Following a successful weekend at the NCAA East Preliminaries in Jacksonville, the No. 1/6 Florida men’s and women’s track and field qualified 23 athletes and landed itself 25 event entries for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
The qualifying athletes—representing more than half of the 36 Florida athletes entering the weekend—include 10 men and nine women competing individually.
Three seniors lead the way for both sides.
“We had a very impressive day and I really felt like we did a much better job tonight of matching the intensity of the other teams competing tonight,” UF track and field coach Mike Holloway said in a release. “We had great hurdle races from Bridgette (Owens) and Yanick (Hart) -- everyone that went to the line (Saturday) did a great job.”
For Holloway’s men, the squad’s season-long leader, Marquis Dendy, stood out as the only Gator to qualify for two individual NCAA Championship events.
The jumper won both the high jump and triple jump events, breaking the Hodges Stadium facility record in the former with an 8.05-meter leap.
Dendy is looking to complete a national and conference sweep in both events.
Sprinter Kyra Jefferson highlighted the women’s weekend with a first-place finish in the 200-meter sprint quarterfinals. The 22.26-second effort broke the school record and set the eighth-best mark in collegiate history.
Jefferson also took part in the 4x100 quartet that set the facility record in the event on its way to qualifying for a spot in Eugene. Jefferson, Robin Reynolds, Shayla Sanders and Destinee Gause were able to take first place in the 4x1 with a 42.93-second finish.
Senior Mark Parrish claimed a spot in his final NCAA outdoor championship with a historic performance in the men’s steeplechase. The West Palm Beach, Florida native set a new UF record—was previously set by Chris Duncan in 2002—with an 8:37.64-minute mark.
Parrish is looking for his first track and field event victory in over two years, with his last win coming in the 2013 Florida Relays in the 3000-meter steeplechase.
The men’s mid distance duo of Andres Arroyo and Ryan Schnulle continued its dominance of the 800-meter race over the weekend. With each coming off top-five finishes in the Southeastern Conference Outdoor 800, both qualified for the NCAA Outdoors with respective eighth and 11th-place finishes.
Schnulle is on a quest to improve on last year’s second-place finish in the national outdoor meet and win the 800 outdoor title—adding to an impressive year that saw him take the SEC indoor title.
The sophomore Arroyo is looking to do the same. In 2014, the Orlando native followed up a 1:47.90 time in East Preliminaries to clinch a spot in the NCAAs with a 1:51.02 in the final outdoor collegiate meet, en route to a 21st-place finish.
Holloway directed some credit for the success experienced over the weekend to the team’s seniors.
“The key to being successful at any level with any group, no matter the team, is you have to have leadership,” Holloway said.
“They (UF seniors) know what to do and expect and that makes it easier for them to have a calming effect on everyone.”
A prime example of this can be seen in the case of men’s sprinters Arman Hall and Antwan Wright.
While neither were able to clinch spots in the Oregon meet as individuals, Hall and Wright did their parts to help UF’s relay teams qualify for the championship meet.
Hall took part in both the 4x1 and 4x400 relay races—with both foursomes sealing a national championship spot. Wright made up a quarter of UF’s Eugene-bound 4x1 squad.
The Gators will begin its national title meet on June 10 at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, hosted by the University of Oregon.
Follow Kyle Brutman on Twitter @KBrut13.
Ryan Schnulle races during the final day of the Florida Relays on April 4 at the Percy Beard Track