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Thursday, January 20, 2022

For the first time since 2010, the Gators are finishing their season at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Florida will compete in the NCAA Outdoor Championships there on Wednesday.

“The last time we were here, it wasn’t great,” coach Mike Holloway said.

Florida’s men finished runner-up to Texas A&M by a single point at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

”It was kind of a heartbreaker,” Holloway said.

Named after legendary University of Oregon and United States Olympic track coach Bill Hayward, the 94-year-old stadium is set to host its 11th NCAA Championship.

The lore of Hayward Field and the championship meet itself could be a distraction, but Holloway said the Gators are not thinking about it.

“They know what we expect from them,” Holloway said. “They know we’re here for business. It’s not about the stuff that goes on around the championship.”

“But, at the end of the day, it’s just a track meet. It’s on a 400-meter track just like all the other ones we run on.”

The most susceptible to getting caught up in the hype are the underclassmen, but the more experienced athletes on Florida’s roster have led by example.

“Our senior group has done what the seniors before them have done,” Holloway said. “They learn as they go along ... I think the younger folks have done well because we have great leadership out of Omar (Craddock), Amani Bryant, Ugonna Ndu, and that whole crew.”

Although the seniors’ impact on the success of the freshmen is apparent, this year’s crop of freshmen has exceeded expectations. Najee Glass and Arman Hall comprise half of Florida’s men’s 4x400m relay squad – the second -fastest team in the nation. Sophomores Dedric Dukes and Hugh Graham Jr. make up the other half.

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“When we recruited that group of guys, we were excited about them and the fact that they could do multiple things,” Holloway said. “If the meet comes down to the 4x4, I feel really good about the four guys I put on the track”

The Gators are set to start competition at Hayward Field on Wednesday. tThe meet runs four days, with the last day of competition on Saturday.

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