Alabama women's track and field has been slowly building steam in recent years, developing a program that finished its 2021 season by making its first podium finish since the 1987 season.
The Crimson Tide placed fourth, its third-best finish in program history following back-to-back third-place finishes in 1986 and 1987. Two athletes from those teams made it to this edition of the Crimson Tide Top 5.
However, recent memory has made today's list more difficult. While one athlete made the list after winning an individual cross country NCAA title, there were two recent athletes that have made waves among the program that were left off.
One important athlete to mention is Tamara Clark. Clark boasts four of the top-10 finishes in Alabama program history in the 100-meter sprint — including the two fastest times. She also has six of the 10 fastest times in the 200 meters, with her highest being third-fastest in program history.
Another honorable mention is Portious Warren, who owns all 10 of the top-10 throws in Crimson Tide women's shot put history. Her best throw? An impressive 61-0 3/4 (18.61m) in 2019.
However, neither of those athletes made today's list.
Without further ado, here are the Crimson Tide Top 5 for women's track and field, cross country:
5] Mercy Chelangat (Outdoor Track and Field, Cross Country)
Like several lists so far in the series, Mercy Chelangat is a current athlete at Alabama that makes the top five of all time in the program's history.
In her second outdoor season with the Crimson Tide program in 2021, Chelangat won both the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races at the SEC Championships. The Kenyan improved on her success, winning a national individual title at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Stillwater, Okla. for her first-place time of 20:01.1 in the women's 6k.
While still just a junior, Chelangat has also set two program records by holding the best times in the women's 3,000 meters (9:02.94) and 5,000 meters (15:37.35).
4] Sue Jackson (Outdoor Track and Field, Cross Country)
Sue Jackson was Alabama’s first men’s or women’s All-American in cross country, earning the honor with a 17th-place finish for the Crimson Tide as a senior at the 1980 AIAW national championships.
Hailing from Birmingham, Jackson was a four-year letter winner in track and cross country and a member of Alabama’s 1980 AIAW Region 3 track and field and 1978 Region 3 cross country championship teams.
Jackson competed in four AIAW national meets from 1977-80, leading the Crimson Tide to three top-25 finishes.
3] Evelyn Adiru (Outdoor Track and Field)
Originally from the nation of Uganda, Evelyn Adiru ran for the Crimson Tide back in the 1980s. In the 1982 African Championships, Adiru took home the gold in the women's 800 meters with a time of 2:07.00. She was just 18 years old at the time.
In the 1987 All-Africa Games, Adiru earned a duo of bronze medals in the 1,500 meters and 4x400-meter relay.
Adiru also holds two Crimson Tide program records to this day in the 800 meters (2:01.98) and the 1,500 meters (4:09.61). Both records have stood since 1986.
2] Quanesha Burks (Indoor Track and Field)
Quanesha Burks ended her career as one of the most decorated student-athletes in Alabama track and field history. Burks was a two-time NCAA long jump champion, 10-time NCAA All-American and a three-time SEC outdoor long jump champion from 2014-17.
Burks is one of only four women in Crimson Tide track and field history to win three or more Southeastern Conference track and field event championships in one event. She is also the school record-holder in the indoor and outdoor long jump and a member of Alabama’s school record-holding 4x100-meter relay team.
Burks also owns the top 10 indoor and outdoor long jump marks in Alabama history.
1] Lillie Leatherwood (Outdoor Track and Field)
Lillie Leatherwood was a three-time NCAA champion in the 400 meters during her time at Alabama, and a 10-time All-American from 1984-87. Born and raised in Tuscaloosa, she was also an eight-time SEC event champion, including three event wins at the 1987 SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships (200 meters, 400 meters, 4x100-meter relay).
In 1984, she became Alabama’s first female Olympic gold medalist as a member of the United States’ 4x400-meter relay team at the Los Angeles Games. Leatherwood was also a member of the U.S. track squad at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea.
Leatherwood's school records in the 200 meters and 400 meters have stood since 1987.
The Crimson Tide Top 5 will appear every day during the month of June on BamaCentral.