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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The folks in Athens, Ga. had a front row seat for the Willie Perry show over the weekend.

The electrifying junior sprinter won the 200-meter dash for the second consecutive week Saturday at the Spec Towns Invitational.

"Willie had a big day," UF track and field coach Mike Holloway said. "I thought that he did a great job for us."

Perry raced his way to the win with a time of 20.76 seconds.

From his fresh all-white Nike track shoes to his signature shades, "Willie P," as he is often referred to, is a star in the making.

More Maurice Greene than Michael Johnson, Perry has the style and flair to take the track and field world by storm and, more importantly, the speed to back it up.

Slowed by hamstring injuries as a sophomore, Perry is beginning to look more and more like the record-setting sprinter he was as a freshman.

In 2006, Perry was named the Southeastern Conference Indoor and Outdoor Freshman of the Year and became one of only 20 athletes in the history of the world to run the 100-meter dash in 10.12 seconds before the age of 20.

"(Perry) is working harder, he's focused and he's healthy," Holloway said. "Last year, he had some injury problems and some focus issues, and this year, those problems just aren't there."

Perry also led the men's 4x100-meter relay team to its second win in as many weeks.

Its time of 39.82 seconds was good enough to earn the Gators a NCAA regional-qualifying mark in the event.

"We won the race, but we still have some work to do," Holloway said. "I expect the handoffs to be a lot more crisp and a lot quicker. They're just not doing it right now. I expect them to be faster than they have been."

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Not to be outdone, the women's 4x100-meter team notched a win of its own with a time of 44.31 seconds.

The time was a season-best for the women and punched their ticket to the NCAA regional meet.

"It was good to see the women's team run that well," Holloway said.

The group of Carlos Phillips, Calvin Smith, Eric Alberter and LaMarr Davis ran together for the first time and won the men's 4x400-meter relay.

Sophomore Jeremy Hall took the top spot in the 100-meter dash Saturday with a time of 10.24 seconds.

While most of the team spent the weekend in Athens, select members of the team made the trip to Tempe, Ariz. for the Sun Angel Track Classic.

The Gators picked up six NCAA regional marks at the meet and were headlined by Adam Montague's win in the javelin.

"Overall, the weekend went well," Holloway said. "We had some good performances."

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