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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Gators set facility records in NCAA East Preliminaries, book tickets to finals

Twenty-one Gator athletes qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships at the East Preliminary

The Florida men's track and field team runs in the Pepsi Florida Relays, Friday, March 31, 2023.
The Florida men's track and field team runs in the Pepsi Florida Relays, Friday, March 31, 2023.

Florida’s junior Wanya McCoy set his feet against the starting box. He placed his hands behind the start line. Nearly an hour and a half earlier, he qualified to compete in the men’s 100-meter semifinals in Eugene, Oregon. However, his day at the NCAA East Preliminaries was not over.

The gun fired. McCoy ran.

Hot pink cleats thudded against the Kentucky’s blue track. He raced down his lane side-by-side with Alabama’s junior Tarsis Orogot. The Crimson Tide’s athlete won the last 200-meter matchup against McCoy in the SEC Outdoor Championships.

McCoy crossed the finish line and high-fived Orogot. The junior placed second with a time of 19.95 seconds. Orogot followed in fifth with a 20-second time.

McCoy is one of 21 athletes for the Gators who advanced to NCAA Outdoor championships during the preliminaries in Lexington, Kentucky. Eight track athletes on the men’s team and four on the women’s side qualified for races in the championships. Nine Gators advanced to Oregon.

Senior Grace Stark won her heat in the women’s 100-meter hurdles in 12.55 seconds. 

Wearing a blue hairband, two buns and a bow, Stark sprinted down the track next to FSU’s senior Alexandra Webster. Stark glided over the hurdles. Five seconds in, she had left her opponents in the dust. 

Stark jumped over the last hurdle and crossed the finish line, beating her opponents by 0.15 seconds. 

While Stark won her event, other Florida athletes barely escaped elimination. Freshman Parvej Khan entered Friday’s men’s 1,500-meter race on a high note. Two days prior, he set a new facility record of 3 minutes and 41.10 seconds in the first round.

 Khan started last in the quarterfinals, and his lost momentum plagued him throughout the race. His white shoes thumped against the ground. He hovered around fourth place halfway through the first lap.

In the second lap, he pushed forward to first, but then he slowed. Six competitors passed him.

He tried to fight against being boxed in, but Khan dropped to the last position. The finish line approached, and the freshman ran wide and sped past six athletes. Khan clinched the last qualifying spot, but his facility record did not stand. Villanova’s junior Liam Murphy set the new facility record time of 3:38.30, 2.8 seconds faster than Khan’s time.

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In the relays, the men’s team automatically qualified in the 4x100 meter relay and placed second in the 4x400 meter relays. 

Thunderstorms near the track delayed races on the second day. Competitors in the women’s 10,000-meter race waited about five hours to start. 

However, Florida’s junior Parker Valby braved the rain and her competitors to take first place in the preliminaries. She started the race in the middle of the pack, but quickly soared to the top. Valby neared the 25-minute mark. 

Then, she lapped the opponents and locked into the finish line. 

The Gator finished the race in 32:43.91, a new facility record. She was one of three Gators to book a ticket to Oregon in the long-distance races. Senior Elise Thorner placed fifth in the women’s  3,000-meter steeplechase with 9:55.99. Senior Flomena Asekol placed tenth in the women’s 5,000-meter semifinals. 

The Gators also succeeded off the track. Sophomore Alida van Daalen set a new 2024 collegiate best and facility record with a throw of 65.23 meters in the women's discus.

In the women’s long jump, senior Claire Bryant, the SEC women’s long jump winner, placed first in the event. Her distance of 21-5 1/4 feet was the longest of the women competing and sent Bryant to the championships. Her teammate, sophomore Anthaya Charlton, earned second with a distance of 21-1 1/2 feet.

Two Gator athletes qualified for the championships in the men’s long jump. Senior Sean Dixon-Bodie finished seventh with a distance of 24-11. Junior Malcolm Clemons beat Alabama’s junior Julian Collins by a half-inch to qualify.

The NCAA Outdoor Championships will be held June 5-8 at Oregon’s Hayward Field. Unlike the preliminaries, the men’s and women’s championships will be held concurrently.

Contact Liana Handler at Follow her on Twitter @handlerliana.

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