Florida men’s swimming, women’s track & field join Gators basketball with SEC Championships

In total the Florida Gators brought home three 2014 Southeastern Conference Championships over the weekend with the top-ranked men’s swimming and women’s track & field programs joining the basketball team as league title winners.

UF men’s swimming repeated as conference champions, topping Auburn 1440.0-1280.5 at Gabrielsen Natatorium in Athens, GA to capture the program’s second-straight and 35th overall SEC title. The accomplishment ranks it second all-time to Kentucky basketball (45) for most team crowns in league history. The Gators won 28 titles in a 41-year span from 1953-93 but suffered without one for 19-straight years until taking over the SEC once again in 2013.

Redshirt senior Sebastien Rousseau led the way for Florida, becoming the 12th male UF swimmer to win the Commissioner’s Trophy (most total points). He was also honored as SEC Male Swimmer of the Year for his overall achievements. Rousseau won three 200-yard individual SEC titles in freestyle, individual medley and butterfly, setting a league record in the latter event by finishing the swim in 1:41.07.

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Top 13 for 2013: Florida’s best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2013 (see the Not Top 13 for 2013), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to earning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2013. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 13 for 2013.

13 » A NEW TRADITION
Florida’s football program did not get much right in 2013, but instituting a new pre-game tradition – a “celebrity” serving as Mr. Two Bits in honor of the original, George Edmondson – was absolutely a bright spot. The Gators also picked the perfect person to kick off the new tradition with former running back Errict Rhett performing as if he was made for the role. Others had trouble stepping up to the high benchmark set by Rhett, but the honorary Mr. Two Bits was nevertheless a great sight for fans all season long…even if the team was not. OnlyGators.com sat down with Rhett after his appearance for an extensive interview about the experience and his career.

12 » 15-INNING MARATHON
In the fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College Series (longest since 1992), Florida softball prevailed 9-8 over Nebraska in a night game that lasted 15 innings and more than five hours, spanning into the early morning of the next day. The Gators lost two separate leads in the contest before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th; UF conceded a run in the latter half of the inning but held on for the victory. Unfortunately for Florida, it had to suit up just hours later for an elimination game against Texas at 1 p.m., one it lost 3-0. The Gators were ranked No. 2 entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament but fell short of a title.

11 » ALL HE WANTED WAS A CHANCE


Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy waited patiently as he got overlooked time and time again, most recently by head coach Will Muschamp and his offensive coordinators in favor of younger players with higher ratings coming out of high school. When junior QB Jeff Driskel went down with a fractured fibula against Tennessee, Murphy finally got his shot and made the most of it. Over a three-game stretch including games on Sept. 21, Sept. 28 (at Kentucky) and Oct. 5 (vs. Arkansas), Murphy completed 39-of-54 passes (72.2 percent) for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. (He also gained 135 yards and picked up two more scores with his legs.) Unfortunately for him, Murphy injured his shoulder on Oct. 12 against LSU and was simply not the same player as he took the field in more pain than he or the coaching staff decided to admit publicly. Murphy missed the final three games of the season due to that injury and ultimately transferred, feeling Muschamp would not give him a fair chance to win the starting job in 2014.

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15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, a die-hard Florida Gators fan, does the Gator Chomp after hitting a double off St. Louis Cardinals left-handed pitcher Randy Choate, a former Florida State player, on Friday night. [Special thanks to OGGOA reader Mitchell M. for sending this in.]

» Sports Illustrated soccer columnist Grant Wahl penned a terrific column on former Florida striker Abby Wambach, who passed Mia Hamm and set a new career international goals record on Thursday.

» A total of 21 Gators (10 former and 11 current) are presently in Des Moines, IA, competing in the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Athletes participating in the event from June 19-23 have the opportunity to qualify for the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia from Aug. 10-18.

Omar Craddock and Will Claye became the first two Florida representatives to qualify on Thursday when they finished one-two in the men’s triple jump. Craddock took the American title with a mark of 17.15m/56-4.25, while Claye finished second with a 17.04m/55-11 jump. Also advancing to Moscow was Ugonna Ndu, who participated at the All-Nigeria Athletics Championships, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 13.4 seconds. Numerous other Gators advanced in their respective disciplines, and OGGOA will provide updates as each event finishes.

» Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, still sidelined with a stress fracture in his right fibula, is finally expected to return to the court in just over a week. According to the Washington Post, Beal will likely be cleared by doctors on July 1, three months after his injury was initially diagnosed. The Wizards were originally hoping Beal would be able to participate in the NBA Summer League games, but it is unlikely that the team takes the risk of putting him into action so soon after he returns from injury. It is more likely that Beal will next play meaningful basketball alongside Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons during 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp from July 22-25 in Las Vegas, NV.

Check out 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!

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Florida Gators men’s track & field wins second-straight NCAA Outdoor Championship

Though the program had never won an NCAA Outdoor Championship prior to the 2012 season, Florida Gators men’s track & field captured its second-straight national title in the season-ending event on Saturday, coming from behind once again squeak out a victory at Hayward Field in Eugene, OR.

Nine points behind the Texas A&M Aggies heading into the men’s 4×400-meter relay, the final event of the afternoon, Florida gutted out a victory in 3:01.34 and benefited from a miscue by Texas A&M. The Aggies dropped the baton during the race, finishing eighth and earning one point, as the Gators picked up 10 points and pulled even with their Southeastern Conference rivals for a shared national title.

Florida, which entered the fourth day of competition in 11th place with just total 15 points, scored 38 during the final day of the event proceedings and brought home two additional (three total) individual national championships on Saturday.

Senior Omar Craddock ended his collegiate career by defending his outdoor men’s triple jump title with a leap of 16.92m/55-6.25, matching his score from 2012. Craddock’s victory marks the fourth-straight outdoor triple jump championship for UF and seventh overall (indoor and outdoor) from 2010-13.

The Gators also won the men’s 4×100-meter relay title in 38.53 seconds on the backs of freshman Antwan Wright, sophomore Hugh Graham, Jr., senior Leonardo Seymore and sophomore Dedric Dukes. Florida earned a 0.01-second victory in the event as Alabama finished in 38.54 seconds.

Graham and Dukes – along with freshmen Najee Glass and Arman Hall – were also part of the 4×400-meter relay title team that won in 3:01.34.

UF has won five of the last eight NCAA Championships in track & field with a three-peat in indoor competition from 2010-12 and consecutive outdoor titles from 2012-13.

The Gators conclude the 2012-13 athletic season with two NCAA Championships (gymnastics), eight SEC regular-season titles (basketball, gymnastics, soccer, women’s cross country, volleyball, men’s swimming, women’s tennis, softball) and one ALC regular-season title (lacrosse). Florida also won two SEC Tournament titles, seven individual national championships (gymnastics, swimming, track & field) and 12 individual SEC titles (swimming, track & field).

Photo Credit: @GZTrackField

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FOUR BITS: track, tennis, lacrosse, softball

1 » Neither the top-ranked men nor the third-ranked women were able to bring home a team title in the 2013 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championship for the Florida Gators, but the track & field program did conclude the four-day event with five individual titles. Sophomore Kyle Strawn started things off on Thursday by winning the SEC title in the men’s hammer throw; his championship toss went 66.90m/219-6 and also marked a personal best. Florida added a second individual SEC crown on Friday when redshirt freshman Jimmy Clark gutted out a tough 10,000 meters in 29:44.54 to win the Gators’ first title in the event since 1987. Though Florida went title-less on Saturday, the Gators added three on Sunday to close the event. UF swept the triple jump with senior Omar Craddock (16.46m/54-0) and sophomore Ciarra Brewer (13.85m/45-5.25) defending their 2012 titles by winning the men’s and women’s championships, respectively. Freshman Marija Vucenovic also got in on the fun by winning the women’s javelin with a throw of 51.30m/168-4.

The Florida men (123.00) finished second to Arkansas (152.50), while the UF women (106.00) placed fourth. The Gators were hoping to win the athletic program’s ninth SEC team title of the season but must instead settle for a school record-tying eight as the league’s 2012-13 season has officially come to a close.

2 » No. 1 Florida women’s tennis began competing in the 2013 NCAA Tournament over the weekend and swept both of its opponents, defeating the Marist Red Foxes and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 4-0 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The Gators ran through the Red Foxes without dropping a single game, winning both doubles matches 8-0 and all three singles contests 6-0, 6-0. Georgia Tech was a tougher out for Florida but still went down rather easily as UF won the doubles point with 8-6 and 8-2 victories and took singles in short order. No. 1 senior Lauren Embree beat No. 98 Elizabeth Kilborn 6-0, 6-0 in her last home match, and No. 116 senior Caroline Hitimana led 6-1, 3-3 in her match but did not finish; both players were involved in victories that led to the doubles point. Embree received a standing ovation after he victory; she and Hitimana leave UF never having lost a team match (55-0) at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex. Action continues for Florida on Friday when it takes on Duke in a round of 16 match in Urbania, IL.

