When Florida redshirt senior hurdler Eric Futch crossed the finish line at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships, he turned and looked behind him.
He had won the NCAA Outdoor 400-meter hurdles title, but seeing his teammate, senior TJ Holmes, place second made him shout out in excitement.
“He was like, ‘TJ Holmes!’” Holmes said. “He was smiling big. He was extremely happy because we went one and two, and that was big points for the team.”
Holmes said he was just as happy for Futch, although he was four-tenths of a second away from winning his own national championship.
“I definitely want to see (Futch) do well,” he said. “It motivates me.”
Holmes said spreading this sort of positivity and encouragement from teammate to teammate stems directly from Florida coach Mike Holloway.
“We’re a family,” Holloway said. “What Eric (Futch) always says is, ‘We’re going to go 1-2, and we’ll just figure out who’s going to be first and who’s going to be second.”
He said that the two have different strengths. Speed for Futch. Endurance for Holmes. So they help each other out in training while giving each other encouragement.
“He goes out there; he pushes me. I go out there; I push him. And we just go get things done when the time comes,” Futch said.
Futch, a Darby, Pennsylvania, native, said the bond between himself and Holmes started over two years ago. He said it has evolved into a relationship in which they can talk to each other about anything — especially things they wouldn’t normally talk about with anyone else.
Holmes, a St. Petersburg, Florida, native, compares their bond to family.
“Me and him are like brothers,” he said.
And like blood brothers, the two don’t stray away being competitive.
Futch said they challenge each other to be great every day.
“If he’s in the heat before me, I tell him, ‘TJ, you know what you got to do to get in the big dance…go out there and handle your business, and I’ll see you in the final.’”
And they have seen each other in finals as recently as March 31 at the Florida Relays.
Futch and Holmes placed first and second, respectively, in the 400-meter hurdle finals at the meet with times of 49.57 and 49.80. The two were the first collegiate hurdlers to run sub-50-second 400-meter hurdle times at that point in the season, and their 400-meter times currently rank second and fourth overall nationally.
Futch and Holmes will have a chance to work on their training this weekend as the Gators travel to Fort Worth, Texas, to compete in the Horned Frog Invitational.
Futch will run in the 400 meters, while Holmes will run the 800 meters as a part of their training models.
As for the rest of the season, Futch and Holmes said they still have goals they’ve yet to complete.
Futch said it’s been a humbling experience with people coming up to him and calling him a national champion, but he added that’s all in the past, and he has to continue to work if he’s going to get where he wants.
Holmes said he has goals to be an SEC champion and national champion this year, but he knows there’s still work to be done.
“We have small meets that we have to take care of first,” he said, “so that we’re prepared for what’s to come in championship season.”