The Gators are headed to the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships with the most qualifiers in school history.
On the last day of the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Greensboro, N.C., Florida had 17 athletes qualify for nationals, bringing its total to 28 athletes headed to Eugene, Ore.
“We had a phenomenal day across the board and I couldn’t be more proud of all of our athletes,” coach Mike Holloway said. “We challenged them after the first day to not get down and to keep fighting and they did that.”
Fifteen women and 13 men, including three relay squads, qualified for the NCAA Championships in Eugene. Florida’s 15 women is a school record, while its 13 men is second most in school history. UF’s record for most men at nationals came in 2011 when the Gators qualified 16.
On Thursday, Marquis Dendy missed out on qualifying in his signature event – the men’s long jump. But Saturday, Dendy more than redeemed himself by finishing second in the men’s triple jump behind fellow Gator Omar Craddock.
“For Marquis to bounce back after a disappointment in the men’s long jump, it says a lot about his determination and work ethic,” Holloway said. “Today, Omar was Omar and he delivered just like he does every meet. I’m very pleased with both of their performances.”
Florida had qualifiers in nearly all of its events in which it competed.
Reigning NCAA indoor champion Eddie Lovett turned in a personal best performance in the men’s 110m hurdles with a time of 13.39 seconds. For the women, Ugonna Ndu also qualified for nationals with a time of 13.24 seconds in the 100m hurdles. Ndu is set to compete in both the 100m and 400m hurdles in Eugene.
“Eddie and Ugonna both did a great job today,” said Holloway. “Eddie continues to improve as the season progresses. For Ugonna to advance in both of her events, she’s just really coming through in her senior year. They’ve both developed a strong bond with coach (Erin) Tucker and it shows.”
Florida also advanced three of their four athletes competing in 200m races Saturday.
Both Destinee Gause – who ran a personal best – and Darshay Davis advanced in the women’s 200m, while Dedric Dukes qualified for the men’s 200m.
“I’m very proud of all three of our qualifiers in the 200,” Holloway said. “This is Dedric’s first meet since his injury at Florida Relays and I thought he performed at a very high level. Destinee is really contributing as just a freshman and we always expect big things from her.”
The final events on the final day of the NCAA East Preliminary Round were the relays, events in which Florida has a history of success. All three relay squads qualified to close the day.
The Gators are sending the men’s 100m relay squad and both the men and women’s 400m relay squads to Eugene.
“We take a lot of pride in our 4x4s and I couldn’t be more proud of their performances today,” Holloway said. “For Amani (Bryant) to step in after the disappointment of just not making the national meet in the 400 hurdles, I thought she performed like a senior and came through for us. As for the men, this was their first race since Texas Relays and they did what they’ve done all year: they followed the race plan and focused on the Gators.”
Throwers coach Steve Lemke (left) and coach Mike Holloway walk across the field at Percy Beard Track at Pressly Stadium during the 2012 Florida Relays. Seventeen Gators qualified Sunday for the NCAA Outdoor Championships, which are set to begin June 5.