Florida Gators men’s track & field wins first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history

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

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LaCaze leads Florida to 12 titles at SEC Outdoors

Florida Gators track & field was unsuccessful in its bid to win a team title over the weekend but 12 members of the team combined to win 12 individual titles at the 2012 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships in Baton Rouge, LA.

Senior distance runner Genevieve LaCaze led the way for Florida with three individual titles in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:13.99), 1,500-meter run (4:13.44) and 5,000-meter run (16:26.38). She is the first student-athlete in SEC history to win both the steeplechase and 1,500-meters after picking up the second title early on Sunday and similarly became the first student-athlete in conference history to win all three championships after finishing the 5,000-meters later Sunday afternoon.

LaCaze is also the first UF female to win the Commissioner’s Trophy (awarded to the highest point scorer) since 2002 and tied the school women’s record for most points scored at an individual meet (30).

Junior jumper Omar Craddock continued the Gators’ domination of the triple jump, capturing the outdoor championship with a mark of 54-08.75. Florida has won the SEC Outdoor title in the triple jump three years in a row and both the SEC Indoor title and NCAA Indoor championship four-straight years. Craddock has completed a trifecta by winning three already in 2012 and will look for the sweep later this season.

Also finding success in the triple jump on Sunday was freshman jumper Ciarra Brewer, who won the women’s title with a mark of 44-6.75 – the best in the nation this season. UF has won four of the last five women’s triple jumps a the SEC Outdoors.

Florida’s men captured five more titles with junior sprinter Tony McQuay winning the 400-meter dash (45.48), sophomore thrower Stipe Zunic winning the javelin (77.87m/255-06), junior thrower Jeremy Postin winning the hammer (68.18m/223-8), junior jumper Dwight Barbiasz winning the high jump (2.25m/7-4.50) and the foursome of freshman Dedric Dukes, freshman Hugh Graham, junior Leonardo Seymore and McQuay winning the 4×400-meter relay (3:03.44).

The Gators’ women contributed two more championships as freshman jumper Taylor Burke won the high jump (1.83m/6-0) and sophomore multi-event participant Brittany Harrell brought home the heptathlon (5,838 points) title.

Neither the men nor women won a team title with the men finishing in fourth overall and the women finishing second after getting edged 161.5-138.0 by LSU. Florida’s men’s team captured the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championship, while the women’s team won the 2012 SEC Indoor Championship.

The Gators were without seniors sprinter Jeff Demps and heptathlete Gray Horn in the meet. Demps (hamstring) was injured and had to rest up for the NCAA Outdoor Championships, while Horn was suspended for the meet after being arrested and charged with driving under the influence in April. Their absences made it nearly impossible for the Florida men to have a legitimate shot at the team title.

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No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track & field captures third-straight NCAA Indoor Championship

No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track & field made history on Saturday by winning their third-straight national title at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships at Jacksons Indoor Track in Nampa, ID.

Florida posted 52 team points for the second-straight year to defeat the remaining top four including Arkansas (47), Arizona (41), Arizona State (31) and LSU (27).

With the victory, UF Mike Holloway became the third head coach in NCAA history to lead his team to at least three-straight men’s track & field titles, joining Arkansas’ John McDonnell and UTEP’s Ted Banks.

Leading the way for the Gators were individual national championship performances by juniors sprinter Jeff Demps and jumper Omar Craddock.

Demps won the 60-meter dash for the third-straight season with a time of 6.56 seconds, 0.04 seconds slower than the 6.52-second time that he achieved in the preliminaries on Friday. Demps’ 6.52-second run was not only a personal best but also a school record and collegiate-leading time. He posted four of the top five collegiate times in 2012 and became the first three-time champion in the event since Pittsburgh’s lee McCray won the 55-meter dash in 1986-88. Demps remains the only Florida athlete to ever win the event.

Craddock captured the triple jump with a personal-best distance of 16.75m/54-11.50, making it four years in a row that an athlete representing the Gators won the event (Christian Taylor, Will Claye).

Senior heptathlete Gray Horn was also in the process of winning an individual national title for Florida when he went down with an injury and was forced to withdraw from the men’s heptathalon. At the time of his withdrawal, Horn was up 18 points on his fellow competitors with two events to go.

Though the indoor season is now over for the Gators, the 2012 outdoor track and field season begins next Saturday with the UCF Black and Gold Challenge on March 17.

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Florida women win SEC Indoor track & field title

No. 6 Florida Gators women’s track and field captured their seventh conference indoor title and second since 2010 on Sunday, winning the 2012 Southeastern Conference Indoor Championship in Lexington, KY with 132 total team points.

Florida took down the No. 2 LSU Tigers (109) and No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks (99) in the women’s competition for the school’s first league title of the 2011-12 season. The No. 1 Razorbacks (151) got a measure of revenge on the men’s side by topping the No. 2 Gators (137) and No. 24 Georgia Bulldogs for the other SEC Indoor title.

Despite Florida winning the women’s championship, only one Gators student-athlete won an individual title on that side of the competition. Sophomore distance runner Florence Ngetich captured the 5,000-meter title in 16:12.64.

