TWO BITS: Demps featured, Hernandez gives

1 » Florida Gators senior running back and junior sprinter Jeff Demps was featured on the front page of NCAA.com and written about in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday for his amazing ability to be a two-sport athlete who thrives in both disciplines. Demps told NCAA writer Tim Turner that, upon begin injured against Tennessee, his focus was solely on his football career and getting back as soon as possible. “All I was thinking about was recovery and getting back for football,” Demps said. I wasn’t thinking about track. I give all the credit for the strength and conditioning coach for getting me back out there. I recovered better than I thought, and being hurt made me want to make the best of opportunities to compete. [Being in the SEC], I know each week I am going to compete against the best athletes in the country in each sport. Every week you have to go out there as if you are playing for the national championship. You never know who is going to have that 10 flat or run a 9.86.”

Demps discussed participating in the 2012 London Olympics with the Inquirer and whether or not that will have an impact on his future in the NFL. “I’m not really sure,” he said. “I’m not thinking about it that much. Sometimes it will go through my mind, but I have to stay away from thinking about it and focus on the present.” You can read the rest of both of these features, respectively, here and here.

2 » One year ago, former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez saw his stock fall due to character concerns stemming from at least one positive marijuana test. After a stellar rookie season in which he caught 45 passes for 563 yards and six touchdowns for the New England Patriots, Hernandez has decided to give back by taking advantage as a unique platform he has being one of the few Latin players in the NFL.

According to the Boston Herald, Hernandez spent time on Friday “sharing his story and delivering his message to a group of third- and fifth-graders at Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston. Later in the evening, he’ll attend the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology’s annual gala to support the Dr. Cynthia Lucero Latino Mental Health Program, which benefits the local Latino community’s mental health resources.” He spoke about his decision to give back to the community. “I just feel like I can be really influential to young kids because I’ve been through a lot,” Hernandez told the Herald. “For me, I knew I always had someone I could look up to, and someone I could follow. When you have that role model in front of you, doing the right things, it can take you to where you want to be in life. You can get anywhere, as long as you have the drive, and you have someone to look up to. If you have no one to look up to, you have nowhere to go.” Having his father pass away due to complications from hernia surgery when he was only 16, Hernandez knows the importance of having role models to look up to.

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FOUR BITS: FSU wins, awards, Sloan, Brombacher

1 » Competing in their fourth and final game of the season, No. 8 Florida State Seminoles baseball (24-9) once again took it to the No. 4 Florida Gators (26-8), turning miscues into runs to prevail 3-1 on Tuesday night in Tallahassee, FL in front of a sold out crowd of 6,357 fans. Florida State improved to 3-1 against Florida with the win; the Gators’ only victory came via a hard-fought 5-4 win in extra innings. Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis (2-1) picked up the loss for UF but only gave up one earned run while striking out five in 5.0 innings. In for relief, junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson only allowed two hits but threw a pair of wild pitches that allowed the Seminoles to tack on two runs. Florida was held scorless through the first eight innings on the game before sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (2-4, RBI) knocked home junior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3, R, BB) in the ninth.

2 » The Second Annual Florida Letterman Awards were held on Monday with a number of UF’s student-athletes bringing home honors. The list of award recipients and their respective sports is below:

– Mr. & Ms. Orange & Blue: Christian Taylor (track and field), Megan Bush (softball)
– Team of the Year: women’s swimming and diving, men’s indoor track and field
– Athlete of the Year: Conor Dwyer (swimming) and Christian Taylor (track and field), Mariam Kevkhishvili (track & field)
– Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Max Lang (track and field); Rebekah Zaiser (gymnastics)
– Performance of the Year: Conor Dwyer (NCAA swimming meet) and Gray Horn (SEC decathlon), Charlotte Browning (NCAA track meet)
– Academic Teams of Year: men’s golf, women’s gymnastics
– Play of the Year: Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Terrell Wilks and Jeremy Hall (4X100 relay 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships); Shara Stafford and Gemma Spofforth (200-meter freestyle at 2010 NCAA Championships)
– Rookie of the Year: Austin Maddox (baseball), Ashanee Dickerson (gymnastics)
– Comeback Athlete of the Year: Tommy Toledo (baseball), McKenzie Barney (soccer)
– Character Award: Bobby Walsh (swimming), Daisy Glasser (track and field)
– Goodwill Gator: Max Lang (track and field), Stephanie Brombacher (softball)

3 » Gators gymnastics got great news Wednesday as Bridget Sloan, the all-around champion at the 2009 World Championships and an Olympian for the United States in 2008, signed a letter of intent to join the University of Florida. Sloan will not enroll at UF for more than a year as she will first pursue participation in the 2012 London Olympics. “Making this decision was by far one of the hardest of my life, and I took a long time and put a lot of thought into it, but it came down to where I felt the most comfortable,” Sloan said according to a Florida release. “Florida seemed like the best place for me academically and for gymnastics, and I’m excited to be a Gator.”

