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Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Gators are taking it outside.

The UF track and field team will kick off the outdoor season by making the short trip to Tallahassee on Friday for the Snow Bird Invitational hosted by Florida State.

The Gators head into the meet coming off a successful indoor campaign in which both the men's and women's teams finished eighth at the NCAA Indoor Championships and 14 athletes earned All-American honors.

"Based on the athletes we have here, based on the weapons that we went to war with last weekend, I thought that we did a good job," UF coach Mike Holloway said.

Sophomore Mariam Kevkhishvili captured the Gators' lone national championship of the indoor season, winning the shot put with a school-record throw of 17.83 meters.

The women's squad surprised many during the indoor season, breaking five school records on the year.

Senior sprinter Lakecia Ealey broke the school record in the 60-meter dash four times during the course of the season, including bettering her mark on consecutive days at the NCAA Indoor Championships and setting a final mark of 7.23 seconds.

Holloway said that while he was happy with the direction the program is going, there is still a great deal that needs to be improved.

"Overall, as a staff, we are pleased, but by no means satisfied," Holloway said. "We don't strive to be eighth in the country. We strive to be the best. That's our goal."

Holloway reiterated his goal of making UF a complete track and field program. Because of its history of success in the sprints, UF has long been viewed as simply a "sprint program."

UF begins the outdoor season highly ranked on both the men's and women's sides.

The men head into the season ranked No. 6 in the nation while the women start out at No.10.

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"We are a better outdoor team than we are an indoor team on both sides," Holloway said.

The meet marks the first of two trips that the Gators will make to Tallahassee in consecutive weeks.

Select members of the UF track team will also be competing at the Florida State relays next weekend.

Holloway said that his goal for the outdoor season is a top-five finish for both the men and the women.

This is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

The Gators pick up senior Wes Stockbarger and junior Adam Montague for outdoor competition.

Montague, an All-American in 2007, is considered one of the best javelin throwers in the country.

UF also returns a 4x100 relay team that placed 16th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last season.

"The 4x100 has always been a strong relay for us," Holloway said.

Holloway is excited about the outdoor season and looks forward to the chance to get outside again.

"Running outside is a lot easier than running inside," Holloway said. "We train outside everyday, and we just want to get out in the sunshine."

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