Special to Gatorsports.com
EUGENE, Ore. – Florida boasts 26 entries – 13 apiece for the men’s and women’s teams – for this week’s NCAA Outdoor Championships, beginning today and concluding Saturday at Historic Hayward Field.
Men’s events are held days one (today) and three (Friday), while women’s events are contested days two (Thursday) and four (Saturday.
The Gators, ranked No. 2 on the men’s side and No. 8 on the women’s side of the latest USTFCCCA National Team Rankings, return 10 scorers from the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships, where the men won their sixth national title since 2010, a Division I-leading figure during that span.
UF’s contingent of returners includes the 400 hurdles duo of Eric Futch, the defending national champion, and TJ Holmes, the national runner-up. At this meet a year ago, they became the second pair of teammates in Division I history to finish 1-2 in the 400 hurdles.
Also headlining for the men is junior jumper KeAndre Bates, who totaled 14 points in the horizontal jumps at last year’s NCAA Outdoors. Bates won the long jump title and finished second in the triple jump at this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships, propelling him to USTFCCCA National Indoor Field Athlete of the Year honors. The El Paso, Texas native, who captured three SEC titles this year, was the only man ranked in the national top 10 in both the long jump and triple jump prior to the NCAA Preliminaries two weeks ago.
SEC Indoor and Outdoor Freshman Runner of the Year Grant Holloway, the third man since 1998 to qualify in the 110 hurdles and long jump, is ranked in the national top five in both his individual events. Holloway will also run on both of UF’s highly-ranked 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams, as will Futch.
SEC Indoor Freshman Field Athlete of the Year Clayton Brown will once again take on a challenging double. Brown is the sixth Division I man since 2008 to qualify in both the high jump and triple jump, though only two men since 1965 scored in both. At NCAA Indoors, Brown became just the second man since 1994 to score in both those jumps.
For the women, fifth-year senior Kyra Jefferson enters the meet as the No. 5-ranked 200 meters runner. Jefferson, the 2015 indoor 200 national champion and No. 9-ranked outdoor runner in collegiate history, will also appear on both UF’s relays, which are ranked in the top four among NCAA Outdoors qualifiers.
Four-time qualifiers Shayla Sanders (100 meters) and Marija Vucenovic (javelin throw) are among the women’s entries of note, too. Vucenovic, the 2013 national runner-up and a top-five finisher a year ago, is ranked No. 3 among NCAA Outdoors entrants, the second-highest ranking for a Gator this week.
Sophomore Yanis David (No. 2 in the triple jump) is the only Gator ranked higher in an individual event. David has been the triple jump runner-up at every championship meet this year.