The outdoor track and field season isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon.
Spanning roughly three months with meets scattered throughout, the key to having a successful season is to finish strong. It’s a theme that’s evident in events like the men’s 10,000-meter.
Thanks to freshman Jimmy Clark, Florida has excelled in the men’s 10k this outdoor season.
Clark was named the Southeastern Conference’s Men’s Freshman Runner of the Year and a member of the All-Conference First Team.
“It was nice winning,” Clark said. “It was a great surprise. It’s a great achievement, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Clark’s production has shot up significantly this outdoor season. After competing in two indoor seasons and one season running cross country, Clark never placed better than fourth in any individual event.
“I wasn’t eating the best,” Clark said. “With the help from coach (Paul) Spangler and [nutritionist Kelsee Gomes], I was able to get on a good diet and I lost some weight. It’s really helped my running so far.”
Once outdoor season came around, so did Clark. He earned all of his personal bests this season, and he has won more than half of the events in which he has competed. His most recent victory came in the men’s 10k at the SEC Championships in Columbia, Mo.
“Coach Spangler’s done a great job with us this year,” Clark said. “He had confidence in our abilities heading into the meet. We wanted to run well, especially in the 10k.”
Clark and the Gators now focus on the season’s penultimate meet – the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C.
The top 12 finishers in each individual event and top six finishers in each relay event at the preliminaries advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.
Florida has 48 athletes (22 men, 26 women) competing in 29 events. The Gators are currently the top seed in seven events in the East region: both the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay squads, sophomore Ciarra Brewer in the women’s triple jump, senior and NCAA-leader Omar Craddock in the men’s triple jump, junior Cory McGee in the women’s 1,500 meters, freshman Marija Vucenovic in the women’s javelin throw and senior Ugonna Ndu in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.
Ndu, who is also running in the women’s 100-meter hurdles, is one of five athletes competing in multiple individual events in Greensboro this weekend. The others are junior Darshay Davis in the women’s 100 and 200 meters, sophomore Marquis Dendy in the men’s long jump and triple jump, junior Lorraine Graham in the women’s 100-meter hurdles and long jump and junior Agata Strausa in the women’s 1,500- and 5,000-meter.
Florida’s men hope to repeat after last year’s finish as 2012 NCAA Outdoor Champions – the only time the school has garnered the title.
“We’re just coming in confident,” Clark said. “As a team, we have much bigger goals than just getting to nationals. We want a national title back in Gainesville. Everyone on the team is real focused. We’re looking to do big things out in Eugene.”
Added Clark: “We want to get as many people as we can out to Eugene so we can score some big points at nationals.”
Jimmy Clark celebrates winning the men’s 10,000-meter at the SEC Outdoor Championships in Columbia, Mo., on May 10. Clark was named SEC Men’s Freshman Runner of the Year on Friday.