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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Gators win NCAA Men’s Outdoor Championships for third-consecutive year

The men’s track and field team won the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and the women’s team finished as the runner-up

<p>UF track and field athlete Alissa Braxton competing in Eugene, Oregon, June 11. Photo taken by Isabel Marley.</p>

UF track and field athlete Alissa Braxton competing in Eugene, Oregon, June 11. Photo taken by Isabel Marley.

The Florida men’s track and field team grabbed a blue Powerade cooler as head coach Mike Holloway finished another impressive campaign. The team poured it over Holloway’s head as the program celebrated another championship season. 

The No. 3 men’s and No. 5 women’s teams traveled to Eugene, Oregon, for the NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. 

Florida struggled at first when freshman Parvej Khan failed to qualify for the men’s

1,500-meter during the preliminaries.

However, it responded with strong performances by junior Parker Valby and senior Grace Stark in the June 6 preliminaries. By June 7, Florida trailed Auburn by five points as it lined up for the men’s 4x400 for the day’s final event. 

With a third-place finish, the Gators men’s track and field team was named the 2024 NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Champion for the third straight year. 

“Every time something went wrong, somebody stepped up and got it done,” Holloway said. “[I am] very proud of everyone who put the uniform on today.”

On June 8, the men’s team became triple consecutive NCAA DI Outdoor Champions for the first time in Florida’s track and field history. The next day, the women’s team kept Florida’s momentum flowing to place runner-up.

Valby and Stark both took home three individual titles for the Gators.

Valby is the first Gator in program history to win the women’s 10,000-meter. She won her fifth NCAA Individual Championship with a time of 31 minutes, 46.09 seconds, a new meet record. 

Then, Valby set new collegiate and meet records in the women’s 5,000-meter with a 14:52.18 time. She is the first woman in collegiate history to win five NCAA distance titles in one academic year.  

“Our team won last time we were here, so obviously [we were] looking to repeat and just enjoy the journey,” Valby said June 5. “It’s been quite a whirlwind.”  

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It’s been a long year for Stark, recovering from two surgeries. She fractured a bone in her leg and tore her meniscus at the 2022 Outdoor Championships.   

“You kind of always wonder with an injury that seems almost like a career-ending [one] if you're ever going to be the same,” she said May 3. “If you're ever going to be close to being back to where you were.” 

However, Stark dominated the 100-meter hurdles. She ran a personal best of 12.47 seconds. Her performance crowned her the second NCAA Individual Champion and first outdoor individual title in her career. 

The men’s team did not claim an individual title.

The men’s relay teams made the podium in its two events and collected 11 points. Senior Jevaughn Powell finished third in the 400-meter, setting a personal record with the fifth-fastest time in Florida history. Senior Robert Gregory followed in second in the 200-meter to tally eight more points for the Gators.

Junior Malcolm Clemons earned a bronze medal with a season-best 26-5 distance in the long jump. Senior Kai Chang placed fifth in the men’s discus throw. Senior Sean Dixon-Bodie placed eighth in the triple jump.

The women’s squad racked up points on the final day. Senior Flomena Asekol placed fifth in the 1,500-meter race with a 4:08.91 time. 

Senior Elise Thorner finished sixth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Senior Claire Bryant took home the silver medal with a season-best distance of 22-1 1/2. Sophomore Anthaya Charlton placed fourth with a 21-7 1/2 distance.  

Sophomore Alida van Daalen earned a bronze medal in the women’s discus with a distance of 204-10. She also finished in sixth place in the women’s shot put. 

“We’re a team, we’re family,” Holloway said. “We talk about a standard, and we fight to win every single day, and that’s what you saw this week.”

Although Florida’s track and field regular season wrapped up with the NCAA Outdoor Championships, both current and former Gators athletes will compete at the USA Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, between June 21 and 30. 

Contact Liana Handler at Follow her on X @handlerliana.

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