Gators collect 3 individual SEC titles, finish 4th at league indoor meet

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Florida's track and field coach Mike Holloway. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Special to Gatorsports.com

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Florida’s men closed the 2020 Indoor SEC Championships on Saturday with three individual titles, three silver medals, one bronze and 75 team points to finish fourth in the conference.

The UF women secured two silver medals and 45 points to place seventh in the SEC.

Senior Clayton Brown collected his second indoor SEC title in three years. The Jamaican jumper and 2018 SEC champion in the triple jump, finished first in that same event after logging a mark of 16.50 meters (54 feet, 1.75 inches) Saturday afternoon. His mark is a new season best and ranks third in the nation. 

“The biggest thing with Clayton is, we have challenged him to be the phenomenal athlete that he is and he’s finally stepping up to that,” UF coach Mike Holloway said. “I think the biggest thing Clayton had to overcome was the fact that he’s a phenomenal athlete. When you’re that good of an athlete, you just want to be an athlete and not be the technician that you have to be. He’s listening to coach Welty (Assistant Coach Mellanee Welty) and listening to coach Petersen (Jumps Coach Nic Petersen) and it’s coming together very well for him. He put up 18 big points for us and we’re going to miss him next year.”

Brown came close to also clinching the SEC title in the high jump, where he finished second, collecting silver and a total of 18 points for the Gators.

“I was the champion in 2018, so to be back on top feels really good,” Brown said. “There is always room for improvement. I’m still learning the event and I’m getting better and better every day. Plus, I’ve got like seven silver medals at home and I didn’t want to go home with another one.”

Junior thrower Thomas Mardal claimed his first indoor SEC crown and his second overall after posting a new personal-record mark of 22.89 meters (75 feet, 1.25 inches) in the weight throw. Mardal’s appearance Saturday was his second this indoor season, having only competed in Clemson’s Tiger Paw Invitational two weeks ago.  

“That’s just speaks to what he and coach Lemke (Associate Head Coach / Throws Coach Steve Lemke) do on a daily basis,” Holloway said of Mardal. “They had a plan. I spoke to Thomas and he said, ‘Coach, I promise you I’ll be ready at Clemson and I’ll be ready at indoor conference and at nationals’ and he was.”

In the men’s 60 meters, Raymond Ekevwo was crowned SEC champion. The Nigerian sprinter, who owns the No. 3 spot on UF’s All-Time Top 10 list and the fastest time in the country, crossed in 6.57 seconds. 

“I’m going to give him a B minus on that one,” Holloway said of Ekevwo. “He got out in front after 30 meters and then he didn’t really do much. But we’ve got bigger fish to fry in two weeks and he knows that in two weeks he can’t do that. You can’t discount the man is the SEC champion. I think Grant [Holloway] told him he had to win it because Grant won it last year (laughing).”

On the women’s side, newcomer Grace Starkmade splash in her first championship meet. The freshman, who broke a world U20 record on Friday’s prelims in the 60-meter hurdles (7.93 seconds), improved that time on Saturday’s finals after crossing in 7.91 seconds. Her personal record ranks second in the nation and in school history, and fell only 0.04 seconds short from breaking the program’s record. Stark left College Station with a silver medal.

Another freshman who left her mark in College Station was Semira Killebrew. The sprinter who owns the second-fastest time in school history in the 60 meters, collected a silver medal in her first SEC championship meet after crossing in 7.30 seconds. 

The Gators also took medals in the men’s 800 meters and mile.

Senior Justin Pacifico, who moved into UF’s All-Time Top 10 list Friday evening, capped his weekend earning a silver medal in the men’s 800 on Saturday. The mid-distance runner posted a time of 1:50.18 in the final portion of that event. 

Meanwhile in the men’s mile, redshirt senior Jack Guyton finished with a time of 4:15.16 to earn bronze.

OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES

Junior Taylor Manson posted a new indoor personal-best time of 52.31 seconds in the 400 meters, while sophomore Imogen Barrett clocked a new indoor personal record of 2:06.65 in the 800 meters. 

Additionally, newcomer Emily Culley posted a new collegiate personal-best time of 4:53.73 in the mile on Saturday, while fellow freshmen Joseph Fahnbulleh and Jackie Addy set new season- and collegiate-best times on Friday. 

2020 SEC INDOOR MEDALISTS

  • Raymond Ekevwo, Men’s 60 meters – 2020 Indoor SEC Champion
  • Thomas Mardal, Men’s Weight Throw – 2020 Indoor SEC Champion
  • Clayton Brown, Men’s Triple Jump – 2020 Indoor SEC Champion
  • Semira Killebrew, Women’s 60 meters – Silver Medalist
  • Justin Pacifico, Men’s 800 meters – Silver Medalist
  • Grace Stark, Women’s 60-meter Hurdles – Silver Medalist
  • Connor Bandel, Men’s Shot Put – Silver Medalist
  • Clayton Brown, Men’s High Jump – Silver Medalist
  • Jack Guyton, Men’s Mile – Bronze Medalist