In his seventh season at the helm of The University of Alabama men's and women's cross country and track & field programs in 2018, head coach Dan Waters has made an undeniable impact on the Crimson Tide. Waters has unified and transformed the program and made it one of the nation’s most improved track & field and cross country programs.
Since taking over the program in June of 2011, Waters has completely remade the Alabama program. A multi-million dollar facelift of the Sam Bailey Track & Field Complex dramatically changed the functionality and capabilities of the facility. Those improvements are an outward reflection of the overhaul that has occurred within the team. In six years with Waters as head coach, Alabama has developed into a complete program featuring top student-athletes in all disciplines.
The 2017 cross country season was the best of Waters' tenure and continues the growth curve the program has been on over the last several years. The Tide men finished 14th at the NCAA Championships in their first trip to the national meet since 2010 and juniors Gilbert Kigen (fourth), Vincent Kiprop (seventh) and Alfred Chelanga (37th) earned All-America honors. The men finished second at the SEC Championships and third at the NCAA South Regional as Kiprop (SEC) and Kigen (Regional) captured individual titles at the two races and earned SEC Runner of the Year and South Region Athlete of the Year, respectively.
The Tide women were led by sophomore McKenzie Yanek, who followed up her SEC All-Freshman debut in 2016 with first-team All-SEC honors in 2017.
The 2017 outdoor season saw the Alabama men record a second consecutive top-three finish at the SEC Championships, marking the first time the Tide has finished among the top three in back-to-back years since posting five top-three placings from 1980-84. The men also earned their first top-10 finish at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships since 2001 with a 10th-place finish at the 2017 NCAA meet.
The Tide men finished second at the 2017 SEC Indoor Championships, their best finish since 1984, while the women earned a sixth-place finish for their best finish since 2006.
The 2016 cross county season saw the Alabama men recorded fifth- and fourth-place finishes at the SEC Championships and NCAA South Regional while the women finished sixth and fourth at the SEC meet and the South Regional. The women’s squad has now earned four consecutive top-four regional finishes, while the men’s fourth place regional placing is the team’s best since finishing first in 2010. Individually, seniors Robbie Farnham-Rose and Antibahs Kosgei earned trips to the NCAA Cross Counry Championships with third- and sixth place finishes, respectively, in the men's NCAA South Regional race while newcomers J.P. Brinyark and McKenzie Yanek earned men's & women's SEC All-Freshman honors at the Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships.
The 2016 performance was another step in Alabama's cross country resurgence under Waters. In 2013, the Tide team produced its highest finish in the women's NCAA South Region Championships since 1987, a third-place finish largely on the efforts of all-Region performers Katelyn Greenleaf and Meropi Panagiotou. That outing was repeated in 2014, as the women took third at both the NCAA South Region and SEC Championships, with Greenleaf once again earning All-Region honors, along with Hannah Waggoner. In 2015, Alabama continued its top-five finish streak at both meets as the women finished fourth in the SEC and third at the South Regional.
The Tide men have continued to progress, posting competitive finishes at the SEC and region meets while building a more experienced and veteran roster. In 2015, Antibahs Kosgei won both the SEC and South Region championships on his way to an appearance at the NCAA Championships. For his efforts, Kosgei was named the 2015 SEC Cross Country Runner of the Year and 2015 South Region Athlete of the Year.
Waters' goal of building a complete track & field program is also coming to fruition as the Crimson Tide posted top-10 men's and women's finishes at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in the same season for the first time in program history in 2017. The Tide women finished third at NCAA meet as senior Lakan Taylor won the program's first women's NCAA pole vault title. The Alabama men finished eighth at the NCAA championships as junior Jereem Richards finished second in the 200 meters in a school-record 20.31.
The foundation for 2017's success was laid in 2016 as Alabama recorded its best finishes to that point under Waters at the SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships as the women finished sixth and the men finished third at the meet, which was held at the Sam Bailey Track Stadium. The finishes were the best since 1989 for the men and since 2006 for the women.
Waters led the Crimson Tide to its highest NCAA indoor and outdoor track & field team finishes in the previous 30 years in 2014. The Alabama men's team posted consecutive top-20 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2013 and 2014, with the women's team posting its highest team finishes in 20 years at the 2014 NCAA indoor and outdoor championships.
Perhaps the finest honor in the Waters era was earned when the men’s track & field squad was named the 2014 Indoor Scholar Team of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
As the highest-placing team with at least a 3.00 cumulative team grade point average at the 2014 NCAA Division I Indoor Championships, Alabama stood out among 116 men’s programs that combined academic and athletic achievement to earn All-Academic Team honors.
The Crimson Tide was the highest-finishing men’s team at the NCAA Indoor Championships to earn All-Academic Team honors that year, finishing sixth overall with a 3.14 cumulative team GPA. It marked the first time the Crimson Tide men have earned Scholar Team of the Year honors. The Tide men also finished 15th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The Tide women produced a breakout year on the track and in the classroom in 2015, posting a 3.48 cumulative team grade point average to earn All-Academic Team status from the USTFCCCA. They were also the only team in the country to finish the year with a grade point average better than a 3.40 while also finishing in the top 20 at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships.
