UF track hosts indoor event today

Published: Friday, January 23, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 12:00 a.m.

After an impressive showing at the Kentucky Invitational this past weekend, Florida’s track and field team returns home for the second Tom Jones Memorial Invitational in the O’Connell Center today.

This weekend’s meet honors longtime UF women’s track and field coach Tom Jones, who died in 2007 after his battle with cancer.

“The meet is in memory of Tom Jones, who was the coach here for many years,” UF coach Mike Holloway said. “He was a friend and mentor to a lot of people, myself included, and we’re excited about the meet this weekend.”

In 2008, the Gators combined to win 11 events and post 10 NCAA provisional qualifying marks at the invitational. Holloway said he is looking to add a couple more qualifying marks after his team opened the 2009 indoor track season earning one NCAA automatic-qualifying mark and seven provisional marks, as well as winning five events.

Holloway said he was pleased with how the Gators, whose men’s and women’s sides are ranked No. 4 and No. 13 in their respective polls, started the season, but he’s more interested to see how his team performs after finally getting to compete against competition other than themselves. He’s also excited to see how his team reacts after being around more familiar surroundings and having the comfort of a home crowd.

“Anytime you can sleep in your own bed, eat your regular foods and hang out with your friends before the competition is going to help,” he said. “As close to normal as you can keep things always helps you compete better.”

With the extra fuel that comes with competing in front of a home crowd there’s also the chance of athletes getting overhyped and sometimes psyching themselves out. Holloway said that shouldn’t be a factor. He stays with the philosophy that his athletes perform the way they practice and that nerves shouldn’t be a problem once it’s time to compete.

The Gators will play host to a chunk of talent this weekend as four of the other 14 men’s teams competing are ranked in the top 25. The women will compete against five ranked teams out of 16 competing.

The invitation will also have a few high-profile, post-collegiate runners as well. The 2008 US indoor and outdoor 110m hurdle champion David Oliver will be on hand. Oliver finished his 2008 campaign by winning the bronze medal in the 110m hurdles at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

“Across the board, it’s going to be a very competitive situation,” Holloway said.

On the Gators’ side, the UF men’s 4x400-meter relay recorded the fastest time in the nation after Carlos Phillips, R.J. Anderson, Lamarr Davis and Calvin Smith captured the event at Kentucky in a provisional-qualifying time of 3:09.14. Smith’s time of 47.04 in the 400-meter dash also currently ranks second in the country and first in the SEC.

Junior women’s thrower Mariam Kevkhishvili, who was the 2008 NCAA Indoor shot put champion, earned the Gators only NCAA automatic-qualifying mark in the shot put with a throw of 55-10.50 /17.03m in Lexington, Ky.

UF athletes lead the SEC in five different event areas — women’s shot put, men’s 400m, men’s 4x400m relay, men’s long jump and men’s shot put.

Today will be the only time this season that the Gators compete in front of a home crowd until the outdoor season begins in late March. With that in mind, Holloway said he expects to see some extra fire out of his two squads.

“We have a lot of pride in what we do here,” he said. “I know from the standpoint of how the events are run that everybody that’s involved in the events are going to be putting their best foot forward to make sure it happens. That’s just what we do it at the University of Florida. We don’t do anything halfway.

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