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Monday, March 01, 2021

Florida secures four victories at at Carolina Challenge

The Gators competed for first time in almost 11 months

<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-93d5aca0-dfe8-1c1e-9b4c-9424967bcdf9"><span>UF hurdler Eric Futch races during the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 10, 2016, in Eugene, Oregon.</span></span></p>

UF hurdler Eric Futch races during the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 10, 2016, in Eugene, Oregon.

In a meet 330 days in the making, Florida walked away from the Carolina Challenge T-third place with four victories.

Florida started the day with all five athletes in preliminary races qualifying for their respective finals. 

But despite securing places in the finals of all events, only Dedrick Vanover improved upon his position, finishing second in the 60m after coming in fifth in the prelims, running 6.80 in both races.

Semira Killebrew secured another second-place finish for the Gators, finishing both the prelims and finals in second 13 seconds faster, improving from 7.44 to 7.31.

In the mile, Hugh Brittenham finished in 14th place with a time of 4:18.58. Jordan Shapiro placed sixth in her first college race, setting her benchmark at a time of 5:08.28. 

The 800m proved to be a bright spot for Florida.

Gabrielle Wilkerson picked up exactly where she left off in 2019. 

While the redshirt sophomore didn’t compete in any meets in 2020, it didn’t seem to to impact her Saturday. Wilkerson claimed Florida’s opening first place on the track this season, winning the women’s 800m race with a time of 2:07.59. Abbie Harrelson finished in a commanding fifth place at 2:11.31. 

The men continued Florida’s impressive showing in the event. Jacob Miley finished first with a PR of 1:51.98, improving his previous best of 1:52.11. Deshay Fernandes was UF’s next finisher, securing eighth place at 1:55.18. Dalton Brown, the third Gator running in the first heat, finished in 15th slightly more than a second after Fernandes. Chase Ruskin, who ran in the second heat, came in 11th place overall with 1:55.56.

In the 200m, Talitha Diggs posted 23.14, the third-fastest time in Florida history and the fourth fastest in the NCAA this year. While she collected those honors, she came in second due to a course record set by Alabama’s Tamara Clark, who ran a 22.90. 

Joseph Fahnbulleh would find a similar fate as his teammate waiting for him in the 200m. Two runners from North Carolina A&T finished with the identical time of 20.69, setting a course record. Fahnbulleh collected third with a time of 20.79.

The high jump would be another event where the Gators would come out on top. Claire Bryant won the event with a 6.28m jump — the first of her entire collegiate career. Florida swept the remaining podium spots with Kala Penn’s 6.14m jump in second  and Alexis Brown’s 5.96m jump in third.

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Malcolm Clemons also won the long jump with his first-ever jump in college. The freshman led with a 7.85m leap. 

 The 4x400, Florida’s final event, was a disappointment  for all three teams. 

UF’s A and B men’s teams finished in third and sixth. The women’s team led the race for the first three legs before South Carolina came from behind and stole the victory by .51 seconds.

The Gators’ next meet will be back in Columbia for the South Carolina Invitational Feb. 5-6.

Contact Myles Herbert at mherbert@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @myles_herbert

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