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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

In a way, UF was victorious in the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships. The team didn't win the championship trophy in Lexington, Ky., but it got the next best thing - experience.

With the NCAA Indoor Championships coming up on March 13-14, UF's SEC Championship performance had an impact beyond the final standings. It gave the Gators confidence and a sense of where they stand among some of the elite teams in the country.

To qualify for competition in College Station, Texas, next weekend, 15 of UF's athletes will participate in two last-chance meets this weekend.

Nine of the 15 athletes will head to Blacksburg, Va., for the Virginia Tech Qualifier, while the remaining six will travel to the Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend, Ind.

In Kentucky, UF's men faced seven of the top 25 teams in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll and placed second, while the women went up against five of the top 25 and finished fourth.

When the NCAA Indoor Championships begin in Texas, UF will face some of those SEC teams, and their experience at the SEC Championships will prepare them for the most important part of the season.

"The SEC meet is great preparation for the NCAA meet," coach Mike Holloway said. "We're, in my mind, easily the toughest league in America, and if you can get through the SEC, when you get to the NCAA meet, it's the usual suspects, the same characters that you see all the time."

When UF faces those familiar opponents at the NCAA Championships, the team knows a little bit of what to expect and can focus on the things that prevented them from finishing in first place against SEC teams last weekend.

Holloway said the team is pleased but not satisfied with its efforts in Kentucky, so it is "just working on the small technical things" before the NCAA Championships begin.

When the Gators arrive in Texas next weekend, they will shift their attention to the task at hand - the NCAA Championships - but Holloway wants them to maintain the same focus that carried them to SEC Championship success.

"The thing that we have to understand is that when we get to the NCAA meet, we have to just go there and do what we've always done," Holloway said.

"We can't go there and worry about other teams and what they're doing."

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