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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

UF is peaking just in time for the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships.

The Gators had what may be their best all-around performance of the indoor season this weekend.

The throwing corps went to the Iowa State Classic in Ames, Iowa, and continued its success, claiming one NCAA automatic-qualifying mark and two provisional-qualifying marks. The rest of the team gathered 14 provisional-qualifying marks and one automatic-qualifying mark in the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark.

"We made progress in a lot of areas," coach Mike Holloway said. "I thought the hurdlers and jumpers in particular got better."

In Iowa, junior Mariam Kevkhishvili led the charge with a toss of 56 feet, 10.75 inches to win the shot put. It was Kevkhishvili's fourth win and automatic-qualifying toss in as many meets this season.

"That's what Mariam does. We expect that from her," Holloway said. "She wants to get better each week, and she continues to do that."

In the same event, Keely Medeiros took third with a provisional-qualifying toss of 51 feet, 8.25 inches, and Beau Burroughs' shot-put throw of 58 feet, 9.25 inches, a provisional-qualifying distance, landed him in sixth place to round out UF's top performers in Iowa.

At the Tyson Invitational, the jumpers were the backbone of UF's performance.

Freshman Christian Taylor claimed the sole automatic-qualifying mark for UF in Arkansas with a leap of 26 feet, 3.75 inches to win the long jump. Taylor also posted a provisional-qualifying distance of 52 feet, 4.50 inches to finish fifth in the triple jump.

"When we were recruiting Christian last year, we knew he was a big-time guy and a big-time talent," Holloway said. "We expect those types of things from Christian, and more importantly Christian expects it from himself."

Shara Proctor followed Taylor's lead and set NCAA marks in both the long jump and the triple jump. The junior won the long jump with a provisional-qualifying leap of 20 feet, 9 inches and finished second in the triple jump, leaping 43 feet, 5.75 inches.

Freshman Alishea Usery had her best performance of the season in Arkansas. Usery posted provisional-qualifying marks in the preliminaries and finals of the women's 60-meter dash and in the finals of the 200-meter dash.

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Usery finished third in the 60-meter dash, posting a 7.38, and in the 200-meter dash she finished third with a time of 23.77 - her college-best in this event.

Some of UF's other provisional-qualifying marks came from senior event-winners. Carlos Phillips took the 800-meter run in 1:49.01, Jeremy Criscione claimed the men's 5,000-meter run in 14:09.05 and Kallinka Pitt took the 60-meter hurdles in 7.81. Pitt also posted a provisional-qualifying time of 7.88 in the preliminaries of the 60-meter hurdles.

Rounding out the provisional-qualifying marks for UF were Dennis Martin in the 60 hurdles (7.84), Kaitlin Shiver in the 1-mile run (4:46.30), Calvin Smith in the 400-meter dash (47.03) and the men's 4x400 relay team (3:09.02).

With the SEC Championships up next from Feb. 26 to March 1 in Lexington, Ky., UF is confident and firing on all cylinders.

"The great thing about our conference meet is we know it's going to be a great competition, and if we go in there, compete hard and at a high level, then everything will be fine," Holloway said.

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