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Sunday, June 23, 2024

For Will Claye, Omar Craddock and Christian Taylor, qualifying for the NCAA meet at season’s end isn’t a big deal — it’s expected.

It comes with the territory when working with a jumps coach like Dick Booth.

Booth, currently in his second season with the Gators, has coached 47 individual national champions, 142 All-Americans and 11 Olympians since starting his career at Arkansas in 1978.

“I’ve been fortunate enough throughout my career to have that opportunity (to coach talented athletes), but maybe not a better group than this,” Booth said. “These guys could be historical in what they accomplish as a group.”

One of those national titles belongs to Taylor, who won the triple jump at the NCAA Indoor Championships under Booth’s tutelage last season.

“He’s great because he’s somebody that’s always going to keep you on your toes,” Taylor said. “There’s never a dull moment with him.”

Although these jumpers expected to automatically qualify for the NCAA meet, they are  pleased with their efforts so far.

“It’s good to know that I’m in the meet, but I’m not going to sit back,” Claye said. “Last year I didn’t make it to nationals, so I feel like this is going to be a good year for me.”

Claye, who transferred to Florida from Oklahoma last August, won the triple jump at the 2009 Outdoor NCAA Championship meet.

Craddock, a sophomore, will be competing in his first indoor NCAA meet after posting a personal-best 16.19m/53-1.50 in the triple jump at the Nittany Lion Challenge on  Jan. 15.

“I work with two of the best jumpers in the nation,” Craddock said. “That’s pretty much my motivation to get out here, keep going, and trying to get on their level.”

Automatic-qualifying marks in the season’s first three meets haven’t been the Florida’s jumpers only accomplishments this season.

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Claye and Taylor, along with sprinter Jeff Demps, were named to the most recent watch list for The Bowerman award, an honor that Taylor describes as the “Heisman” of track and field.

UF is the only school with more than one athlete in contention for the honor.

“I haven’t won it yet, but it’s an honor to be on the list,” Claye said. “But it’s just an award. I still have to go out there and compete.”

Florida will travel to three different locations this weekend: the Tyson Invitational (Fayetteville, Ark.), the Iowa State Classic (Ames, Iowa), and the Husky Classic (Seattle, Wash.).

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