The Gators were cooler than the weather on Friday at the Florida Relays.
Amid overcast skies and a temperature barely touching 60, Sean Obinwa, Dedric Dukes, Taylor Burke, Mark Parrish, and Marija Vucenovic all won events.
Obinwa edged out Georgia sophomore Charles Grethen by .29 seconds. Obinwa’s time of 1:47.66 is currently the country’s fastest in the men’s 800m this year and an outdoor personal best, but just shy of his overall personal best of 1:47.22 set at last year’s Texas A&M Challenge.
“I haven’t ran outdoors in two years, so that was a nice little opener for me,” Obinwa said. “Overall, I think the race went really well. I got out good. I’m just thankful that I got the win. I’m looking forward to going back and maybe fixing a few things in the race and getting ready for the season.”
Dukes ran an all-conditions personal best in the men’s 200m, winning the event with a wind-aided time of 20.38. Dukes beat out Southern California junior Aaron Brown by .26 seconds, although the two ran in separate heats. After finishing ninth in the men’s 100m dash earlier in the day, Dukes was pleased to redeem himself in the 200m.
“I felt pretty good, kind of tight, but I just wanted to come back and do well in the 200,” Dukes said. “I was a little upset with myself with the 100, but I put it behind me and just focused on my 200 race. This is my best race and I just wanted to get a great opening and finish the season strong.”
Freshman Arman Hall also placed in the men’s 200m. By posting a time of 20.71 seconds, Hall also had an all-conditions personal best while finishing third in the event.
Burke won the women’s high jump in dramatic fashion. With multiple competitors tied at 1.76m for the top spot, a jump off ensued. A jump off consists of continual increases or decreases in jump height until only one jumper succeeds. In this case, Burke was that one jumper.
“There was a lot of good competitors here, and to win it in ‘jump-off fashion’ was exciting,” Burke said. “I’ve never actually been in a jump off, so to come out with a W was really fun.”
Like Obinwa, Parrish also set a time that is currently the country’s fastest. A personal-best time of 8:42.38 -- good for 6th all-time at UF -- fueled Parrish to a convincing men’s steeplechase victory, with his lead getting as large as 50m at times.
“This is a great opportunity for the rest of the season,” Parrish said. “It was great to get out here and just go ahead and race. I felt good, so I just went for it, and I felt pretty strong the entire way. I still have a lot left to do, but I’m really, really happy where I am. I’m really excited about the rest of the season.”
With a collegiate-leading distance of 55.43m, freshman Vucenovic easily won the women’s javelin throw, beating the runner-up by over 5 meters. After winning her first collegiate competition at the Texas Relays last week, Vucenovic’s performance on Friday is her second victory in as many events.
“We recruited her because we thought she could be the best javelin thrower in the NCAA,” coach Mike Holloway said. “She’s proved that so far. We’re pleased with her improvement to this point.”
Former and future Gators dotted the heat sheets on Friday, also.
High school senior Keanu Neal, out of Bushnell South Sumter High School, placed 7th with a time of 14.62 seconds in the boy’s 110m hurdles. Neal is a consensus four-star safety recruit for the Gators’ football team, and is set to join the team this upcoming season.
Olympian and former Gator Tony McQuay won his heat in the men’s 100m with a time of 10.22 seconds. In that same heat was fellow Olympian and former Gator Will Claye as well as current Gators Antwan Wright, Leo Seymore, and Dukes.
Tomorrow, the final day of the Florida Relays, will be dominated by relays -- the Gators’ bread and butter.
“What I’m really looking forward to is execution,” Holloway said. “Let’s go home, let’s get rested, let’s come back out. Tomorrow, let’s just enjoy it. I’m looking forward to seeing us pass the stick and run some fast times tomorrow.”
Leonardo Seymore hands the baton to Dedric Dukes in the 4x400 relay at the Tom Jones Classic on April 21, 2012. Dukes won the men's 200m at the Florida Relays on Friday.