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Monday, January 30, 2023

The No.1/2 Florida men’s and women’s track and field teams have been able to find success across the board thus far in the 2015 indoor season, but the athletes that are catching the most eyes throughout the country are Florida’s jumpers.

To be more specific, senior Marquis Dendy and freshman KeAndre Bates are the main components of the Gators’ jumpers that are igniting Florida’s jumping program into a league of its own.

UF has a history of developing top jumpers, including Omar Craddock and 2012 Olympic triple jump-medalists Christian Taylor and Will Claye.

Dendy and newcomer Bates, who has won two consecutive Southeastern Conference Men’s Freshman of the Week awards, are first and third in the NCAA, respectively, in the long jump. The duo is also in position to qualify for the National Indoor Championships in the triple jump, as they are both currently ranked in the top-16 nationally in the event.

Much of the jumpers’ success can be attributed to the coaching style of the teams’ jumping coach, Nic Peterson.

The combination of Peterson’s ability to push his jumpers to the limit and the sympathetic attitude that he coaches with is the key to ensuring that athletes such as Bates and Dendy perform at their best at each and every meet.

"He encourages me … that’s one aspect that I like about coach Nic," Bates said.

"He’s compassionate about it. He actually cares. You can tell by the way he coaches."

Bates, who is the country’s top freshman in both the long jump and triple jump, also credits his success to the relationship that he has built with Dendy.

Bates and Dendy share very similar traits as jumpers. Both are speed jumpers with fast approaches, although there are times when their approaches turn out a little shaky.

Sharing these characteristics turns out to be mutually beneficial, as they can help each other with the understanding for what the other jumper needs to do to improve themselves based on comparable experiences.

"He’s like a brother to me. Since I’ve been here, he’s treated me like a little brother." Bates said.

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The Gators track and field teams travel to Blacksburg, Virginia, on Friday to compete in the Doc Hale Virginia Tech Elite.

While last week’s Razorback Invitational featured 32 Florida athletes competing across the board, coach Mike Holloway is bringing a smaller group this week—small enough to fit the entire squad into a family minivan with room to spare.

The lineup for the meet in Blacksburg will be composed of five competitors.

Seniors Jayla Bostic, Kyle Strawn and Stipe Zunic and freshman Lloydricia Cameron will compete in the throwing events, while sophomore Becky Greene will compete as the Gators’ lone distance runner in the 3000-meter run.

Bostic has competed in one event this season, placing third in the women’s weight throw at the Rod McCravy Invitational.

Strawn finished seventh in the men’s weight throw at the McCravy Invite in Lexington, Kentucky. The effort set a personal record and improved his mark to fourth on the program’s all-time list in the feat.

In Lexington, Zunic finished runner-up in the shot put, recording a throw that fell just short of 20 meters (19.97). His performance set a personal record, and also launched him into second-place on UF’s all-time list.

Cameron made her Gator debut at the McCravy Invite, setting personal records in both the shot put and weight throw events.

Greene will be running in her first individual event of the indoor season.

Follow Kyle Brutman on Twitter @KBrut13   

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