TUSCALOOSA — Only a redshirt freshman, Alabama track and field standout Hayden Reed already is loading up his trophy case.
On Friday, Reed claimed the championship in men’s discus at the USA Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, Calif.
It was Reed’s first national competition at the open/Olympic level. On his second attempt of the competition, Reed clinched the event with a throw of 204 feet (62.19 meters).
“It’s the first time in a while a collegiate athlete has done it,” Reed said. “It was honestly just cool to be out there with all the guys, not to mention win the thing. It was definitely a great experience.”
Reed also won the 2014 NCAA outdoor discus championship to go along with his 2013 USATF Junior Championship and the 2013 Pan-American Junior Championship victories.
Reed, a native of Orange, Texas, said he worked hard with Tide coach Dan Waters to improve this season. Reed said the biggest growth he saw was his ability to execute consistently during competition. That hard work helped him achieve things this year he never imagined.
“I wasn’t expecting any of this at all,” he said. “I was hoping to do well. Of course, you never want to do poorly. Definitely more than I thought I’d be able to do.”
Still, with his success at an early stage of his career, Reed said his main goal is to avoid complacency.
“I hate to sound like (Tide football coach) Nick Saban, but honestly this is really just the beginning,” Reed said. “This is all nice, but I really just want to get better and better each year so this is just the starting point. It’s a great starting point, but a starting point never the less. Just hoping to get better and better every year.”
As a whole, Alabama’s track and field team enjoyed plenty of success. Tide junior Remona Burchell won the NCAA 100 meters title. At the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships, she won the 60 meters title.
Burchell also became the first Women’s Bowerman Award semifinalist in Tide history. The Bowerman is the highest individual honor in collegiate track and field.
A total of 14 members of the team earned All-America honors.
On top of that, the men’s and women’s team posted a top-20 finish at the outdoor championships in the same year for the first time since 1994. This season is the first time that both the Tide men and women finished in the top 20 in both the indoor and outdoor NCAA championships since 1984.
But Reed doesn’t want the Tide to settle for top 20 finishes.
“It’s only going to go up from here,” Reed said. “We actually did fairly well this year. I hate to pull a ‘what if,’ but if some injuries hadn’t happened and everyone would have performed like we could have, we could have finished a lot higher. We could have potentially been second or third at the NCAAs. But that’s just what if.
“We’re definitely heading in the right direction. I think it won’t be long before we’re winning. I definitely think we’ll have a title before I graduate, as a team.”
Sports Writer Marq Burnett: On Twitter @Marq_Burnett.