It came down to the wire for Florida Gators men’s track and field at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, IA on Saturday but an outstanding finish in the event-ending 1,600-meter relay propelled the team to victory and the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championship. The national outdoor title is the first in program history for either the men’s or women’s team and gives the Gators a sweep of the men’s national titles in 2012 as UF also captured the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championship in March.
Down two points to LSU heading into the final event, Florida used a 2012 world-leading finish (3:00.02) by freshmen Dedrick Dukes and Hugh Graham, Jr., juniors Leonardo Seymore and junior Tony McQuay to win the individual national title in the 4×400-meter relay (also the first in program history) and clinch the championship.
UF (50 points) edged LSU (48) and Texas A&M (40) for the title and became the first team since Arkansas in 2003 to sweep the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in the same season.
The Gators also brought home two other individual national titles on Friday as McQuay and junior Omar Craddock won their respective events. McQuay posted a time of 44.58 seconds in the men’s 400 meters to win the event for the first time in school history, and Craddock took home the men’s triple jump title with a distance of 16.92m/55-6.25 (+2.9). Both men also won the indoor title in their respective events to sweep them for the year, and Craddock’s victory marked the third-straight outdoor triple jump title for UF as well as the team’s sixth-straight overall triple jump title (indoor and outdoor 2010-12).
Neither senior sprinter Jeff Demps nor senior decathlete Gray Horn competed in their respective events this week. Demps, the reigning three-time 60-meter dash champion for indoor competition, missed the 100-meter dash as he continues to prepare for the U.S. Olympic Trials and 2012 London Olympics. Horn, one of the most accomplished student-athletes on the team, was still serving a suspension.
“We lost our best sprinter, we lost our best decathlete and our 4×100 didn’t qualify,” head coach Mike Holloway said after the victory. “A lot of people would have given up hope, but our group of guys didn’t. I sat them down after Regionals and I said ‘We are still the best team in the country, as long as you believe it,’ and our guys believed it.”
Holloway won the fourth national title of his career as the Gators men’s team has also captured three-straight NCAA Indoor Championships.
It is the first time in school history that Florida has won three national titles in the same season with the women’s tennis team winning their second-straight championship in May. Saturday’s national championship is the 29th in school history and 20th since athletic director Jeremy Foley took over the program.
Photo Credit: PrettySporty