Read two more Gators news BITS (with an extra)…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: track titles, baseball, tennis, lacrosse

1 » Though it did not have the same team success that the swimming program did over the weekend, Florida Gators track & field still put together an impressive overall performance at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Championships. Florida’s men (117.00) finished second and the women (87.50) came in fourth to Arkansas, which won both titles (152.50, 114.50). The Gators captured six individual SEC titles overall.

2013 SEC Individual Titles (6)

» Men’s 60-meter hurdles – Eddie Lovett (7.54 seconds)* [third-straight]
» Men’s long jump – Marquis Dendy (8.25m/27-0.75)* [back-to-back]
» Men’s weight throw – David Triassi (21.59m/70-10)
» Men’s 800 meters – Sean Obinwa (1:48.40)
» Women’s mile – Cory McGee (4:35,33) [second in three years]
» Women’s distance medley relay – Mandy Perkins, Amani Bryant, Agata Strausa, Cory McGee (11:13.45)

2 » Florida baseball (3-5) got swept right out of the top 25 over the weekend as the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (5-1) outscored their hosts 23-9 over three games from Friday-Sunday. The Gators have now lost four-straight games, and their schedule does not get easier going forward. Florida is set to face Miami in a three-game series Friday-Sunday and opens up SEC play on March 15. Seven league teams are currently ranked including Arkansas (2), Vanderbilt (3), LSU (4), South Carolina (8), Mississippi State (13), Kentucky (15) and Ole Miss (17).

3 » On Sunday at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in front of a crowd of 1,033, the second-largest in program history, No. 4 Gators women’s tennis came from behind to defeat the No. 13 Stanford Cardinal 4-2. Florida (6-1) and Stanford (4-2) have split the last four meetings between the programs in NCAA play with the Gators earning the home victory after losing the doubles point. Florida knotted the match at 1-1 when junior Olivia Janowicz won her contest 6-2, 6-2 but soon fell behind 1-2 as No. 33 Ellen Tsay took down freshman No. 44 Danielle Collins by the same score. UF jumped back on top 2-1 when junior No. 9 Sofie Oyen beat No. 68 Kristie Ahn 6-2, 6-2 and took a 3-1 lead as junior No. 116 Alex Cercone upset No. 10 Krista Hardebeck 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. The remaining showdowns went back-and-forth but it was eventually freshman Brianna Morgan who won her second match point against No. 98 Stacy Tan to earn a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory and deliver a big win for the Gators.

4 » No. 3 Florida lacrosse (6-0) remained undefeated after earning a 17-7 victory over the Albany Great Danes (0-1) on Sunday. The Gators jumped 3-0 in the early going and held a 12-3 lead at the half, cruising in the second half for the double-digit win. Sophomore Shannon Gilroy led the way with five goals on six shots. senior Ashley Bruns (four) and senior Kitty Cullen (three) combined for seven of the other 10 goals. Florida’s next opponent is No. 6 Syracuse, the team that won a controversial overtime match over UF in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The schools will go head-to-head in Miami Gardens, FL on Saturday.

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14 Gator Bites for Tuesday, February 19

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Rather than doubling down on disappointment while stuck playing in the state North Carolina, No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (4-1) came from behind on Monday to pick up a huge victory over the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (9-1) in Chapel Hill, NC. UNC, which took over for UF as the No. 1 team in the country last week, held a 2-0 advantage over its visitors after winning the doubles point and a singles match to start the contest. The Gators answered by rallying with four consecutive singles match victories to pick up the 4-2 win. First, junior Olivia Janowicz took down No. 79 Tessa Lyons 6-2, 6-1. Freshman Brianna Morgan then picked up a 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 122 Lauren McHale, leaving the match in the hands of Florida’s two best players. No. 4 senior Lauren Embree came through in the clutch once again with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 victory against No. 7 Gina Suarez-Malaguti, and No. 9 junior Sofie Oyen fought hard on court two to defeat No. 30 Zoe De Bruycker 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. UF’s loss on Sunday at No. 4 Duke was its first in over a year’s time. By taking down the Tar Heels on Monday, the Gators avoided falling in consecutive matches for the first time in three years.