4 » Gators softball’s senior ace RHP, Brombacher may see the mound for the first time in more than a month on Wednesday against Florida International. She has been out of action with a number of lingering arm injuries, most recently having problems with her bicep. However, according to the Independent Florida Alligator, Brombacher “threw almost every day last week” and could be back on the diamond Wednesday either as the starter or in a limited role.

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SIX BITS: awards, softball, lacrosse, gymnastics

1 » Florida Gators track and field head coach Mike Holloway was honored with the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s National Men’s Indoor Head Coach of the Year award on Friday for the second-straight year. Holloway, who has led Florida to back-to-back NCAA Indoor Championships over the last two seasons, continues to rack up the national and regional awards. One of his assistants on the men’s team, Dick Booth was awarded National Men’s Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year by the USTFCCCA as well.

2 » The state of Mississippi was no match for No. 2/3 Florida softball (30-1, 6-0 SEC) this week as the Gators took down the Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-14, 2-2 SEC) at home in a pair of contests during the week and swept the Ole Miss Rebels (10-21, 0-6 SEC) in a three-game road series over the weekend. Florida outscored Ole Miss 37-6 over the course of the three games and made the most out of nearly every opportunity.

Senior first baseman Megan Bush set a new school record and now has a 19-game hitting streak after turning in a spectacular performance in which she combined to go 6-9 from the plate with 10 RBI, three runs and four walks. On the hill for the Gators all weekend was freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (16-1), who started all three contests and did not allow a single earned run all weekend. In 9.0 innings, Rogers only gave up five hits, three unearned runs and three walks while striking out nine batters. Also turning in stellar performances in the three-game set were senior second baseman Aja Paculba (4-10, 6 RBI, 5 R, 4 BB), freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (3-11, 5 RBI, 4 R, BB) and senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (4-6, 4 RBI, 5 R, 6 BB).

3 » Continuing to excel in only their second year in existence, No. 8/10 Gators lacrosse (8-1) took down another ranked opponent by defeating the No. 11/14 Syracuse Orange (2-4) 16-11 on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns tied her career high (and school record) with six goals; she also notched an assist for a season-high total of seven points. Florida received plenty of scoring help from sophomore midfielders Kitty Cullen and Brittany Dashiell, each of whom contributed hat tricks. Since losing an overtime contest to North Carolina on Feb. 12 to start the regular season, UF is on an impressive eight-game winning streak.

4 » Competing for the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship, No. 1 Florida gymnastics (17-2, 5-1 SEC) dropped a heart-breaker to the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide 197.225-196.975. The Gators won the bars and floor exercises, but the Crimson Tide used greater total margins in the vault and beam to improve their team total and capture the crown. After the event, Florida’s Rhonda Faehn was named 2011 SEC Coach of the Year for the fourth overall and second-straight time, and Alaina Johnson was awarded with 2011 SEC Freshman of the Year.

5 » Failing to qualify for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Gators women’s basketball (19-14) accepted a bid to the 2011 Women’s National invitation Tournament and defeated the UMBC Retrievers (20-12) 59-47 in first-round action on Friday. Redshirt junior guard Jordan Jones scored a game-high 18 points for Florida, which will ply Florida Gulf Coast (28-3) in the second round on Monday at 7:05 p.m.

6 » No. 13 UF men’s tennis (11-5, 4-1 SEC) dropped a pair of head-to-heads over the weekend as they were defeated by the No. 3 USC Trojans (14-2) 4-3 on Thursday and Rebels (9-4, 3-2 SEC) 4-3 on Saturday. No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix lost all four of his events including both singles matches and both doubles matches as the No. 46 duo with teammate sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr.

