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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Florida builds on strong first day with continued excellence on second day of Florida Relays

The Gators played host for their second meet of the outdoor season

Florida picked up right where it left off and showed out in both short and long distance events as well jumps.
Florida picked up right where it left off and showed out in both short and long distance events as well jumps.

As Joseph Fahnbulleh stood in his lane before the gun went off for the 100m, Fall Out Boy’s ‘Centuries’ filled the air at Percy Beard Track.

It seemed almost too perfect for the moment. A ballad of a legend being told. Fahnbulleh brought home two more first place finishes Saturday.

Florida picked up right where it left off Friday and showed out in both short and long distance events as well jumps.

In the 3000m, Florida controlled the field in both the men’s and women’s races. Vasiliea Spyrou and Emily Culley took one and two in the event after they squared off with FSU’s Kayla Easterly, who took the lead early on. After three laps, Spyrou caught the slack and didn’t let go with a time of 9:31.67.

The men’s race took shape shortly after with two Florida runners and three Auburn runners packed together from start to finish. Despite the close contest, Marshall Dillon turned on the kick as he ran past the official who rang the bell, the signal that there was one lap to go. The redshirt senior ended up with a new time of 8:22.30 in the event.

Gabrielle Wilkinson returned to her indoor form with a first-place finish. The redshirt sophomore had some competitive challengers but clocked in with the sixth-fastest time in school history at 2:03.88.

Out in the field, Florida boasted a trio of podium finishes.

In the triple jump, Natricia Hooper jumped not only 13.46m, but into No. 4 in the NCAA this year. 

Clayton Brown secured second in his attempts in the triple jump but stopped his last three tries due to his unexpected inclusion in the 4x100 team.

In the relay race, Florida produced a finish which left fans wearing orange and blue in the stands blown away by the performance. The team that ran will likely not be its final four come NCAA’s with the inclusion of 2019 champion in the event Raymond Ekevwo who holds the school record in the 100m. With Ekevwo and Fahnbulleh near locks, the last two spots will be heavily contested.

Through the first three legs of the race, Florida and USC were neck-and-neck for first place. All batton exchanges were clean as UF runners in their black pennies handed it off to one another and looked as efficient as any human being at such high speeds. 

Due to a mishap on the last exchange, Florida looked like a gator in its natural habitat of a swamp and crushed its opponents to the finish line with Fahnbulleh as the anchor and doing what he does best. The 38.89 time became best for fifth in the NCAA this year.

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“We had some great things happen but we have to let those things go and start building towards the future,” coach Mike Holloway said after the meet.

The success of the sprinters and jumpers was not a surprise due what was seen in the indoor season but after a less than stellar XC season, a Florida team which could score points on all fronts looks dangerous.

The Gators’ next meet will be the Tom Jones Memorial April 16-17 in Gainesville.

Contact Myles Herbert at and follow him on Twitter @myles_herbert

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