The men, on the other hand, lost the overall championship but won three individual titles. Sophomore hurdler Eddie Lovett defended his 60-meter hurdles title with a time of 7.78 seconds, junior jumper Omar Craddock won Florida’s fourth-straight SEC Indoor triple jump championship with a distance of 16.44m/53-11.25, and senior thrower Kemal Mesic won the shot put title (19.89m/65-3.25) for the third SEC Indoor meet in a row.

One significant disappointment on the men’s side came as junior sprinter Jeff Demps failed to win the 60-meter dash for the third consecutive season, finishing his attempt in 6.64 seconds, 0.01 seconds behind the victor.

Florida has two more meets next month before competing in the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships from March 9-10.

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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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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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SIX BITS: gymnastics, track, tennis, softball

1 » Don’t bother asking them to, because it does not look like No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (6-0, 3-0 SEC) plans to slow down anytime soon. Drawing nearly 7,000 fans to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Friday, Florida took down the previously undefeated No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1, 1-1 SEC) 197.55-195.45. Gators freshman Mackenzie Caquatto led the team with two event wins (uneven bars, balance beam) and took the all-around title with a score of 39.575, while senior Maranda Smith captured the vault event and sophomore Marissa King won the floor exercise. Florida will be tested once again on Saturday as they face No. 4 Georgia on the road.

2 » Gators sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps and junior jumper Christian Taylor became the fourth and fifth members of the team, respectively, to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships after posting strong individual showings over the weekend at the Virginia Tech Elite Meet. Demps recorded a 6.57 in the men’s 60-meter dash, the second-fastest time in the NCAA this season, during his first race of the year. Taylor won the triple jump with a mark of 16.61m/54-6 for the sixth-straight time in his last six competitions. The duo join jumpers junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock and junior heptathlete Gray Horn as Florida’s current NCAA automatic-qualifiers off the No. 1 men’s track & field team.

Read the rest of this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: gymnastics, track, tennis, softball

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SIX BITS: track, swimming, gymnastics, tennis

1 » Capturing five events while taking home two NCAA automatic-qualifying marks, No. 2 Florida Gators track and field had a great weekend at the Texas A&M Challenge. Junior heptathlete Gray Horn and junior transfer jumper Will Claye each registered the qualifiers, with Horn registering a personal best 5,747 and Claye posting a season-leading 16.86m/55-3.25 in the triple jump. The duo joins sophomore jumper Omar Craddock, who has already registered his own automatic qualifying time.

2 » No. 5/8 Florida men’s/women’s swimming and diving swept the No. 7/10 Tennessee Volunteers on Senior Day at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Saturday. The men won 198-101, while the women were victorious 180-120. According to the University of Florida, “The 97-point victory for the UF men is the most lopsided win over UT in school history, while being the most points scored by the Gator men and the largest margin of victory in a one-day dual meet since a 208-88 conquest over Florida Atlantic on Jan. 26, 2001. The 198 points were the most in a one-day SEC dual meet since outscoring South Carolina 248-68 on Oct. 27, 2000, which was also the last time the men…had a 90-plus point margin of victory in SEC competition.”

Both teams also faced the Indian River State College Pioneers on Sunday and were victorious 165-120 and 157-106, respectively.

3 » Facing the No. 13 N.C. State Wolfpack (1-2) and No. 23 Penn State Nittany Lions (1-4, 0-2 Big Ten), No. 1 Florida gymnastics (5-0, 2-0 SEC) won the fifth annual Gators Link to Pink meet on Friday. The Gators posted 197.50 points compared to 195.3 for the Nittany Lions and 194.075 for the Wolfpack. Florida won all five events with freshman Alaina Johnson capturing four (vault, uneven bars, floor exercise, all-around) and sophomore Ashanée Dickerson bringing home one (balance beam).

4 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (2-0) swept a pair of matches over the weekend, defeating the Central Florida Knights (1-1) 7-0 and the College of Charleston Cougars (0-1) 6-0 at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The No. 1 duo of sophomore Allie Will and freshman Sofie Oyen won its doubles match during both contests. Also victorious in both of their singles matches were No. 7 Will, No. 22 freshman Olivia Janowicz and No. 96 Oyen. No. 28 freshman Alex Cercone won on Friday, and No. 30 junior Joanna Mather did not finish her contest on Saturday.

5 » No. 7 Gators men’s tennis (4-0) was equally successful with back-to-back wins over the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 4-0 and N.C. State 6-1 in Gainesville. The No. 11 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and junior Nassim Slilam won its doubles match in both events. No. 4 Lacroix and Slilam each captured singles wins on Friday and Saturday. No. 52 sophomore Bob Van Overbeek also won singles matches both days, while No. 28 sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. won his opportunity on Saturday.

6 » After starting the season strong, Florida women’s basketball (13-9, 3-5 SEC) dropped three-straight contests in mid-January but ended that losing streak with a 70-64 home victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide (11-10, 0-8 SEC) on Thursday. Freshman guard Jaterra Bonds and sophomore forward Jennifer George each scored a team-high 12 points in the victory.

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