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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Gators climb NCAA leaderboards at Tyson Invitational

Florida also competed in the Music City Challenge at Vanderbilt this past weekend

<p>Coach Mike Holloway shares a smile after the Gators qualify for the 2018 NCAA East Preliminary meet finals.</p>

Coach Mike Holloway shares a smile after the Gators qualify for the 2018 NCAA East Preliminary meet finals.

Florida track and field wrapped up its indoor regular season Friday and Saturday by participating in the Tyson Invitational at the University of Arkansas and the Music City Challenge at Vanderbilt University. 

The Gators looked to fine tune their athletes in the final meets before the SEC Championships in College Station, Texas, two weeks from now. The first day of competition saw freshman Malcolm Clemens take the top position in the men’s long jump with a 7.80-meter leap. 

Freshman Ryan Willie and senior Champion Allison finished second and third respectively in the men’s 400-meter race. Willie’s 45.83-second effort vaulted him to the top of the SEC leaderboard and third nationally. 

Florida now owns three of the top five positions in the 400-meter, with Willie and Allison positioning themselves alongside junior Jacory Patterson’s 45.98-second time from earlier this season. 

Sophomore Grace Stark continued her indoor dominance with a runner-up finish in the women’s 60-meter hurdles, clocking a time of exactly eight seconds. Beyond the highlight events, the majority of Florida’s athletes finished near the middle of the pack on day one. 

Head coach Mike Holloway praised the performances of Willie, Allison and Stark while elaborating on the team’s mindset. 

“I felt in some circumstances we weren't very focused today. We had some mental lapses,” Holloway said. “It happens. We've had two great meets and it's not very uncommon to come into this meet a little flatter and unfocused.” 

Holloway also turned his focus ahead, knowing his athletes are ready for the challenges to come. 

“The great thing is, it's not championship season yet. We've got two weeks to get that going. I'm excited about some things we did.”

The second day of events brought out the best in the Gators’ 200-meter and 4x400-meter relay competitors. Freshman Talitha Diggs (22.75 seconds) and Patterson (20.91) propelled Florida to a 200-meter event sweep. Diggs’ time was the second-fastest in the NCAA this season and fourth-best in the world. 

Florida earned the quickest 4x400-meter relay time on NCAA and World lists this year with a 3-minute, 2.9-second effort. 

“The 4x400 is sometimes where you win the meet,” Holloway said. “For us to go out and improve our season's best by almost a full second. That's one of the top two times in school history."

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Sophomore Jasmine Moore and senior Natricia Hooper finished first and second in the women’s triple-jump, giving Florida five event wins over its time in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

The Gators’ best performance in Nashville arrived courtesy of freshman Sam Austin, who ran a 1:47.79 in the 800-meter race, good enough for a two-second PR and the fourth quickest time in the NCAA this season.

“We have to get back to Gainesville, reset and get back to work,'' Holloway said.

Florida will only send a limited number of athletes to Texas Tech University next weekend as the orange and blue turn the bulk of their attention to postseason competition.

“Two weeks from today we'll be in the middle of the best conference track meet on the face of the planet,” Holloway said. “We have to be ready for that.”

The No. 1 ranked women and No. 5 men of the Florida Gators will tackle the SEC Indoor Championships at Texas A&M University Feb. 25 through Feb. 26. 

Contact Ethan Eibe at Follow him on Twitter @EthanEibe.

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Ethan Eibe

Ethan Eibe is a second-year UF sports media major and covers Gators baseball for The Alligator. Outside of his writing, Ethan is a play-by-play broadcaster for UF student radio and has spent two summers announcing professional baseball with the Alpine Cowboys. He is a long-suffering Miami Marlins fan.

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