The year was 2009. Coach Mike Holloway and his current assistant Erin Tucker were scouting four sprinters who would make Florida a threat for years to come.
With three of the four sprinters living in Florida — the other from New Jersey — Holloway and his program had a great opportunity at snagging them all to compete for the Gators for their collegiate careers.
Now recognized as one of the best 4x400-meter relays squads in the country, Hugh Graham Jr., Dedric Dukes, Najee Glass and Arman Hall have seen their share of success while donning the Gator uniform.
“I remember when Hugh and Dedric were seniors and Gino and Najee were juniors (in high school),” Holloway said. “Coach Tucker and I sat down and talked and looked at the list, and our goal was to get four of the top five guys in the country.
“Our goal was to get four of those five guys here, and we did. We knew we’d have something special with those guys.”
The quartet of sprinters have accumulated personal records on several UF top-10 lists, are the defending national outdoor champions and recently set the second-fastest collegiate time in the 4x4.
But the core group has also accomplished noteworthy feats individually.
Hall is the 200-meter dash Southeastern Conference indoor champion. Dukes was named USTFCCCA’s Division I National Athlete of the Week.
Graham was one of four athletes in 2013 to receive three USTFCCCA D1 First Team All-America accolades outdoors, and Glass is an All-American who just set his personal record (21.05) in the 200m at Florida Relays.
Furthermore, Hall, Dukes, Graham and Glass hold the Florida record in the 4x4 with a time of 2:59.73, which was also the world-leading time this season edging out Gainesville Elite.
“You have to give credit to all four guys,” Holloway said. “You also have to thank the elite group that ran with us pulling us to that.”
What’s even more special about this group of athletes is that they didn’t realize they would clock a sub-three minute time this early in the season and still have a chance of breaking that record come outdoor nationals.
“We knew we would have something special with those guys,” Holloway said. “That’s what you saw, four very talented athletes, four very strong competitors and they just go out there and get after it. I’m very proud of them.”
Follow Lawrence Laguna on Twitter @lagunalawrence