UF athletic notebook: NCAA defending champs open season
Published: Monday, January 10, 2011 at 7:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 10, 2011 at 7:40 p.m.
For the first time in history, the Florida’s men’s track and field team enters the indoor season as the defending NCAA champion. In addition, the Gators are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation in the 2011 U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Poll.
Lofty and well-deserved accolades, yes; but there will be no resting on laurels on coach Mike Holloway’s watch.
“There’s been a lot of talk about us defending our national title,” he said. “That happened in 2010. This is 2011, so we don’t talk about that.
"In terms of what I’ve seen from the team so far, we had a great fall. Everybody was very focused and very determined. I think the biggest thing is there’s a lot of excitement about what we have the potential of doing this year. Everybody wants to be a part of that.”
Both the UF men and women kick off their indoor campaigns at the Nittany Lion Challenge in University Park, Pa., Saturday. Maryland, Albany and host Penn State will provide the competition.
“We just want to put the uniforms on and run against somebody else,” Holloway said. “Sixteen weeks in the fall of running against each other, it gets a little old sometimes. But our big focus this weekend is to go out and get the season off to a good start.”
Coach Andy Jackson’s No. 9 UF men, led by senior All-America Alex Lacroix, will compete in the SEC Indoors individual event Friday through Sunday in Knoxville, Tenn.
“It’s one of the many things about the SEC that’s fantastic,” Jackson said. “It’s a great way to start the season, against five of the top 20 teams in the country and quite a few other teams that will make the NCAA (Tournament).”
Meanwhile, Lauren Embree, Joanna Mather, Alex Cercone and Olivia Janowicz of the No. 2 UF women’s team will compete in the Freeman Memorial Tournament in Las Vegas hosted by UNLV on Thursday through Sunday. It will be the first action of the year for Embree, who played No. 1 singles as a true freshman last year for UF’s NCAA runner-up squad but is recovering from a wrist injury.
“That is certainly a big boost,” said coach Roland Thornqvist. “We have a very talented team, but anytime you add a very talented player like Lauren back in the mix, it certainly makes you a better team.”
SWIMMING AND DIVING
While the majority of UF’s top-10 men’s and women’s teams will compete against visiting Florida Atlantic in a dual meet this Saturday at 1 p.m., the top men will be heading to the Dallas (Texas) Classic on Friday night.
“This week we have eight guys going to Dallas to swim in the Dallas Classic against five other really good teams,” said coach Gregg Troy. “It’s eight of our more accomplished men, so it becomes a guide to see how they’re going to handle high-level competition. The entire women’s team and the remaining men will swim against Florida Atlantic here on Saturday.”
The Gators are coming off a home sweep of Georgia Tech in their spring opener last Friday.
“The rest of this month becomes very important for us,” Troy said. “It’s all about getting ready for a championship at this point in the season.”
UF is hoping a carryover from Sunday’s exciting SEC road win over South Carolina and a home-court advantage will fuel an upset of Tennessee when the No. 5 Lady Vols (15-2, 3-0) visit the O-Dome for a key conference battle Thursday night at 7.
“We’ve played very well at home,” said assistant coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick, who spoke to the media Monday as head coach Amanda Butler was busy recruiting. “In Tennessee we’re obviously facing the toughest of opponents. They’re playing very well right now. They’reoutrebounding people by 14 a game and they’re averaging 80 (82.1) points a game. But we have played them well the last three years on our home court, so we’re glad to be returning to the O-Dome to play them.”
The Gators conclude the week with an SEC road game at Georgia at 2 p.m. Sunday. The game will be carried live by the SEC Network.
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