Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

12 » MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining – “Failure” is not a dirty word]

11 » FLORIDA SWEEPS FSU IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL

For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Wambach, Martin, Lochte

1 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin on Saturday noted via his Twitter account that he would be having “minor surgery.” Most assumed the surgery Harvin mentioned was for his injured ankle, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season. However, Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN radio reported Sunday that Harvin actually went in for an emergency appendectomy. He is expected to be back to normal health in 2-3 weeks and will spend the entire offseason rehabbing his ankle and trying to get back on the field in the summer.

2 » The U.S. Women’s National Team concluded its 2012 campaign and its Fan Tribute tour across the United States with a 4-1 win over China in Boca Raton, FL on Saturday night. Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach scored twice in the friendly, increasing her international goal total to 152 and pulling within six of Mia Hamm, who holds the record with 158 career international goals. Florida head soccer coach Becky Burleigh was in attendance at the match, cheering on Wambach and former Gators defender Heather Mitts, who plans to retire. USA outscored China 10-1 in the three-game friendly series and concluded the 2012 campaign with a 28-1-3 record. Wambach ended 2012 with 27 goals (second-most in her career) and was the only member of the USWNT to start and play in all 32 games.

3 » Former Florida defensive end Chris Martin, who transferred in from USC but only spent his redshirt season at UF before forcibly transferring again to another school, spent the 2011 season playing for City College of San Francisco, the fourth institution he has attended since the beginning of his college career. The former five-star recruit, now a JUCO transfer, committed to the Kansas Jayhawks and head coach Charlie Weis on Saturday, according to JayhawkSlant.com ($). Martin is familiar with Weis from his days with the Gators and also has a relationship with strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple, a former Florida assistant who Weis hired when he left following the 2011 season.

4 » Former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte, who set a pair of world record times at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships this past week, also concluded the event with six gold medals and eight total medals, setting a record at a short-course championship event. Lochte took gold and set world records in the 100 Meter and 200 Meter Individual Medley and finished first as part of four-man American teams in the 4×100 Meter Freestyle, 4×200 Meter Freestyle and 4×100 Meter Medley Relays. He also captured silver in the 200 Meter Backstroke and bronze in the 100 Meter Butterfly. Lochte was fully or partially responsible for eight of the 27 medals won by the United States at the event. Fellow former Gators swimmer Conor Dwyer joined Lochte with a gold in the 4x200M Freestyle Relay and picked up an individual bronze in the 200M Freestyle. Jemma Lowe, swimming for Great Britain, won a pair of bronze medals in the 100 Meter and 200 Meter Butterfly. Lochte was the only swimmer to set a world record at the event.

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Ryan Lochte sets new world record in 100M I.M., his second record in as many days

Olympic champion and former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte set his second world record in as many days on Saturday at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

Lochte, already the owner of the short course world records in the 400 Meter Individual Medley and 200 Meter Individual Medley, set a new world record in the 100 Meter Individual Medley on Saturday by swimming the race in a blazing 50.71 seconds.

He now owns all three short course I.M. world records and has strengthened his hold as the best short-course swimmer alive and perhaps the best in the history of the sport.

Lochte became the first athlete to swim the 200M I.M. in under 1:50 when he set a new world record on Friday with a time of 1:49.63 in the event’s finals.

He now holds five world records. Lochte is also the record holder in the 200M I.M. (long course) and is part of an American team that owns the world record in the 4×200 Meter Freestyle Relay (long course).

This past summer, Lochte brought home two golds, two silvers and a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. He has corralled five Olympic gold medals and 30 World Championship gold medals (12 long course, 18 short course) and is the odds-on favorite to win gold in the 200M I.M. final on Sunday.

In 2012 alone, Lochte has set two world records and won six gold medals including two in the Olympics and four (so far) in these World Championships.

Photo Credit: USA Swimming

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Ryan Lochte sets new world record in 200M I.M.

Ryan Lochte is one of a number of former Florida Gators swimmers competing at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, but as of press time on Friday he is the only one of them to set a brand new world record at the event.

Lochte, already owner of both the long course and short course world record for the 200 Meter Individual Medley, bested his own time in the short course version of the event, swimming the race in a blazing 1:49.63 on Friday.

Previously setting the record two years ago at the same event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Lochte shaved 0.45 seconds off his time and became the first athlete in the history of the sport to swim the 200M I.M. in under 1:50.

Lochte holds four world records. He also has the men’s record in the 400 Meter Individual Medley (short course) and is part of an American team that holds the world record in the 4×200 Meter Freestyle Relay (long course).

Many in the aquatic world believe Lochte to be the best short-course swimmer in the history of the sport due to his dominance of the individual medley events. His latest world record time will only further those strongly-held opinions.

