Meet a good gauge for Gators

Published: Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 10:34 p.m.


Florida Intercollegiates

  • WHEN: Today - running events begin at 10 a.m.; field events begin at 11 a.m.
  • WHERE: O'Connell Center.

  • As much success as the Florida women's track and field team enjoyed last season - winning the SEC indoor title and second outdoors and third at the NCAA indoor meet - coach Tom Jones's outlook is better this year.
    His team's preseason No. 3 ranking reflects that, as the Gators hold the Florida Intercollegiates today in the O'Connell Center.
    "I would say this could possibly be my best team I've had," Jones said. "Unfortunately, (No. 1) LSU and (No. 2) South Carolina probably have their best team they've ever had too."
    First-year head men's coach Mike Holloway also said he has a complete team - the No. 10 Gators return all but four points from last season's fourth-place finish at the NCAA outdoor meet - and he hopes that will show today.
    "I'm using this as a gauge to see how competitive we are and how competitive we're going to be," said Holloway, an assistant coach at Florida the previous seven seasons. "I think that's been a problem here that we haven't known how to compete every day. ... We've kind of waited until the conference and nationals to be fired up (in the past), and at that point it's too late."
    Leading the UF women is a talented core of throwers, including defending NCAA weight throw champion Candice Scott.
    In Trackwire's first Dandy Dozen, which rates the top-12 athletes in each event, five Gators are ranked in the weight throw and three in the shot put.
    Scott is the top-ranked athlete in the weight throw and is third in the shot put. But after a long summer of international competition for her native Trinidad, Jones will rest Scott for much of the indoor regular season.
    With Scott resting, junior Jukina Dickerson may emerge as the country's top thrower.
    Dickerson, ranked second in the weight throw, reached an automatic qualifying mark in last month's Golden Flash Gala with a distance of 66 feet, 9 inches in the weight throw.
    "I'm ready to separate myself from the rest," said Dickerson, who redshirted last outdoor season with a back injury. "I've been here long enough. This is my junior year, but my fourth year academically. I've been training here for four years, so I think it's time."
    The Gators also have athletes ranked in the 60-meter dash (Ebony Shotwell, ninth), 400 (Novlene Williams, sixth), 800 (Kristina Bratton, second; Melissa DeLeon, ninth), 60 hurdles (Andrea Bliss, 10th) and distance-medley relay (eighth).
    But the athletes who failed to make the list, like three-time All-American Faith Rein, also caught Jones' attention.
    "Some kids didn't get consideration on the Dandy Dozen and it's a good motivational factor for us," Jones said.
    Florida's weakness in is the distance events, which became softer at the semester break when Louise Moerch returned to her native Denmark to concentrate on academics. Jones said the young distance group will rest for the next three weeks after a long cross country season.
    Pacing the UF men will be the sprinters, led by reigning NCAA outdoor 400 hurdles champion Rickey Harris.
    The junior enters this season ranked second in the 400, and he is feeling the expectations placed on him.
    "I'm really nervous because when you do so well, you're thinking, 'There's no way I can to do better; I'm only going to get worse,' " Harris said. "Hopefully I'm wrong and I'll keep getting better."
    Holloway does not anticipate Harris dropping, nor does he expect that from the other sprinters.
    "Obviously the head of that group is Rickey Harris, but I'm really looking forward to watching the sophomore group - Ahmad Jasmine, Josh Walker and Kyle Farmer especially - perform this year," Holloway said. "We don't have a John Capel or a Bernard Williams or anything like that. But I think collectively, we have a group that can be very, very competitive at any level."
    Other ranked UF athletes are Moise Joseph (third in the 800), Matt Vincent (fifth in high jump) and Joe Squittieri (ninth in high jump).
    Doris Yon can be reached at (352) 374-5052 or

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