Florida led Texas A&M by 1.5 points heading into the 4x400 meter relay.
All the Gators needed to do to earn their first indoor national championship since 2012 was outlast the Aggies.
Florida sophomore Kunle Fasasi ran first for the Gators, and after briefly leading the pack, he was passed by Texas A&M senior Fred Kerley.
In the next 400 meters, Florida freshman Grant Holloway obliterated a sizeable gap created by Texas A&M junior Robert Grant. Holloway took the lead as he approached his senior teammate Eric Futch for the the baton pass.
Futch created a gap during his 400 meters similar to what Grant had created previously.
It all came down to whether sophomore Ryan Clark could hold the lead.
And he did for about 300 meters.
But as Clark rounded the curve going into the final straightaway, Texas A&M junior Mylik Kerley took the lead for final 100 meters, clinching the NCAA Indoor title for the Aggies and a runner-up finish for Florida.
A half point separated the Aggies and Gators, with their final scores being 46 and 45.5 respectively.
Despite the second place finish, two Gators walked away from competition with individual national championships.
On Day 1, junior KeAndre Bates jumped his way to his first national title. Bates matched his indoor personal record of 26 feet, 4.5 inches in the men’s long jump final to capture Florida’s third long jump title in five years.
Although happy, the El Paso, Texas, native said he still wasn’t fully satisfied after winning the title.
“I just wanted to make sure nobody passed me so I could get the 10 points. I’m happy for the national championship, but I really wanted the 27 (foot jump). But it’s alright,” Bates said in a release. “I’m going to get it eventually. I’m being patient. Hopefully I keep progressing and get it later on.”
Despite Bates’ desire to be better, his coach said he did just fine.
“Big thing is, he’s a national champion,” Florida coach Mike Holloway said in a release. “He came in here, did what he always does, and that’s what this meet is about—come in here, be who you are and things will work out the way they should.”
Bates managed to earn eight more points for his team with a second-place finish in the men’s triple jump final on Day 2, making the junior responsible for 18 of the 45.5 points the Florida men scored.
Also on Day 2 of the championships, Holloway won his first individual national championship. Holloway ran the 60-meter hurdle finals in 7.58 seconds to become the second freshman since 1999 to win an Indoor 60-meter hurdle title.
Coach Holloway said the freshman told him Friday night after he underperformed in the long jump final that he wouldn’t disappoint him on Saturday.
“He was very focused today,” Holloway said in a release Saturday. “The whole goal today was execute the first three steps, get to the first hurdle and run away. That’s what he did.”
Although coach Holloway said he was impressed with the effort from his team over the weekend, he said UF not doing as well as it could have in some areas and disqualification in the men’s 400-meter final hurt the team.
Fasasi originally scored 4 points for Florida by placing fifth in the 400-meters but was disqualified due to some accidental bumping, losing four points for the Gators but adding one as Futch moved from sixth place to fifth.
Although the disqualification came with some controversy, Holloway said he doesn’t want to take anything away from Texas A&M’s win.
“They came in here and did what they had to do. They’re the national champions,” Holloway said. “I’m going to put this on me and my staff. We just have to prepare a little bit better. I’m pleased with the overall effort. We just came up a little bit short today.”
Up next for the Florida, a few members of the team will kick off their outdoor season at the UCF Black and Gold Challenge on March 17-18.
The UF men's track team poses for a photo after finishing in second place in the NCAA Indoor Championships Saturday at Gilliam Indoor Stadium in College Station, Texas.