FLORIDA ATHLETICS NOTEBOOK
Women's team No. 1
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 1:27 a.m.
There was a steady climb for the Florida women's track and field team in the Trackwire poll since its preseason No. 3 ranking.
That ascent landed the Gators in the No. 1 spot in this week's poll. They are projected to score 59 points in the NCAA Championships and are followed by LSU (55) and South Carolina (45).
"It's exciting for our team and it's a big motivating factor," coach Tom Jones said. "It's a real challenge for our athletes to keep this ranking going and try to win a national championship."
Florida moved to the top of the poll despite South Carolina's 43-point win at this past weekend's SEC Track and Field Challenge.
But the Gators had several key marks at the meet.
Senior Faith Rein ran an automatic-qualifying time of 52.83 seconds in the 400-meter dash to finish second. Five other UF athletes - Ebony Shotwell (7.36 in the 60), Novlene Williams (53.70, 400), Kristina Bratton (2:08.34, 800), Andrea Bliss (8.37, 60 hurdles) and Anna Salzano (12 feet, 9 1/2 inches, pole vault) - met provisional marks.
"It's good to get respect for the performances our athletes have done so far," Jones said. "What propelled us was our performance in the 400 and the 4-by-400 because we weren't even listed in the Dandy Dozen prior to that meet. Obviously the depth in our throws that we have right now also contributed, as well as Andrea Bliss in the hurdles. All those performances enhanced us from a standpoint of the national ranking."
The UF men also rose in the ranking. After being 10th in the poll's first two editions, they are now third this week with a projected total of 26 points at the NCAA Championships.
Like the women's poll, SEC schools sit atop the men's ranking. LSU is first with 60 points and is followed by Arkansas (55). Florida shares third place with Tennessee and South Carolina.
Sophomore Josh Walker picked up the first automatic-qualifying mark for the Gators in the 60 hurdles. He had a time of 7.74 in the preliminaries to meet the standard.
Other new provisional marks for the Gators are Rickey Harris in the 400 (47.05) and Brian DaCunha (17-8 1/2) and Paul Condron (17-4 1/2) in the pole vault.
Florida's next meet is this weekend at the Carolina Fast Times Meet in Chapel Hill, N.C.
CATCHING UP: There is plenty of statistics to reflect the gymnastics team's strong start.
The Gators are ranked in the top 10 in three events, including the top spot on the uneven bars. But they are lagging a bit on vault.
Vault is the only event Florida has yet to pass the 49-point mark. Friday, five of the six gymnasts competed vaults with a 10.0-start value.
"It's a slow starter for us," first-year UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. "There are other programs that will say the same thing as well that obviously you want to start strong from the start, but it really matters when you get toward the middle and end of the season and at nationals. You might struggle a little bit at the beginning while you're trying to figure out who's going to do what."
Faehn changed freshman Amanda Stroud's vault and All-American Alecia Ingram has not competed on vault.
Stroud is competing a Yurchenko half twist on, front tuck half twist off, valued at a 10.0. She was training a Yurchenko layout with a full twist in the preseason.
Ingram competed Friday for the first time since the 2001 season on the balance beam. She redshirted all of last season to recover from shoulder surgery and Faehn said the Nebraska transfer may not compete in other events until the middle of February.
HITHER AND YON: The softball team is picked to finish third in the Eastern Division and fourth overall in the preseason SEC coaches' poll. LSU is picked to win the West and the overall title and Georgia is predicted to win the East. Florida received two first-place votes on the East ballot and one overall first-place vote. ... The men's tennis team's 7-0 win against UCF was its first season-opening shutout victory in six seasons.
Doris Yon covers UF athletics for The Sun. You can reach her by calling (352) 374-5052 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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