No. 1 Gators aiming high in track
Published: Friday, January 14, 2011 at 5:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 14, 2011 at 5:07 p.m.
Two little words are all the Florida men's track and field team needs to re-energize.
That's all it takes.
There's no pep talk or berating by coach Mike Holloway. When there's a lull at practice, Holloway, in his ninth year as Florida's head coach, simply stops, grabs the attention of his athletes and says "three points" — the number of combined points Florida's men's team has lost by in the outdoor national championships the past two years.
"That's all I say," Holloway said, "three points."
Even though the No. 1 men are the defending indoor national champs, Holloway, the 2010 USTFCCCA National Men's Indoor Head Coach of the Year, and his team are still motivated by the sting of losing that No. 1 ranking with second-place finish in last year's outdoor championships.
The men — along with the women's squad — will begin their run to nationals in eight weeks Saturday in State College, Pa., at the one-day Nittany Lion Challenge, hosted by Penn State.
While the men enter the year as the nation's best, Florida's women are unranked after losing 32 of the team's 33 points from last season's fourth-place NCAA Indoor finish to graduation.
With a new season to prove more, both squads are itching to get back out on the track and compete against some unfamiliar faces.
"We're tired of competing against each other in practice," Holloway said. "We want to see somebody else in another uniform, in a different environment. That's what we'll see this weekend."
Two driving forces for the men's team this season will be two of the top track athletes in the country.
Sprinter Jeff Demps and jumper Christian Taylor were named two of 10 athletes on the preseason watch list for The Bowerman, track and field's highest honor, by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Wednesday.
Demps claimed the indoor 60-meter (6.56) and outdoor 100-meter (9.96) in 2010, becoming the 12th person in NCAA men's Division I history to accomplish the short-sprint sweep. He added a national championship in anchoring the Gators' 4x100-meter relay team.
"It's an honor because I was hearing (The Bowerman) was the Heisman of the track world," Demps said of being on the watch list. "It's an honor, but at the same time I have to come out and perform and put that behind me.
"It's hasn't really soaked in yet, but I'm pretty sure it will eventually."
Demps suffered a stress reaction in his foot during football season and isn't expected to compete this weekend, but hasn't been ruled out of any other meets. Demps, who hasn't tested his foot yet, said with daily treatment he's feeling much better.
"I haven't really tried it yet, but I doubt it's going to hurt when I come back out," he said.
Taylor, won the NCAA indoor-outdoor double in the triple jump in 2010, believed he'd make the watch list, but was still excited when he was officially listed. Now that his name is nationally recognized, Taylor said his new motivation — outside of another team title — is breaking the indoor collegiate record of 17.5m in the triple jump.
"I knew I put in the work to get there, so I wasn't surprised," he said. "It's always a boost to see (your name there).
"I'm not going to lie, it feels good (to be on the list). I've been blessed to stay healthy and finish strong through the seasons. The thing is, now the target is on my back and I have to continue what i did last year and improve from there."
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