With one event left in the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Florida’s women’s track and field team was four points away from its first podium finish since 2014.
As in many of its important meets this season, the team’s fate came down to the very last event: the 4x400 relay.
Freshman Taylor Manson was set to leadoff for the Gators and pass the baton to junior Sharrika Barnett. She handed it to freshman Nikki Stephens, who passed the baton to senior Taylor Sharpe.
A boggled final handoff that involved both Florida’s and Southern California’s teams left the group in fifth place to conclude the race, one that ended in USC’s Kendall Ellis coming from behind in the final seconds to steal the win and give her school the team title.
For the second consecutive year, UF just missed the podium in Eugene, Oregon, this time four points behind fourth-place Kentucky.
However, it was a solid outing for a lot of the Gators’ individual athletes in the fifth place team finish.
Junior Yanis David finished second in the triple jump after taking third in her previous two NCAA Championships. Her best mark was 13.95 meters. Senior Darrielle McQueen finished eighth in the same event, and it was the first time she scored in the triple jump at the NCAA Outdoors.
Sharrika Barnett ran a fourth-place time of 51.16 in the women’s 400, finishing one spot better than she did at nationals last year.
Stephens capped her debut outdoor season off with a sixth-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles. She finished the race with a time of 57.80.
With the best performance of her young collegiate career, freshman Amanda Froeynes grabbed fifth in the heptathlon with 5,794 accumulated points, eclipsing her personal best by a 131-point margin. She took second in the the high jump, the javelin throw third in the 800-meter race.
The Tonsberg, Norway, native just missed the school record of 5,838, but she became third Gator since Brittany Harrell in 2013 and Heidi Mann in 1987 to score in the NCAA heptathlon.
It was a much closer race than expected.
Florida track and field ends its outdoor season with one individual NCAA title (Grant Holloway- 110-meter hurdles), three silver medals and two third-place awards over the four-day meet.
You can follow Alanis Thames on Twitter @alanisthames or contact her at [email protected].