Track and field teams ranked in top 10


Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 at 12:56 a.m.

Apparently the high expectations out of the Florida track and field teams are more than internal.

The UF men's and women's teams are ranked 10th and third, respectively, in the Trackwire Top 25 preseason poll. The Gators have their first home meet Saturday in the Florida Intercollegiates.

The UF women began their season last month at the Golden Flash Gala and recorded eight NCAA qualifying marks at the meet. They return 11 All-Americans, including defending NCAA weight-throw champion Candice Scott, which accounts for their high preseason ranking.

Florida is one of four schools to have both the men's and women's teams rank in the top 10.

LSU tops both polls, while South Carolina (second in women, fourth in men), Stanford (fifth in both) and Auburn (10th in women, ninth in men) also have both teams in the top 10.

MOVIN' ON UP: Following the best season-opening score in program history, the gymnastics team moved up to fifth in this week's national ranking, which is based on season-high scores.

The Gators' 196.575 total in the Super Six Challenge, shown tape delay Jan. 26 at 6 p.m., was significant in a number of ways.

The tradition of low scores at the beginning of the season was erased. The quickest they reached the 196 mark was in 2001 by the fourth meet.

Compared to last season's scores, Saturday's total would rank as the second best.

Florida's 49.10 total on the balance beam was better than any of last season's beam scores.

A big reason for that was junior Kristen Stucky's 9.90 score for her routine. Saturday was the first time since Feb. 25, 2000 that Stucky performed a competitive beam routine. She has been plagued with knee injuries throughout her collegiate career and only made her competitive debut at last season's SEC Championships on the uneven bars.

"I felt very enthused (after the beam routine)," Stucky said after the meet. "I was pleased with how everything went. I couldn't have asked for a better first beam routine. I was a bit nervous before the routine, but there are always some pre-performance nerves. The key is to use that so that I can do the same routine I practice all the time."

Florida competes at Arkansas, which is in its inaugural gymnastics season, on Friday. Afterward, the Gators return and will have their "Meet the Team" Day on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

AVOIDING THE LETDOWN: Sure the women's swimming and diving team is enjoying one of its better seasons with an undefeated dual-meet record and a No. 2 ranking.

Coach Gregg Troy was anxious, however, about how his team swimming two meets in three days, since the Gators have not swum competitively since the U.S. Open in early December.

But Florida responded with wins against No. 5 Texas and Miami.

"After being off so long, it's a little questionable how they're going to respond," Troy said. "It was probably even better because we had a few people come around that maybe hadn't been quite as good as we had anticipated in the first semester.

"We saw some real good things out of Renate dePlessis. Coming off of knee surgery, this is the first time she looked real sharp. ... We saw Jaime Ellis after shoulder surgery, she competed real well in both meets."

One swimmer not returning to competition this season is Janelle Atkinson, who will take a redshirt after undergoing surgery in both shoulders in the fall. The 10-time All-American will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

"She has been released to start training, but I think the time frame is too short so we'd be rushing her and we might jeopardize her career," Troy said.

Had Atkinson been healthy, Troy said this season's team would have been his most talented since taking over in 1998. While he is hedging to make that claim, he still is happy with how the Gators have done so far.

"I don't know if it's the most talented, but it's the deepest," Troy said. "Right now, they're racing more confidently than any other team we've had before. ... Whether they're the most talented, that's yet to be seen at the end of the year. They're swimming better in season."

Troy will have a chance to evaluate the men after a long layoff this weekend. The UF men swim at Southern Methodist on Thursday and will remain in Texas for the Dallas Morning News Classic the next two days.

HITHER AND YON: Florida is 45th in the final fall sports standing of the NACDA Directors' Cup, presented to the top overall athletic program in the country. The Gators earned 109 points from national finishes by the volleyball and football teams. Stanford leads the race with 443 points and is followed by Penn State (364), Notre Dame (319), Michigan (297) and Wake Forest (277). ... The men's tennis team's preseason No. 5 ranking ties the best preseason ranking in program history. The Gators also began the 2000 season ranked fifth and finished as NCAA semifinalists. ... Volleyball star Nicole McCray began her professional playing career this weekend with the Conquistadoras Guaynabo. The team is based out of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico and also features UF standout Aury Cruz's older sister, Eva. McCray, who completed her eligibility this season by leading the Gators to the NCAA semifinals, ended her UF career second in all-time blocks (529) and fifth in kills (1,274).

Doris Yon covers UF athletics for The Sun. You can reach her by calling (352) 374-5052 or by e-mail at yond@gvillesun.com.

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