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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Gators women’s track and field dominates in the NCAA East Preliminaries

The women’s track team advanced eleven Gators in the NCAA East Preliminaries Thursday

<p>Florida’s Talitha Diggs competes during the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships on Saturday, February 27, 2021 at Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark. / UAA Communications photo by Alex de la Osa</p>

Florida’s Talitha Diggs competes during the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships on Saturday, February 27, 2021 at Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark. / UAA Communications photo by Alex de la Osa

With two athletes already claiming their tickets to Eugene, Oregon, for the NCAA Outdoor Championships next month, the Florida Gators women's track and field team added two more seats to the list. A pair of UF long jumpers, sophomore’s Jasmine Moore and Claire Bryant, secured their spots to nationals as they qualified among the top-five in the eastern region.

Day two of the NCAA East Preliminaries continued and UF entered the day after nine athletes made it through the first round on the men's side. But Thursday's competitions allowed the reigning Southern Eastern Conference Women’s Outdoors Champions to display their talents on a national stage. 

The No. 4 Gators opened up the afternoon going 3-for-3 in the 100-meter hurdles competition. Sophomore Anna Hall claimed an automatic bid with a time of 13.27 seconds, junior Sterling Lester ran a personal best of 13.30 seconds and senior Sasha Wells finished top-three in her heat to give the Bahamian hurdler a spot on Saturday. 

Hall, a Highlands Ranch, Colorado, native headed back to the track once more in the 400-meter hurdles. The 2022 USATF Combined Events Champion came out of the gates in cruise control, finishing with a time of 56.25 seconds among qualifiers.

Redshirt sophomore hurdler Vannessa Watson gave the orange and blue another qualifier in the 400-meter hurdle after winning her heat. 

Before the four-day weekend event, Hall and Lester qualified for the outdoor championships, looking to compete in the heptathlon event.

In the 400-meter race, the orange and blue added four more additional spots in the quarterfinals. Sophomore Talitha Diggs (51.82 seconds) led the way for the Gators, finishing with a top-three time in the first round.

Behind the Saucon Valley, California, native, senior Cait Tate strode to the finish line with a personal-best of 52.84 seconds. Similarly, sprinter Taylor Manson qualified with a time of  52.53 seconds. Lester capped it off with a 53.23 second performance — her second entry to the quarterfinals of the day. 

A pair of SEC medalists will move on for UF in the 800-meter race as well. Junior Imogen Barrett followed her gold medal performance in the SEC Outdoor Championships a few weeks ago with a top-eight finish in the first round.

Redshirt junior Gabrielle Wilkinson, bronze medalist in conference outdoor competition, won her heat Thursday, advancing to the quarterfinals. 

Moving onto the field events, the Gators submitted two more athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in June. Star jumper Moore and Bryant will leap their way across the country with hopes of topping the nation's best jumpers. 

Thursday, Moore lunged the furthest among qualifying jumpers with a distance of 6.57 meters/21-6.75. Not too far behind, Bryant, a Houston, Texas, native planted a mark of 6.32 meters/20-9 to punch her ticket to Eugene.

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For Moore, she continues to turn heads in her sophomore season. The Grand Prairie, Texas, native went a perfect 4-for-4 in gold medals in the conference in both indoor and outdoor events this year. Moore competes once more in the first round of the triple jump Saturday. 

Bryant earned herself an SEC bronze medal in the long jump competition as well. 

On the day, Florida accumulated 11 entries into Saturday's quarterfinals which is set to start at 1 p.m.

The NCAA East Preliminaries continue Friday as nine Florida men’s track and field athletes compete in the quarterfinals. 

Contact Curtis Michaud at Follow him on Twitter @CurtisMichaud1.

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Curtis Michaud

Curtis Michaud is a fourth-year student at the University of Florida within the College of Journalism and Communications. He specializes in sports and media and would like to continue to provide authentic, thorough, and engaging sport content for all readers. He is an enterprise reporter and lacrosse and track and field writer for The Alligator.

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