Tide Freshman Wins NCAA 400
"Kirani's improved so quickly since getting her in January," Alabama men's track and field coach Harvey Glance said. "What I like about Kirani the most is that he's so coachable. He very rarely makes mistakes. He understands his goals and dreams and where he wants to be in this sport.
James, just 17-years-old, etched his name in NCAA and Alabama history with the 400 meter championship. The Gouyave, Grenada native is just the second Alabama male to earn All-America honors in the 400 meters, outdoors – Cedric Vaughns earned the honor in 1982 and 1984.
"It was a very competitive race and no one thought I could have won it," James said. "But I don't think about getting wins when I compete, I just think about running fast. If I run fast, the wins will come anyway. It's a big win for me as a freshman. This was my first time at Hayward Field and it was incredible. The kind of respect people here have for track, I haven't seen anywhere else. I hope I will get to compete here again in the future, but I want to thank all the fans for their support."
James became the first outdoor NCAA champion for Alabama since 2002 – Ron Bramlett in the 100 meter hurdles and David Kimani in the 5,000 meters. In winning the NCAA title, James had to knock off the No. 3 sprinter in the world in Calvin Smith of Florida, No. 5 Tavaris Tate of Mississippi State and No. 7 Demetrious Pinder of Texas A&M.
"Kirani and I have a great relationship," Glance said. "He believes in my philosophy and I believe in his focus and dedication. He's the SEC champion. He's the NCAA champion and now he wants to go on to the World Junior Championships and grab another title there."
The first attempt at a Crimson clad national title came in the 800 meter final with junior Fred Samoei. The Mobien, Kenya native was the first to the break after 100 meters and settled into second by 200 meters, where he would stay until the last 100 meters of the race.
Defending NCAA outdoor champion, 2008 Olympian and hometown favorite Andrew Wheating of Oregon then used his signature finishing kick to surpass Samoei and the field to deafening cheers from the Oregon-filled stadium. Wheating claimed the title with a time of 1:45.69, while Samoei slipped to the back of the pack, finishing eighth with a time of 1:47.84.
Samoei became the first Alabama male student-athlete to earn All-America honors in the 800 meters, outdoors, since Peter Etoot garnered the award in 2005 – Etoot also finished eighth. Samoei is the fourth to earn the honor outdoors in school history.
This is the first year since 2005 that the Alabama men have had two All-America honors at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
In the team standings with only one day of competition remaining, Alabama is in 12th place with 11 points. It is the highest point total since 2002 for the Alabama men, when the team finished 11th. Texas A&M leads the team race with 36 points and is followed by Florida with 28 points.
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