With Pressly Stadium filled to the brim with friends, family and competitors representing high schools, colleges and post-collegiate teams, the Gators wasted no time getting off to a fast start in the Pepsi Florida Relays, their first home meet of the season.
In Florida’s first event of the day, the men’s 200 meters (open), freshman Michael Timpson Jr. won his heat, matching the No. 12 time in the East Region. Timpson ended the competition in 12th place with a time of 20.97, and was the No. 3 collegiate and top NCAA finisher in the event.
Former Gator sprinter and current Olympic hopeful, Ebony Eutsey, won the 400-meter dash with a time of 52.08. Her time is now the No. 7-ranked mark in the world this year.
The Gators shined in the 400-meter hurdles on both the men’s and women’s side.
For the women, senior Claudia Francis, who raced for only her second time collegiately in the event, simply overwhelmed her competition. Not only did she win her heat, but she took first against 29 other runners with a time of 56.43, the No. 2 time on UF’s all-time top 10, and a NCAA leading time. She outraced Kelsey Balkwill, who placed second in the event, by a large margin of .71 seconds.
“I was very pleased with that, we expected that. She had some bad hurdles last week, so we felt that if she set was able up the first three hurdles better this week, she could run 56 low, and that’s what she did,” Florida coach Mike Holloway said. “I give a lot of credit to Claudia for her work ethic.”
Teammates Mikayla Barber (1:00.49) and Gina Louis (1:02.12) placed 11th and 14th, respectively.
Former Gator, four-time World Champion and two-time Olympic medalist Kerron Clement, who is representing Nike in the Relays, took first in the 400-meter hurdles (open) with his time of 50.17, edging out the second place running of Eric Alejandro by only .01 seconds.
Junior TJ Holmes finished in a close third with a time of 51.71, while teammate senior Gabriel Arid (53.64) rounded off the top-10.
In the hammer throw prelims, both AJ McFarland (61.59 meters) and Angel Parra (53.85) set personal records, placing sixth and 21st, respectively. McFarland’s throw was good enough to place No. 4 on UF’s all time top-10.
“It was amazing, I can’t express how excited I was when I threw,” McFarland said.
“As soon as I heard 61.59 I was like, ‘I did it.’ I checked off one of my goals for the day. It was just complete excitement, and as a whole a great meet.”
The Gators men’s team ended Day 1 with the 5000-meter dash.
Mac Reynolds (15:04.30), Elliot Clemente (15:11.26) and Austin Decker (16:14.72) placed 28th, 35th and 51st, respectively.
“I thought we had a great day,” Holloway said. “I am looking forward to bigger and better things as the weekend moves on.”
Day 2 starts for Florida at noon with Jontavia Dykes in the women’s hammer throw.
UF coach Mike Holloway smiles during the 2015 Florida Relays at James G. Pressly Stadium.