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Sunday, June 13, 2021
<p>UF track and field coach Mike Holloway talks with mid-distance runner Andres Arroyo on the final day of the 2015 Florida Relays on Saturday at the Percy Beard Track.</p>

UF track and field coach Mike Holloway talks with mid-distance runner Andres Arroyo on the final day of the 2015 Florida Relays on Saturday at the Percy Beard Track.

Before he helped lead the Gators to eight Southeastern Conference championships and five NCAA championships and coaching multiple decorated Olympians, UF track and field coach Mike Holloway was learning the ropes of track and field under Lyle Knudson.

When Knudson hired Holloway — the coach at Gainesville’s Buchholz High School at the time — to be a graduate assistant and sprint and hurdle coach for Florida in 1986, he knew Holloway had the potential to be one of the "great" ones.

"The great coaches that have the great and lasting success are those that care deeply about their athletes," Knudson said, "and Mike is the epitome of that."

It was at this point the unique friendship between the two was born.

Though they live across the country — Knudson residing in Denver and Holloway building his track and field empire in Gainesville — they consider one another among some of the most important people in their lives.

"He is one of my dearest friends to this day." Knudson said.

The feeling is mutual with Holloway.

"I’ve got several mentors, him being one of them, that I can talk to about anything," Holloway said. "I can always call him and pick his brain and be able to learn something about whatever event I called to talk to him about."

The two will be in the same room today, as Knudson will make the trip to Gainesville when former Florida track and field stars Beth Farmer and Candice Scott are elected into the UF Athletics Hall of Fame in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace.

***

Knudson is currently semi-retired, privately coaching mid-distance and distance runners as well as triathletes from his home in Denver.

He coaches athletes ranging from one of the best 10-year-old triathletes in the United States to a 58-year-old who is competing in their first Ironman triathlon in the summer.

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He is considered one of the pioneers of women’s collegiate track and field, having formed the women’s track program at the University of Colorado in 1973, a time when intercollegiate women’s track and field was in its early stages as a sport.

Holloway, a native of Columbus, Ohio, has been coaching track and field in Gainesville since 1983, when he was brought on as an assistant coach at Gainesville High School.

Following a two-year stint with the Hurricanes, he traveled across town to head the Buchholz track and field team.

During Holloway’s stint at Buchholz from 1985-1995, 32 of the 39 boys and girls school records in track and field were broken by athletes he coached. His squads took home 17 district titles, 14 regional titles and eight state titles.

In his final season as the Bobcats’ head coach, he became the first coach in school history to lead both the boys and girls teams to state titles.

"What I thought really separated him apart from a lot of other coaches is that he just so much cared about the athletes he coached. … That’s the most important characteristic you can have as a coach," Knudson said.

***

Much of Holloway’s success can be attributed to his fiery yet caring style of coaching.

Erin Tucker knows this all too well.

Tucker, now the Gators’ hurdles coach, competed at UF from 1994-1999 when Holloway was the associate men’s head coach.

"Some of the guys on the team thought he was a little abrasive because they weren’t used to someone being that aggressive," Tucker said. "That kind of pushed them to get more out of themselves than they even thought they could do."

Tucker also recalled that there was an instance during a practice where Holloway said, "When I stop yelling at you — when I stop getting at you — that’s when you should get worried."

He does it because he knows that the athletes have the potential to be better and pushes them to do so.

When the yelling stops at an athlete, that’s his way of saying "I’m done with you."

The occurrence is rare, however, as Holloway’s presence alone typically commands respect.

"We kinda just really clicked," senior jumper Ciarra Brewer said. "I felt a lot of respect for him and vice versa."

Senior jumper and NCAA triple and long jump champion Marquis Dendy has always had a strong support system from his parents, and he feels that Holloway provides a very similar structure to that of his parents.

"He has taken care of me," Dendy said. "He has always looked out for me and I really appreciate that."

***

Knudson’s role in Holloway’s development as a coach was, for the most part, mechanical.

"The biggest thing Lyle taught me is to take care of details," Holloway said. "He taught me to be more of a student of the sport and taught me to think more of the inner workings of the sport."

One of the most important things that Knudson passed down to Holloway was his program for training distance and mid-distance runners. Most training systems are focused on two paces throughout the duration of the event, but Knudson’s program introduced multiple strategic tiers to runners under his direction.

"It’s a multi-pace system. … It’s a five-tier system. … It’s about development," Holloway said. "It’s more about speed than it is endurance."

***

Knudson was the mold that helped shape Holloway into the coach he is today.

But perhaps the greatest thing that the two built while working together was friendship.

And now, more than 10 years since they last saw each other in person, they’ll meet once more.

They will recall old memories and create new ones in the process, memories that the two friends can reminisce about the next time they cross paths — whenever it may be.

The only thing that is certain now is the bond that they will forever hold.

Lyle Knudson certainly knows it.

"I still consider him one of the top five, six, seven friends of my life," Knudson said, "and among those people that I most respect."

Follow Kyle Brutman on Twitter @KBrut13

UF track and field coach Mike Holloway talks with mid-distance runner Andres Arroyo on the final day of the 2015 Florida Relays on Saturday at the Percy Beard Track.

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