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SIX BITS: track, baseball, softball, tennis, lax

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track & field won the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships over the weekend to capture back-to-back national titles. If you missed or overlooked this accomplishment, check out OGGOA‘s story.

2 » Still rebounding from a tough home loss to Georgia Southern on March 8, No. 1 Florida baseball improved to 14-2 over the weekend by sweeping the Rhode Island Rams (7-6) in a three-game series. The Gators – which beat the Rams 11-5, 12-4 and 8-6 in consecutive days – were dominant from start-to-finish. Florida also matched the best start in school history with 14 wins through the first 16 games (1952, 1963, 1977, 1985, 1992) of the season.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (4-0) grabbed the victory on Friday, striking out five and giving up three earned runs on six hits in seven full innings. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (2-0) took the hill Saturday and also pitched seven strong innings; he struck out four and allowed five hits. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (3-0) closed out the weekend for the Gators with junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani (S2) capping his performance with three strikeouts in 1.1 innings.

Florida was strong offensively all weekend, but a few Gators were models of consistency. Junior Preston Tucker (6/11, HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB) led the way for UF with senior second baseman Josh Adams (4/15, 7 RBI, R), sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (5/11, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB) and sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (5/10, 2 RBI, 5 R, 4 BB) also having strong offensive performances.

3 » No. 1/2 Florida softball (25-1) suffered their first loss of the season over the weekend but did so in the fourth of five games and still held on to win the USF Under Armour Showcase. UF defeated Connecticut (5-7) 9-0 and Robert Morris (6-7) 6-1 on Friday before thrashing Ball State (11-9) 21-0 early Saturday evening. In the late game against Nebraska (18-2), the Gators lost their power stroke and fell 1-0. Florida rebounded the next day, beating South Florida (14-13) 10-2 to cap the event and take the title. Gators senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher improved to 14-0 on the season with two wins over the weekend. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (11-1) also earned two wins (including the event clincher) but also got the first loss of her career after allowing one earned run on four hits in seven innings on Saturday night.

4 » No. 1 Florida women’s tennis (15-1, 4-0 SEC) continued its dominant stretch this season with back-to-back victories at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL over the weekend against the Alabama Crimson Tide (7-4, 0-2 SEC) 6-1 and Auburn Tigers (2-12, 0-2 SEC) 4-0. UF combined to win 13 of 15 matches in the event, and the Gators also led in all three contests that did not finish due to the event’s winner already having been decided.

5 » Matching the women was No. 15 Florida men’s tennis (11-3, 4-0 SEC), which beat Alabama (7-5, 0-3 SEC) 6-1 and Auburn (8-5, 1-3 SEC) 4-3 on the road over the weekend. On Friday, senior Alexandre Lacroix broke the all-time school doubles record (94 wins) and became just the seventh tennis player in program history to win 100 singles matches. No. 6 Lacroix’s combined 195 career victories (after a second singles win on Sunday) rank him third in UF history.

6 » Just days after one of the biggest wins in program history, No. 14 Gators lacrosse (6-1) refused to relent and instead thrashed the Temple Owls (1-4) 19-4 on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Eight different Florida players scored against Temple, with sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen (five goals, six points) once again leading the way. Sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns also continued her stellar play with five points from two goals and three assists.

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Gators capture back-to-back NCAA Indoors titles

No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track and field became just the fourth different program in event history to win back-to-back national titles after winning the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships on Saturday at Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station, TX.

Florida posted 52 team points to win the 25th overall national championship in school history, defeating the remaining top-five including Texas A&M (40), BYU (34), LSU (31) and Florida State (30).

“This year was special because we came in as big favorites, had some adversity, but we overcame it and we’re national champions again,” head coach Mike Holloway said.

Leading the way for the Gators were individual national championship performances by sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps and junior jumper Will Claye.

Demps won the 60-meter dash for the second consecutive season with a school-record time of 6.53, becoming the first repeat champion in the event since 2004-05. He remains the only Florida athlete to ever win the event.

The Gators had a trio of competitors vying for the triple jump title, but Claye came out on top with a winning mark of 17.32m/56-10. Junior Christian Taylor, the 2011 SEC Men’s Field Athlete of the Year, placed second with a leap of 16.99m/55-9.

Though the indoor season is now over for Florida, the 2011 outdoor track and field season begins next Saturday with the UCF Black and Gold Challenge on March 19.