Waters was named the head track & field and cross country coach at Alabama on May 11, 2011, after seven extremely successful seasons as an assistant at Texas A&M. He immediately embarked on hiring an all-star staff of assistant coaches who helped reshape Crimson Tide cross country and track & field during their first season at the Capstone. This core staff of assistants successfully merged the men’s and women’s teams into a single, unified program that helped forge a new team environment and identity for the Crimson Tide.
Changing the culture brought renewed energy and excitement to the program and results followed on the track in 2012 with three Alabama competitors earning All-America honors during the indoor season, including Krystle Schade finishing as the runner-up in the women’s high jump. In the outdoor season, the Tide sent five student-athletes to the NCAA Championships with four coming home as All-Americans and Alexis Paine setting a school record in the pole vault (13-5 1/4).
In 2013, the track & field season saw marked improvement for the Tide as the men’s team finished 11th in the team standings at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, the program’s highest team finish in 11 years. Alabama’s sixth-place finish in the men’s team standings at the 2013 SEC Outdoor Championships was the best by a Tide team since 2006. First-year Crimson Tide athletes scored 45 of Alabama’s 52 men’s team points at that 2013 SEC Outdoor event. Off the track, Alabama’s 2013 recruiting class was ranked No. 3 nationally by Track & Field News magazine.
Alabama produced nine All-Americans in the 2013 outdoor season, after qualifying 18 athletes for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Sprinter Diondre Batson led the way by finishing fourth in the men’s 100-meter dash and running a leg on the Tide’s second-place 4x100-meter relay unit that shattered the school record. Other standouts included Paine’s fourth-place finish in the women’s pole vault, Imani Brown’s sixth-place in the men’s triple jump and Kamal Fuller taking sixth in the men’s long jump.
While serving as recruiting coordinator and distance coach at Texas A&M under the tutelage of legendary A&M head coach Pat Henry, Waters was a key contributor to a coaching staff that led the Aggies to unprecedented success on the national scene. The Aggies won six NCAA national championships, including back-to-back-to-back men’s and women’s outdoor titles, the first program to accomplish that feat.
The Aggie women won eight consecutive Big 12 titles (four indoor, four outdoor) in a four-year span. One of the nation’s top distance coaches, Waters also served as the recruiting coordinator at A&M and assisted the process of upgrading the program’s talent level to be consistently competitive on the national level. His recruiting and coaching efforts were vital to the men and women each winning three consecutive NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2009, 2010 and 2011 – becoming the second school to achieve the NCAA Championship double-double (LSU 1989-90) and the first to have both programs win three in a row.
Recruiting classes coordinated by Waters at A&M earned No. 1 rankings by Track & Field News. The 2009 men’s and women’s recruiting classes were chosen the top recruiting classes in the nation by the monthly magazine, with A&M becoming the second school to earn that acclaim in the 15-year history of Track & Field News ranking collegiate classes. The Aggie women also enjoyed a three-year run as the No. 1 class, from 2007-09, becoming the first women’s program to achieve that distinction.
Known for his strong administrative and organizational skills, Waters directed event management at several championship events at A&M, including the 2009 and 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships, 2009 Big 12 Indoor Championships, and 2003 SEC Cross Country Championships. Waters and former A&M assistant coach Brian Bancroft developed a national reputation for organizing and managing remarkably efficient meets during Waters’ time in College Station, as A&M became a destination for nationally elite programs to compete.
In cross country, Waters earned the South Central Region Men’s Coach of the Year honor in 2008 when A&M won the team title during the regional meet and qualified for the NCAAs. It was the first time in 18 years that a team defeated powerhouse Arkansas for the region title. Waters also has qualified 18 individuals for the NCAA Cross Country Championships over the past 17 years. The regional team title the Aggie men claimed in 2008 was the school’s first since 2003 and only the sixth overall. It also marked the first time that a distance coach on Henry’s staff had qualified a cross country team for the NCAAs.
Waters came to A&M in August 2004, after serving a three-year stint overseeing the distance program at the University of Georgia and an earlier five years at TCU in a similar capacity.
During his stay in Athens, Ga., Waters led the Bulldogs men’s team to the program’s first appearance in the NCAA Cross Country Championship, as well as a team victory at the NCAA South Regional Championships. At the conference level, the Georgia men placed second (highest in school history), while the women’s team matched its highest finish with an SEC runner-up effort. On the track, his distance runners broke seven school records.
At TCU, Waters helped the Horned Frogs win four Western Athletic Conference team championships - two in indoor track & field, one in outdoor track & field and one in cross country. The 2000 WAC cross country and indoor track crowns were the first team conference titles in TCU history. During his stay in Fort Worth, the Horned Frogs notched four top-four NCAA team finishes and TCU was ranked No. 1 nationally by Trackwire.com in 2001. Athletes at TCU during Waters’ tenure included Khadevis Robinson, who won the 1998 NCAA 800 meter crown. Robinson is a two-time U.S. Champion who competed in the 800 at the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games.
Waters began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Texas from 1995-96.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Kansas in 1995. A standout runner for the Jayhawks, he was the 1992 Big Eight champion in the 800 meters and ran a leg on KU’s 1992 All-America indoor 3,200-meter relay. He was elected the Jayhawks’ team captain in 1993 and 1995, and was named a CoSIDA Academic All-American in 1995.
Waters is married to the former Jennifer Miller. They have two children, Alexis and Charlie.