FOUR BITS: SEC titles, Lemmens, Kirby, Rollins

1 » Over the weekend, the Florida Gators men’s and women’s track and field teams both turned in second-place finishes at the 2011 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships. Though both squads fell short of team titles, Florida student-athletes took home seven individual SEC titles. Junior Gray Horn (decathlon), junior Will Claye (long jump, triple jump), senior Terrell Wilks (100-meter dash), freshman Fawn Miller (javelin) and junior Genevive LaCaze (steeplechase) all won SEC Championships, as did the men’s 4×100-meter relay team. Horn now holds the unique distinction as only the second athlete in SEC history to win three consecutive league decathlon titles. His total of 7,828 points over the weekend also set a school record for the event.

2 » As part of the continuing series “Parting Shots” on InsideTheGators.com, I sat down with former Gators defensive end Duke Lemmens for an extensive interview which spanned his entire career in the orange and blue. Lemmens spoke with me candidly about a number of topics including former head coach Urban Meyer, his place at Florida, thoughts of transferring and much more. Part one of the two-part series is available free to OGGOA readers. You can check it out by clicking here.

3 » If it was up to Florida’s four-star running back commitment Mike Davis (Stone Mountain, GA), all of his top high school teammates would be committing to the Gators this year. Though some have already made declarations for other colleges, four-star linebacker Raphael Kirby (Stone Mountain, GA) is set to announce his decision at his team’s spring game Tuesday night and is believed to have Florida as his leader. Kirby told InsideTheGators.com that both offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and offensive line coach Frank Verducci will be in attendance Tuesday for the “first time to see me in person.” Kirby also had this to say about the Gators:

“I had a great visit when I went down there it was awesome, I got to meet all the coaches and go into The Swamp. The Swamp was awesome. I love the atmosphere down there I could definitely see myself fitting in there. I have two teammates there so it would be cool to go there with them; we have definitely talked about it. As far as football goes they have a great defense that really gives you an edge when it comes to getting into the NFL. I like Coach Muschamp as well as he is a very straight forward coach who has a lot of intensity about himself. He will have an immediate impact on the program.”

4 » He may not have been offered by Florida this time around, but Florida State University School DE/LB Keviron Rollins (Tallahassee, FL) plans to play for the Gators sooner than later. Rollins, who officially committed to Dean College (a junior college in Massachusetts) on Monday, told the Tallahassee Democrat that he hopes to be wearing orange and blue after he graduates from Dean College in two years. “My vision is I’m going to go up there for two years and then after that I’m going to transfer to UF,” he said. “I’m a diehard Gators fan. That’s my vision.”

Extra BIT » Former Florida first baseman Matt LaPorta had a great night for the Cleveland Indians. He was interviewed on ESPN‘s SportsCenter afterward:

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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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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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Taylor wins 2010 NCAA Outdoor Triple Jump title

The track and field teams will continue to work hard to bring home the event’s overall titles over the next few days, but Florida Gators sophomore jumper Christian Taylor made an initial splash Wednesday by capturing the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championship in men’s triple jump at Hayward Field in Eugene, OR.

The two-time defending NCAA Indoor Champion in the triple jump, Taylor leapt 17.09m/56-1 (+2.9) to set the 2010 American mark and win the title – the first in school history.

“Getting the outdoor title means a lot to me,” Taylor said. “Heading into the finals, I knew I needed to step up and get the job done and I’m glad I was able to do it.”

As a team, the Gators men’s squad (the 2010 NCAA Indoor Champions) is in second place through two events. Their 13 points are one behind the leaders, Texas A&M.

Also in action Wednesday were Florida’s sprinters. Sophomore Jeff Demps led the men’s 4×100-meter relay team – including junior Chris Rainey, senior Jeremy Hall and junior Terrell Wilks – to an event-leading 38.94-second time in the preliminary round, advancing the unit to the finals at 1:11 p.m. on Saturday.

Demps, who won the 2010 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championship in the men’s 100-meter dash, came in second during preliminaries in the event at 10.15 seconds (+2.2). He will compete in the event finals at 8:25 p.m. on Friday.

