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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Freshman sprinter Tony McQuay is hoping to avoid more tears this weekend.

In their final meet of the regular season, the UF men’s and women’s sprinters and jumpers will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., for this weekend’s Tyson Invitational. It’s the last opportunity for the Gators to match up against some of the best athletes in the nation before the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships.

Even against some of the elite competition, McQuay is one of several Gators expecting to win.

“When I don’t win, I cry,” McQuay said. “I know I can beat people. When I lose, it breaks everything inside of me.”

In order to contend with athletes like Texas A&M’s Tabarie Henry and Georgia’s Torrin Lawrence, McQuay said he has to take control of the race early.

“I want to set the pace,” McQuay said. “I’m not trying to just hold on. If someone passes me, he’s going to give all he’s got.”

McQuay will also run the first leg of the 4x400-meter relay, as the Gators look to contend with Baylor and Texas A&M.

“I don’t want anyone to have to chase. I want a big lead,” McQuay said. “I know I don’t have to win it by myself because I have just as much talent behind me.”

That includes fellow freshman Jovon Toppin, 13-time All-American Calvin Smith and defending NCAA triple-jump champion Christian Taylor. The unit has already qualified for the NCAA championships in March.

Women’s jumper Shara Proctor has also qualified for the NCAA finals after her 13.88m/45-6.50 last weekend at Virginia Tech, the eighth-farthest leap in collegiate history. She qualified for the finals in the long jump as well and is looking to improve on her marks in Arkansas.

“I’m just trying to go out there and not go too hard on myself,” Proctor said. “I don’t want to peak too early, and I want to get more technical in my form.”

While the sprinters and jumpers compete in Arkansas, the distance team will match up against some of the elite units in the nation in the Husky Classic at the University of Washington.

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The throwers, including five-time All-American Mariam Kevkhishvili, will travel to Ames, Iowa, for the ISU Classic to take advantage of Lied Recreational Center, one of the premier facilities for throwers in the country.

UF coach Mike Holloway said he divided the team for the weekend so they could compete where each unit would match up against the best competition possible.

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