With the 2013 track and field season in the books, Florida looks to 2014, trying to sustain the momentum it has been carrying for three years.
The Gators men won their first NCAA Championship during the 2010 indoor season. Since then, the men have won either an indoor or outdoor title every year. In 2012, Florida swept both the indoor and outdoor championships.
Key performers for the men this season included senior Omar Craddock in the triple jump, junior Eddie Lovett in the hurdles, sophomore Marquis Dendy in the long jump and the 4x400 meter relay squad.
Craddock earned the Southeastern Conference and NCAA titles in the outdoor men’s triple jump, and he was the runner-up indoors for both the Southeastern Conference and NCAA indoor meets.
Lovett’s peak success this season came indoors, earning the SEC and NCAA titles in the 60m hurdles. In the outdoor season, he was runner-up at both SECs and NCAAs in the 110m hurdles.
Like Lovett, Dendy also flourished indoors, winning SEC and NCAA indoor titles in the long jump.
However, it was the 4x4 squad that exemplified 2013 for the Gators.
Freshmen Najee Glass and Arman Hall, and sophomores Hugh Graham Jr. and Dedric Dukes powered the Gators to their second consecutive national outdoor title.
The Gators trailed by nine points heading into the event. The team won the race, earning 10 points and clinching a share of the title for UF.
This season, the Florida men also finished second in three events to SEC champion Arkansas at the SEC Indoor and Outdoor Championships and at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
Although the women did not have the same level of success as the men, they had a strong season in their own right as they tried to defend their 2012 SEC indoor title.
At the SEC Indoor Championships, junior Cory McGee won titles in the women’s mile and as a member of the women’s distance medley relay squad along with Mandy Perkins, Agata Strausa and Amani Bryant.
Collectively, the women turned in a fourth-place finish.
The women also won two titles at the SEC Outdoor Championships.
Underclassmen Ciarra Brewer and Marija Vucenovic won titles in the long jump and javelin throw, respectively.
But like indoors, the Gator women finished fourth at the outdoor championships.
Heading into the 2014 season, the Gators have some big shoes to fill, although the turnover this year won’t be nearly as hard as the transition from 2012 to 2013.
After the 2012 campaign, Florida lost Olympians Jeff Demps, Tony McQuay and Genevieve LaCaze.
This season, they lose seniors Craddock, Jeremy Postin, Leo Seymore, David Triassi, Amani Bryant, Ugonna Ndu and Perkins.
However, both teams have youth waiting in the wings for their turn.
One athlete who takes the center stage in 2014 will be Dendy, a junior looking to fill Craddock’s shoes. Dendy competes in both the men’s triple jump and long jump.
Dendy was named an honorable mention on the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-American team.
“Thats why we recruited Marquis,” coach Mike Holloway said. “He showed flashes of brilliance this year.
We’ve got to get Marquis to be a little more focused during the outdoor season. Marquis told me that his plan is to get 20 points at nationals next year. I’m not going to argue with him. That’d be my plan also.”