This past summer, Lochte brought home two golds, two silvers and a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. He now holds five Olympic gold medals and 30 World Championship gold medals (12 long course, 18 short course).

In 2012 alone, Lochte has won six gold medals including two in the Olympics and four in these World Championships.

Photo Credit: USA Swimming

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FOUR BITS: O’Dome, NFL Draft, Beal, Lochte

1 » University of Florida trustees on Friday approved a $10 million contribution as part of a $50 million renovation for the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. According to The Gainesville Sun’s Nathan Crabbe, who spoke with trustee Steven Scott, it will take 2-3 years to raise the remaining $40 million, so the O’Dome will not be looking much different any time soon. Eventually, the arena will feature an updated entrance; new seating areas including a permanent, non-retractable lower level, club seats and boxes; and additional concession stands and team shops. Florida will also improve the audio-visual elements inside the arena. The school just completed a $900,000 renovation on the structure in the summer of 2011 that included brand new seats in the lower bowl, wider aisles, handrails and more. UF also recently remodeled the gymnastics studio on site at the O’Dome. Read more | Pictures

2 » The 2013 NFL Draft is fast approaching and no Florida Gators player is generating more buzz right now than junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. On the heels of a fantastic junior campaign in which he started every game at his natural position, Floyd is unanimously considered a first-round pick in the draft. In fact, ESPN’s Todd McShay projected him as the No. 29 pick in his first mock draft ($) and Mel Kiper, Jr. lists him as the No. 23 overall player on his Big Board ($); both lists were released Wednesday. “Floyd’s versatility to play inside or kick outside to end makes him a great fit,” McShay wrote. “He can anchor against the run, chases plays all over the field and had a monster 2012 season.”

3 » The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, guard Bradley Beal came one decision away from never suiting up for the Washington Wizards. According to The Washington Post, the Wizards turned down a trade proposed by the Oklahoma City Thunder over the summer in which the team was looking to trade James Harden for Beal and forward Chris Singleton. Oklahoma City, which had been infatuated with Beal throughout the draft process and was rumored to be looking to trade up into the top three selections in order to pick him, wound up trading Harden to Houston after Washington rebuffed its advances.

4 » Former Gators swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte won a pair of gold medals on the first day of the FINA World Swimming Championships (short-course) in Istanbul, Turkey on Wednesday. Lochte took the 200 Meter Freestyle in 1:41.92 and was part of the 4×100 Freestyle Relay team that won gold in 3:06.40. The last short-course world championships were held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in 2010; Lochte won six gold medals including five in individual events. Fellow former Florida swimmers Conor Dwyer and Jemma Lowe also captured individual bronze medals on day one of the event.

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FOUR BITS: Lochte, Tebow, softball, Watkins

1 » Continuing his efforts in replacing Michael Phelps as the face of USA Swimming, former Florida Gators standout Ryan Lochte defeated the 14-time Olympic gold medalist by 0:00.35 to win the 200-meter freestyle at the World Swimming Championships in China. Lochte, the owner of four world records, took home gold in the event as he continues his trek to the 2012 London Olympics.

2 » The Denver Post reported early Tuesday that the Denver Broncos have been entertaining offers for veteran quarterback Kyle Orton after putting him on the trading block, setting the stage for former Gators signal caller Tim Tebow to take the reigns in Mile High. Tebow, who arrived for the first day of practice at 7:45 a.m. even though the doors did not open until 8:01 a.m., was the second player to make it to the facility (a practice squad offensive lineman got there minutes earlier).

3 » USA Softball won the 2011 World Cup of Softball on Monday, defeating Japan 6-4 in the finale of the event at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, OK. Florida junior right fielder Brittany Schutte contributed a sacrifice fly to plate a run in the contest; Gators senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie was also a member of the team.

4 » Friday Night Lights, though it has not directly resulted in any commitments as of press time, made quite an impression with a number of top players who visited for one of Florida’s biggest recruiting nights of the year. Four-star defensive tackle Carlos Watkins (Forest City, NC), the No. 8 player at his position and a member of the Rivals100, told The Gainesville Sun that the Gators bumped their way up his list, which also consists of Alabama, Clemson and South Carolina. Florida three-star safety commit Rhaheim Ledbetter (Boiling Springs, NC), Watkins’ friend and fellow North Carolina product, believes the player’s most recent trip may have turned him to the Orange & Blue. “I think Friday Night Lights might have just did it for him,” he said on Saturday. “I told him once you get down to Florida and you see that place, you’re gonna love it.” Ledbetter is recruiting both Watkins and five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC) hard, hoping both of his friends join him in Gainesville, FL. “He always gives me the Gator Chomp when he sees me,” Watkins said about Ledbetter’s recruiting tactics. “He wants all of us to come there.”

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