Mardal crowned national champion, UF off to a strong start at NCAAs

Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida weight thrower Thomas Mardal wins national championship Thursday.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Thrower Thomas Mardal set the tone and got the Gators off to a strong start at NCAA indoors as he was crowned weight throw national champion Thursday evening inside the Randal Tyson Track Center.

As Mardal stepped into the circle for his first attempt, officials and meet marshals warned photographers at the end of the throwing sector about the Gator, who two weeks ago beamed the 35-pound weight far enough to bounce and hit the wall inside the Arkansas track facility.

The Gopplen, Norway native opened with a 24.46-meter bomb (80 feet, 3.75 inches) to take the lead and remain on top to win his first NCAA crown. Mardal broke his own school record, which he set two weeks ago at SEC indoors, and became the third-best performer in collegiate history. 

Mardal followed that up with a mark of 24.41 meters (80 feet, 1 inch) in his second throw, becoming the first person in NCAA Indoor Championships history, and the second in collegiate history, to have at least two throws of 80 feet or further in the same meet. 

On the women’s side, junior Sterling Lester opened for the Gators by logging 4,213 points in the pentathlon to finish fifth in the nation. Lester topped her personal record by 118 points and moved to the No. 2 spot on UF’s Indoor All-Time Top 10 list.

The multis athlete set personal records in the high jump (1.69 meters / 5 feet, 6.50 inches) and in the 800 meters (2:12.13), in addition to logging the ninth-fastest time in school history in the 60-meter hurdles (8.44).

The action continues Friday from Fayetteville with a live broadcast beginning at 2:45 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. ET on ESPN3.