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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Florida plays host to Tom Jones Memorial and senior day

In the second consecutive meet in Gainesville, three seniors were honored Friday.

<p>Raymond Ekevwo was honored Friday for senior night at the Tom Jones Memorial </p>

Raymond Ekevwo was honored Friday for senior night at the Tom Jones Memorial

Florida hosted its second meet in as many weeks, with the Tom Jones Memorial beginning on Friday night.

All of the eyes at Percy Beard Track locked onto the pregame proceedings, which honored  —  Florida’s three seniors in theirfinal home meet.

Abby Harelson was joined by national champions Raymond Ekevwo and Thomas Mardal at the finish where coach Mike Holloway presented the trio with framed track pennies and a bouquet of flowers.

In a symbolic mourning of the departees, gray clouds filled the sky and brought rain with them shortly after the ceremony.

In the first heat of the 200m, Talitha Diggs continued her odyssey across multiple distances, racing against 2021 NCAA Indoor Champion Abby Steiner. Diggs and the Kentucky sophomore began next to each other in lanes of 5 and 6 which due to the stagger would have Steiner ahead of Diggs as a point to chase. This potential advantage would not help her overcome the almost robotic form of Steiner, who clocked in at the line at 22.79 with Diggs right behind her at 23.20.

The second heat provided possibly the closest race of the entire meet. Florida’s Taylor Manson and FSU’s Ka’Tia Seymour lifted out of the blocks in the rain which poured over them at the sound of the gun and pushed each and every second to the line. Manson would just miss out on a podium spot at 23.43 as Seymour would just beat her to the line by .01 seconds.

A trio of Gators finished within less than a second of one another in the 1500m. Marshall Dillon, Caden Monk and Trevor Foley secured 3rd-5th respectively after they came from behind. The trio sat back and ran as a pack in the first part of the race and waited until almost the final moment to make their move. With 200m left, Dillon used the curve to sling shot himself into third position with Monk and Foley also using their teammates momentum to carry them to the finish line. Dillon’s and Monk’s times of 3:43.63 and 3:44.06 are the 8th and 10th fastest times in Florida history.

Connor Bandel comfortably secured his first victory in the shot put outdoors with a 19.12m throw. In the middle of the storm, rain pounded the skin of the Michigan native. Bandel came from behind on his fourth effort to secure the win.

Florida picked up another gold in the field through  Clayton Brown in the high jump. As the rain came down, he leaped up and over the bar of 2.21m for first place. Brown was the only one of nine athletes to clear the length and would not need any clearances at the next measure of 2.26m.

After the rain stopped amidst of the men’s steeplechase, two more Gators scored in the top three.

Vasileia Spyrou and Jessica Pascoe worked together to finish two and three in the 5000m. Katie Izzo of Arkansas had first placed wrapped up almost from the start of the race as the remaining runners grappled for silver. Spyrou and Pascoe pushed and stayed together for almost the entire race and successfully navigated their way to the finish line three seconds from each other. 

The running events will start Saturday at noon.

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