UF men's track brings home another title for program
Published: Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 8:41 p.m.
With its second straight NCAA outdoor title on Sunday, the Florida men's track and field team has won five national championships since 2010.
But Florida track and field coach Mike Holloway isn't about to call his program a dynasty.
“I try not to use words like that because I don't want to put that kind of pressure on my athletes,” Holloway said. “If other people want to look at us as a dynasty, that's fine. We just look at it as doing our job.”
The Gators responded to pressure just fine at the NCAA championship meet last weekend in Eugene, Ore. Needing a first-place finish in the 4x400 relay, Florida delivered, with freshman Arman “Gino” Hall running the final leg for a relay team that won the event in a time of 3:01.34. Texas A&M dropped the baton on the same relay, allowing Florida to catch the Aggies for a share of the national title.
Najee Glass, Hugh Graham, Jr. and Dedric Dukes also were part of the winning 4x400 relay team.
“The thing that really popped in my head when I saw (Texas A&M) drop the stick was just, everybody run your race,” Hall said. “We have this in the bag now because I feel like no one else was going to beat us. A&M was going to be tough competition, but after that, when they dropped the stick, it was just ours for the taking.”
Said Holloway: “I think what you see in that group is four guys who are used to being in those situations. You start with Najee who was in the world youth championships, Hugh Graham who was a state champion at Florida (and) on the national team last year, Dukes who was on the team last year and Gino who was a world youth champion, a world junior champion and also a silver medalist last year. So I think those guys come into the situation that we've seen these guys before. These guys go out and do their job. They don't really worry about other people.”
Hall's big finish highlighted a stellar meet for the Gators. Senior Omar Craddock defended his national title in the triple jump, while the 4x100 relay team of Antwan Wright, Graham Jr., Leonardo Seymore and Dukes won a national title last Saturday.
By winning a share of the national title, Florida defied pre-meet predictions that had Arkansas, Texas A&M and host Oregon finishing ahead of the Gators.
“We were a little under the radar and we wanted to make a scene,” Hall said. “We wanted to make sure everybody understood that obviously we won it last year, we didn't want to lose it again this year.”
Before its string of outdoor national titles, Florida won three straight men's indoor track and field national titles from 2010-2012.
“When Mr. (Florida athletic director Jeremy) Foley hired me, he asked me to take this program to new heights, and wanted to challenge for national titles every year,” Holloway said. “So that's what I'm trying to do. I don't worry about dynasties or stuff like that because words like that get you in trouble. You start to get a little bit full of yourselves.”
Here's something Florida could use for motivation next season. Because the Gators finished tied with Texas A&M in the meet, both coaches had to flip a coin to determine which school would take home the NCAA Championship trophy. Holloway called tails. But the flip ended up heads, meaning Texas A&M was able to take the trophy back to College Station.
“Tails never fails and it failed me this time,” Holloway said. “It's no big deal. It doesn't change the moment at all. I'm just embracing this group of young people and the time and the effort and the energy they put into this championship.”
Not bringing the trophy back to Gainesville didn't bother Hall, who will have more chances in the coming years to lead Florida to outright national titles.
“All I know is we're all getting rings,” Hall said. “So that's the only thing we really care about. Sure, we would like to have the trophy in our stand, but in our mind, we won it.”