Photo Credit: University of Florida/GatorZone

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FOUR BITS: Grant on Donovan, track & field

1 » Like his former boss and close friend did for him a few days ago, Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant expressed plenty of positive thoughts and warm wishes toward Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan upon learning he was voted 2011 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year. “It’s a great honor – 15 years in the league and the success that he’s enjoyed,” Grant told The Birmingham News. “It’s really, really hard – the expectations were extremely high for his team this year. They may have surpassed those expectations with what they’ve done. […] There is not a more deserving recipient because of the way he approaches what he does and the passion that he has. I’m really happy for him and their program.”

2 » As OGGOA tweeted about Monday, Florida basketball was not the only sport to pull in high praise from the SEC. Gators track and field head coach Mike Holloway was named the 2011 SEC Coach of the Year for his sport on Monday, and junior jumper Christian Taylor earned 2011 SEC Men’s Field Athlete of the Year honors. Also awarded by the conference were hurdler Eddie Lovett and Cory McGee, who were each named 2011 SEC Freshman Runner of the Year for their respective gender.

3 » The 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships begin on Friday at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station, TX, and Florida track and field will be represented by 15 student-athletes (13 men, two women) at the event. The Gators men’s team is looking to defend its title after claiming the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championship. Sophomore sprinter and defending champion Jeff Demps will compete in the 60-meter dash, while defending champion Taylor will try to once again win the triple jump. Junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock will also compete in the triple jump. Other Florida athletes participating in the NCAA Indoors include Clay (long jump), junior runner Dumisani Hlaselo (mile), junior Gray Horn (heptathlon), Lovett (60-meter hurdles), McGee (mile), sophomore Tony McQuay (200-meter dash, 400-meter dash), senior Kemal Mesic (shot put), senior Terrell Wilks (60-meter dash). The Gators will also field men’s and women’s 4×400-meter relay teams.

4 » Former NFL head coach Mike Ditka, speaking with Chicago Sun-Times, provided his opinion on the future of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Ditka only had good things to convey about the second-year pro. “People talk about the combine, about body fat, 40 times, bench presses, how high you can jump. That’s great, but how do you measure heart?” he said. “People talk about Tim Tebow like he can’t do this or he doesn’t have this throwing skill. But all that matters is can he lead you from Point A to Point B. I like him. You cannot coach character. You cannot coach leadership.”

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Former UF track coach Jimmy Carnes dead at 76

Former Florida Gators track and field head coach Jimmy Carnes passed away Saturday. He was 76 years old.

Carnes, who coached at the University of Florida from 1965-76, lost a four-year battle with prostate cancer. He is survived by his wife and four children.

“Jimmy Carnes is an icon in the sport of track and field. His contributions to the University of Florida, as well as his sport on a national and international level, have been immeasurable,’’ Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley said in an official statement from the school. “Jimmy has been a great advocate of the sport of track and field and an outstanding citizen in the Gainesville community. Our thoughts go out to his wife, Nanette, and his family.”
Continue Reading » Former UF track coach Jimmy Carnes dead at 76

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Florida men’s track & field wins SEC Indoor title

No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track and field captured their sixth conference title and first since 2004 on Sunday, winning the 2011 Southeastern Conference Indoor Championship with 148 total team points.

Florida took down the No. 5 Arkansas Razorbacks (136.5), No. 2 LSU Tigers (98), No. 17 Alabama Crimson Tide (65.5) and No. 24 Georgia Bulldogs (55.33) at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, AR.

Junior running back and sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps captured the SEC 60-meter dash championship with a 6.55, one-hundredth of a second faster than his record-setting time from the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships. Joining him with SEC titles were junior Gray Horn (heptathlon), junior jumper Christian Taylor (triple jump), junior Dumisane Hlaselo (3,000-meter run), senior Kemal Mesic (shot put), freshman Eddie Lovett (60-meter hurdles) and two members of the women’s team – junior Fidela James (20-pound weight throw) and freshman Cory McGee (mile run).

Horn’s heptathlon title is the first in school history, and Hlaselo’s 3,000-meter title is Florida’s first since 1993. Taylor’s triple jump title is his third-straight. The Gators finished held the top three places in the triple jump with junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock following Taylor for silver and bronze.

Florida has two more meets next month before competing in the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships March 11-12.

Photo Credit: GZTrackField

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