Senior sprinter Calvin Smith also won a trip to the finals Wednesday; he advanced in the men’s 400-meter dash with a time of 45.64 seconds – good for fourth. Smith will race just after Demps, at 9:25 p.m. on Friday.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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FOUR BITS: Softball up one, doubles falls, track

1 » No. 4 Florida Gators softball (47-8) began its quest for a berth in the 2010 NCAA Women’s College World Series with an 8-0 shutout of the No. 13 Arizona State Sun Devils (44-16) while hosting the Gainesville Super Regional on Saturday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Junior starter Stephanie Brombacher (33-6) has been dynamite in the postseason; she recorded her 11th shutout of the year, pitching a complete game and only yielding four hits. Junior outfielder Kelsey Bruder (2-3) and senior third baseman Corrie Brooks (2-2) each led the Gators with three RBI, while freshman designated player Brittany Schutte (2-3) added two. Florida hopes to conclude Super Regional action by prevailing in the second game, Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

2 » The Gators’ No. 5 doubles pair of senior Marrit Boonstra and freshman Allie Will was eliminated from competition for the 2010 NCAA National Championship Saturday, falling 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 to Tennessee’s No. 1 duo of Natalie Pluskota and Caitlin Whoriskey at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA. Florida tennis – both men’s and women’s – has now been completely removed from NCAA competition for this season.

Find out which Gators qualified for the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships and what sport Georgia is going after Florida in…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Softball up one, doubles falls, track

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FOUR BITS: Baseball wins another, five more qualify, doubles advances, softball begins

1 » In their second-straight elimination game, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (42-14), the top seed in the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament, topped the fifth-seed Vanderbilt Commodores (41-17) 5-2 on Friday night at Regions Park in Hoover, AL. Freshman starter Hudson Randall (7-3) earned the win after giving up one earned run over 5.1 innings; freshman reliever Steven Rodriguez tossed two shutout innings for his first save of the season. Junior sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (2-5) led the way for the Gators offensively with a home run and two RBI; freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson (1-2) added a RBI of his own. Florida moves on to face Alabama on Saturday at 2 p.m. in their third consecutive elimination game. The contest will air live on Sun Sports and ESPN3.com.

2 » Five more members of Gators track and field advanced to the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships on Friday while competing at the 2010 NCAA East Preliminary Round at Irwin Belk Track. Junior thrower Kemal Mesic (first – men’s shot put) and sprinters sophomore Jeff Demps (fourth – men’s 100m dash), junior Terrell Wilks (ninth – men’s 100m dash), senior Calvin Smith (second – men’s 400m dash) and freshman Tony McQuay (10th – men’s 400m dash) are all earning trips to Eugene, OR, to compete for titles. They join the seven other Florida track & field stars who qualified on Thursday.

3 » The No. 5-ranked Florida doubles pair of senior Marrit Boonstra and freshman Allie Will have advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2010 NCAA National Championship after squeaking out a three-set victory over Stetson’s pair of Carolina de los Santos and Valentina Galbrini – 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 – at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA. As a singles competitor, No. 8 will fell 6-1, 6-5 to Georgia’s No. 12-ranked Chelsey Gullickson earlier in the day.

4 » No. 4 Gators softball (46-8) is set to begin 2010 NCAA Super Regional action Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when they host the No. 13 Arizona State Sun Devils (44-15) in up to a three-game series at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The first game will air live on both ESPN and ESPN3.com, while the second game will take place on Sunday at 3:30 p.m., airing live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com. Game three, if necessary, will be played Sunday evening.

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SAAC holds first annual Florida Letterman Awards

The University of Florida’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) held the first annual Florida Letterman Awards on Monday at the Phillips Center in Gainesville, FL. Check out the winners of each award…after the break:
Continue Reading » SAAC holds first annual Florida Letterman Awards

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FOUR BITS: Schintzius, Demps, Walker, Addazio

1 » Former Florida Gators All-American center and NBA first-round draft pick Dwayne Schintzius is in the middle of an extensive battle with leukemia. Schintzius, 41, is the Gators’ fifth all-time leading scorer (1,624 points); the team’s career blocks leader; the only player in SEC history with more than 1,000 points, 800 rebounds, 250 assists and 250 blocks; and a nine-year NBA veteran who was drafted No. 24 overall by the San Antonio Spurs in 1990. He received a bone marrow transplant on Jan. 12 from his brother Travis, and his family prays each day that his condition will improve. You can read more about his past career and present condition here and here.

2 » Florida sophomore running back Jeff Demps, a freshman as a track and field sprinter, was awarded his second SEC Male Freshman of the Week award by the conference on Tuesday. Demps, who won the men’s 60-meter dash at the Tyson Invitational last week, set a NCAA automatic-qualifying time of 6.59, tying teammate Terrell Wilks for the school record. His time in the 60 is the fastest in the nation so far this season and ranks 15th in the world.

Two more BITS on Erving Walker and Steve Addazio after the jump!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Schintzius, Demps, Walker, Addazio

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