former track and field star at HHS under Coach Kenny Lopez. “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.”
UA assistant coach Miguel Pate said they had been planning her success.
“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 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.”
Alabama head coach Dan Waters praised Burks’ demeanor throughout the competition.
“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,” Waters said. “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 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.
Burks was seeded No. 1 coming into the competition and was the seventh jumper in the second flight. She led through the first two rounds, starting with a leap of 21-11 3/4 (wind: +3.6), then went 22-1 1/2 (w: +2.4). Oregon redshirt junior Jenna Prandini took the lead in the third round with a leap of 22-3 3/4 (w: +1.7) while Burks jumped 21-8 1/4 (w: +2.7) in the fourth round as Kentucky sophomore Sha’Keela Saunders moved ahead of Burks into second with a leap of 22-1 3/4 (w: +1.8).
Burks took the lead again in the fifth round with a 22-8 effort (w: +2.6), bettering the school record by 2 3/4 inches (.07 meters) but because of the excessive wind, the record was not official. Burks closed with a leap of 22-1 3/4 (w: +2.2). Prandini finished second with Saunders third and Oregon sophomore Jasmine Todd fourth.
Burks also contributed to the eleventh-fastest in the 4×100-meter relay with a time of 44.34. Alabama’s quartet of Dominique Kimpel, Quanesha Burks, Alex Gholston and Sarah Thomas finished fifth in their heat, but didn’t qualify into the top eight to advance to the final. Kimpel, Burks, Gholston and Thomas earned Second Team All-America honors for their performance. The team was running without their collegiate leader Remona Burchell, who’s season ended prior to the NCAA East Preliminary in late May due to hamstring issues.
“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. “It’s what Quanesha went through last year, and you see where it took her this year.”
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