» Former Florida guard Matt Walsh, who signed a deal with Spirou Charleroi of Belgium in August 2012, told OGGOA on Monday that his contract has been purchased by Brose Baskets of Bamberg, Germany. The three-time defending German champions play in the Euroleague and are hoping Walsh helps push them to a fourth-straight title.

» Despite multiple reports pointing to the contrary, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on Friday said he has “no intent” of trading wide receiver Percy Harvin, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Harvin raised concerns about Minnesota’s offense (and how he was not utilized much) prior to the 2012 season and reportedly got into an explosive verbal argument with head coach Leslie Frazier during the season. While it does look like he and the Vikings will split ways, multiple players have come out in his defense and expressed their desire to see him return to the team. The latest to do so is quarterback Christian Ponder, who said he “obviously” wants Harvin to return because “he’s a tremendous player” and “a heck of a part of this offense and this team in general.” Ponder told KFAN in Minneapolis, MN that he and Harvin have a good relationship and “spent some extra time together” working on their on-field chemistry during the last offseason.

Read 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Harvin, transfers, track & field, O’Day

1 » According to Mike Max of Minnesota CBS affiliate WCCO, former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin is on the Minnesota Vikings’ trading block. As was speculated previously, Max reports that “the No. 1 reason Percy Harvin left the team this season was not his injury, but it was motivated by a blowup he had with Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier.” Harvin, who reportedly got in a verbal argument with former Minnesota head coach Brad Childress and once reportedly attempted to choke former Gators wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales after the two got in an argument during practice, supposedly “had an embarrassing tirade directed towards Frasier, disrespecting the coach during the season when Harvin was sidelined with an injured ankle.” Shortly thereafter, the Vikings put him on injured reserve. A MVP candidate during the 2012 season until he got injured, Harvin is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He will likely command a second-round pick with some additional compensation but not the first-round selection his talent deserves as front offices have concerns about his injury history and demeanor within a team environment. Harvin can be traded when free agency begins for the 2013 league year on March 12.

2 » Two players Florida would love to have in uniform right now while the team’s roster is under siege by injuries are transfers junior center Damontre Harris and sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith. Unfortunately for the Gators, the two are sitting out their NCAA-mandated redshirt season; fortunately for UF, the duo is forming a close bond and preparing to contribute in 2013-14. Harris, who is still recovering from surgery he had on a torn labrum, told Florida’s school website that “the worst part” of the whole situation is “put[ting] in the work everybody else puts in, but you don’t get to show or perform or demonstrate all that work.” He added, “I think about it every day…actually wearing a Gator uniform. I’ve even had dreams about it but then I wake up knowing I still have to wait ‘till next year.” Finney-Smith is equally anxious. “I just wish I’d signed with Florida out of high school,” he said. “Can’t do nothing about it now, though, but practice hard and wait for my time to get here.”

3 » Gators track and field was split up over the weekend with half of the No. 2 men’s team and No. 7 women’s team participating in the 2013 Husky Classic (Seattle, WA) and 2013 Virginia Tech Elite Meet (Blacksburg, VA). In the latter meet, sophomore Marquis Dendy posted a 7.99m/26-2.75 in the men’s long jump, becoming the new NCAA leader in the event in the process. Also making noise in Blacksburg was junior sprinter Eddie Lovett, who matched his own Florida school record with time of 7.66 in the men’s 60-meter hurdles. Dendy and Lovett had their success on Friday with Saturday being all about sophomore Taylor Burke, who participated in the same meet and broke the school record in the women’s high jump with a personal best of 1.86m/6-125. Burke, a dual-sport star who started at goalkeeper for the soccer team this season, is expected to continue her track career as a professional after graduation.

4 » Headed for arbitration with the Baltimore Orioles, right-handed pitcher Darren O’Day agreed to a two-year, $5.8 million deal with the club, according to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. As a reliever in Baltimore last season, O’Day went 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and a 4.9 K/BB ratio. He was a contributor to the Orioles’ huge turnaround in 2012 and certainly a piece that management wants to have around for the foreseeable future.

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