In his eighth season at the helm of The University of Alabama men's and women's cross country and track & field programs in 2018-19, head coach Dan Waters has made an extraordinary impact on the Crimson Tide. Waters has unified and transformed the program and made it one of the nation’s best track & field and cross country programs during his tenure.
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 seven years with Waters as head coach, Alabama has developed into a complete program featuring top student-athletes in all disciplines.
The 2018 track & field season saw the Crimson Tide men capture the program's first USTFCCCA Program of the Year Award, presented annually to the cross country and track & field program with the best combined finishes at the NCAA cross country, indoor and outdoor championships. Alabama earned the honor on the strength of a fifth-place finish at the NCAA outdoor meet, a ninth-place finish at the indoor championships and a 14th-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
The top-5 finish at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships was the first for the Tide since 1986 and gave UA its first back-to-back top-10 outdoor placings since finishing seventh and sixth in 2000 and 2001. The eighth place finish indoors also gave the Tide back-to-back indoor top-10 finishes for the first time since finishing fourth and second in 2001 and 2002.
In addition to its national success in 2018, Alabama captured its first Southeastern Conference indoor championship since 1972 to earn Waters his first SEC Coach of the Year award. Outdoors, the men finished fourth at the SEC meet, giving the Tide three straight top-four finishes in conference for the first time since 1989-91.
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. In addition to their 14th-place team finish in their first trip to the national meet since 2010, 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 honors, 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.
In his first seven seasons at the Capstone, Waters’ track & field teams have earned 107 All-American certificates (64 men’s/43 women’s) and seen five individuals win at total of eight individual national titles during that span.
The Tide men have recorded three top-10 NCAA Indoor Championships finishes in the last five years (2014, 2017, 2018) and back-to-back men’s top-10 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships over the last two seasons. The Crimson Tide women posted their first top-three finish in 23 years at the 2017 NCAA indoor meet.
In SEC competition, the Tide men have recorded three top-four finishes at the conference indoor meet (2014, 2017, 2018) - including the 2018 SEC indoor title - and three consecutive top-four finishes at the SEC outdoor meet over the last three seasons. In 2017, the Tide men and women both finished in the top-10 at the NCAA indoor championships for the first time in school history.
The success of the 2017 cross country team capped a three-year run that saw the men’s team move from ninth to second at the SEC Cross Country Championships and sixth to third at the NCAA South Regional to earn UA its first team trip to the NCAA Championships since 2010. From 2013-16, the Tide women also posted four consecutive top-four finishes at the South Regional.
Alabama has also experienced considerable individual success in cross country under Waters. The Tide men have won two of the last three SEC and NCAA South Regional individual titles with Antibahs Kosgei taking both the SEC and regional crowns in 2015 and Vincent Kiprop leading a Tide sweep of the top three spots at the 2017 SEC meet and Gilbert Kigen winning the South Regional that same season. Kosgei (2015, 2016), Kiprop (2017), Kigen (2017), Robbie Farnham-Rose (2014, 2016) and Alfred Chelanga (2017) have all earned men’s All-South Region honors under Waters while Katelyn Greenleaf (2013, 2014, 2015), Meropi Panagioutou (2013) and Hannah Waggoner (2014, 2016) have earned the honor for the women.
Alabama’s All-SEC honorees have included Carison Kemei (2011), Kosgei (2015, 2016), Kiprop (2017), Kigen (2017) and Chelanga (2017) on the men’s side and Greenleaf (2013, 2014, 2015) and Rachael Reddy (2015) for the women.
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.
One of the finest honors 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 that season.
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.
Alabama's cross country teams have been a mainstay on the USTFCCCA All-Academic Team list under Waters, with both programs earning recognition every year since 2013. The women's track & field team has been honored seven times during Waters' tenure (2012-18) while the men have made the list in 2014 and 2018.
Alabama has also more than doubled its list of CoSIDA Academic All-Americans during Waters' tenure with seven student-athletes earning recognition a total of 10 times - Natahan Corder (2012), Leigh Gilmore (2012), Alexis Paine (2013, 2014), Nia Barnes (2014 2015), Quanesha Burks (2016), Alex Gholston (2016, 2017) and Josh Short (2018).
Already nationally recognized as a recruiter during his years as an assistant coach, Waters has continued that success at UA, recording four top-10 classes in the last five recruiting cycles.
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 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 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.
While serving as recruiting coordinator and distance coach at Texas A&M, 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 three-straight 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 Texas 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.
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. 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 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.