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Sunday, June 23, 2024

After helping his team nearly win an NCAA national title earlier this month, Omar Craddock decided to win the next best thing: a USA junior championship.

Craddock, a freshman who won All-America honors in the triple jump this past season at Florida, jumped a personal-record leap of 16.56 meters to claim a USA junior championship and qualify for the World Junior Championships.

In all, six current UF athletes participated this weekend at the USA Track and Field Championships and USA Track and Field Junior Championships hosted by Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Craddock struggled at the start, scratching on his first two attempts, but his third jump became the third-best leap in school history.

“I sat down and really thought about it,” Craddock said of his last jump. “I tried to visualize my whole set: my run-through, my jump off the board, everything. I pretty much just had to think about it and go get it.”

It meant even more to him to win a junior championship because he had been unable to compete in the junior championships during his last three years of high school due to injuries and a near-death experience.

“This is like the Olympics for me,” he said.

Competing in the USA Track and Field Championships, fellow UF jumper Christian Taylor also had a good weekend. The NCAA Outdoor and Indoor men’s triple jump champion placed second in the triple jump and 12th in the long jump.

All-American sprinter Calvin Smith placed sixth overall in the men’s 400-meter dash final, recording a time of 45.27. Fellow senior sprinter R.J. Anderson also competed in the 400-meter dash, but he did not advance out of the qualifying heats.

Florida had two of its women’s athletes also compete this past weekend.

Freshman sprinter Lanie Whittaker ran in the junior women’s 400-meter dash, but she placed 20th in the first round with a time of 55.79 and did not advance.

Ugonna Ndu, a freshman hurdler, also competed in the junior championships placing fourth overall in the 400-meter hurdles. Her time of 59.94 qualified her for the World Junior Championships.

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