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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

It's home sweet home for the UF track and field program this weekend.

The Gators will host the 64th annual Pepsi Florida Relays Friday and Saturday at Percy Beard Track.

The meet is the lone home competition of the outdoor season for the Gators.

UF track and field coach Mike Holloway believes that competing on its home track will give his team the advantage in this weekend's meet.

"Being able to go out and run on the same track that we practice on every day is definitely an advantage," said Holloway. "Just knowing the track makes a big difference."

The meet is typically one of the largest in the south, and more than 40 teams will be represented.

After the first two weeks of outdoor competition, the Gators have racked up 27 regional-qualifying marks.

"We have actually exceeded our expectations so far this season," Holloway said. "Our goal is to qualify an athlete in every event."

Sparked by Willie Perry's stellar 2008 season, the men have led the way with 18 of the regional-qualifying marks.

"We expect that from Willie. He's one of the best sprinters that we have ever had here at the University of Florida," said Holloway. "Willie has had some troubles over the past year and a half, but he's really got his act together. If he stays focused and keeps doing the things that he is supposed to be doing, then you will see some special things from him this year."

Holloway has lofty goals for the junior.

"I expect him to be an All-American again this season, and I expect him to be competing for national titles," said Holloway.

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Perry's time of 20.76 seconds in the 200-meter dash is the fastest in the nation this year.

The women, who have acquired nine qualifying marks so far, have been fueled by Lakecia Ealey.

The senior ranks fifth in the country in both the 100 and 200-meter dash.

Freshman Rebecca Lowe has held the nation's best time in the 5,000-meter event for two consecutive weeks.

The native Australian posted the nation's top mark of 16:19.97 in the season-opening Snowbird Invitational hosted by Florida State.

The Gators have struggled all season in the hurdling events and have only managed to register one win all year.

Holloway hopes that he can see some improvement in this weekend's meet.

"The hurdles are definitely an area that we would like to improve in, but I expect to see improvement across the board," said Holloway. "We expect to get better each weekend."

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