Before he made Florida a powerhouse, Mike Holloway built winning programs at Buchholz High

Ainslie Lee
The Gainesville Sun
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Head cross-country and track and field coach Mike Holloway has built a winning legacy at the University of Florida.

Earlier this month, Holloway led both teams to NCAA outdoor championships, bringing his total to 12 titles since taking the reins of the men's program 20 years ago and the women's program 15 years ago. 

But before constructing a dynasty at UF, Holloway built one at a high school 4 miles from his current post. 

After one season at Gainesville High School as an assistant coach, Holloway, better known as "Mouse" at the time, was hired by the rival Buchholz Bobcats as head coach for the cross-country and track and field teams in 1985. 

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Mouse won first title with Bobcats in boys cross country

Members of the Florida women's team and coach Mike Holloway celebrate June 11, 2022, after winning the team title during the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.

By 1989, Holloway had won his first championship as a head coach with Buchholz's boys cross-country team. Shaun Skeris, who was a student at Buchholz from 1987 to 1991, was there. 

"We were the Men In Black," said Skeris, referring to the black uniforms Holloway got for the Bobcats' cross-country team. "He wanted us to look the part and to play the part and to be the part. And he felt that if we had the right uniforms, as well as the right mentality, that we could execute on that."

The Men In Black went on to win back-to-back boys cross-country titles in 1989 and 1990 — Holloway's first two championships. 

It wasn't until 1993 that Holloway led Buchholz's boys track and field team to a title, and Eric Drummond, a student at Buchholz from 1991 to 1995, helped the Bobcats do it. 

Drummond's journey as a four-time state champion started after tagging along with a friend to track practice. 

"I just started running around in circles," said Drummond. "And Mouse yelled at me one day and said, 'Come over here.' I don't remember the beginning of it all. I just remember that was it. That's what I did. The next three or four years of my life, that was everything to me."

While some of that is due to Drummond's competitive nature — which he's passed on to his two daughters who are also cross-country and track athletes — a lot of it was because he simply wanted to be around Holloway. 

To Drummond, Holloway isn't just some guy who taught him how to run 30 years ago. 

“You know how there’s maybe one or two people in your life that really made an impact on who you are as a person and what you’ve come to know is good and right?" Drummond said. "Mouse was one of the two most influential people in my life.”

By the time he graduated in 1995, Drummond had been a part of four state championship-winning teams — two in track and field and two in cross-country. 

Holloway left in the same year to take a job as an assistant coach at UF. In his 10-year tenure at Buchholz, Holloway helped the Bobcats collect eight state titles across boys and girls cross-country and track and field. 

Mike Holloway had same winning approach with Bobcats

Mike Holloway talks at a press conference in 2002 when he was the newly named track and field head coach for the Gators.

According to Skeris, not much has changed in Holloway's approach to coaching. 

"What he had at Buchholz and what he has now, that I can see, is his ability to identify talent and then to connect with the athletes to bring out the best in them," Skeris said. "So whether that’s the high school level or college level, his ability to identify them, connect with them and bring out the best in them, particularly at the biggest meets.”

Skeris says he has no idea how Holloway does it, but at Buchholz, Holloway was able to milk every last drop out of his athletes on the biggest stages. And that hasn't changed.

A pair of NCAA outdoor titles in a matter of days is proof. 

However, it's his sustained success that sets Holloway apart.

Skeris believes it boils down to three key points: Holloway's love for the sport, his love for people and his ability to overcome adversity. 

Simple, right? 

Those three things have helped Holloway total 12 NCAA championships, eight high school state titles and build two powerhouse programs in Gainesville — all in 37 years. 

It seems everyone agrees that Mouse isn't stopping anytime soon. 

As he said last week, "I’m still locked in."

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