NAMPA, Idaho — Three was the lucky number for the Gators on Saturday night. Three consecutive team NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. Three straight individual 60 meter titles for sprinter Jeff Demps (Winter Garden, Fla.). Three individual NCAA crowns for Demps, junior sprinter Tony McQuay (Riviera Beach, Fla.) and junior jumper Omar Craddock (Killeen, Texas). Third straight year that the Gator men have had to overcome adversity to take it all.
Florida’s men won the 2012 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship with a total of 52 points, edging SEC Champion Arkansas by five points (47). The Orange and Blue became just the third different program in NCAA history to win three men’s indoor national crowns in a row.
After losing senior multi-event athlete Gray Horn (Waynesfield, Ohio), the projected winner of the men’s heptathlon headed into Saturday’s competition, to an injury during pole vault warm-ups, the Gators responded with determination and focus.
“When Gray went down this morning, I sent a text message to all the guys who had events today,” Florida head coach Mike Holloway said. “I said, ‘look, Gray can’t finish the competition because he hurt himself. But we’re still the best team here. I need you guys to trust and believe in yourselves, trust and believe in who we are and what we do, and we will win this championship.’ Championship teams overcome adversity. We’re a championship team. Let’s do this.”
The next event after Horn’s heptathlon was the high jump and senior Dwight Barbiasz (Milford, N.H.) was poised and ready to go. Coming in as the ninth seed in the event, Barbiasz put in the performance of his career, tying his career best with a mark of 2.23m/7-3.75 to tie for second place and earn seven points for the men.
Jeremy Postin (Auburndale, Fla.) was the next point-scorer for the Orange and Blue, coming up big in his first performance in the NCAA Championships, finishing fourth with a throw of 21.51m/70-7 in the men’s weight throw. Sophomore Eddie Lovett (West Palm Beach, Fla.), the 2011 and 2012 SEC men’s 60 meter hurdles champion, was up next for Florida, scoring a point for the Gators as the Orange and Blue leapt from fifth place to second with five events remaining.
It was McQuay’s time to shine next, as the junior ran the race of his life. The Riviera Beach native set a new collegiate-leading time of 45.77, a season-best for the 2011 USA 400m Champion. His victory pulled the Gators within seven points of the Razorbacks, a lead that seemed possible to overcome considering Florida’s 14th place start at the beginning of the day.
““It felt great,” McQuay said. “I did what I had to do to win the race. It’s been a good season for me. I’m happy with my time. I did what I had to do out there. Hopefully I supported my team and did what I could.”
McQuay is Florida’s first 400 meter champion since Kerron Clement clocked the world-record 44.57 in 2005.
Demps followed McQuay for a chance to take the team lead with his men’s 60 meters race. Demps, the two-time defending NCAA Champion in the event, had blown away his previous UF record just an evening before and seemed poised to earn a three-peat of his own. A tight race from start to finish, the junior sprinter found his way to the front and edged Illinois’ Andrew Riley by .01 to claim his third consecutive NCAA title and put the Gators ahead, 40-37.
““The whole time I was just trying to stay patient,” Demps said. “I was telling myself that no one in the country has worked harder than me. That’s all I was telling myself, that I just wanted to come out there. Even if I didn’t have the best race, it will do.”
Demps became the first three-time indoor NCAA sprint champion since Pittsburgh’s Lee McRae (1986-87-88, 55 meters).
There were two events remaining where the Orange and Blue had scoring opportunities to take a definitive lead: the men’s 800 meters and the men’s triple jump.
In the men’s 800 meters, Sean Obinwa (Tampa, Fla.) ran a solid race, finishing seventh with a time of 1:49.52, earning two points and putting Florida ahead, 42-37.
It was up to Craddock, the 2012 SEC Champion in the men’s triple jump, to bring it home for Florida. It was a fitting task, taking into account the last three triple jump champions had an Orange and Blue tint to them. Former Gator All-Americans Christian Taylor (2009, 2010) and Will Claye (2011) were the previous title-holders in the event and it was Craddock’s turn to bring home No. 4. The junior was beyond impressive, leaping to a facility record and personal best of 16.75m/54-11.50, winning by nearly a foot and sealing the national championship for the Gators.
“I was in the shadows for a long time and finally to come out and have a PR and do something better than I’ve been doing, it’s a great feeling,” Craddock said. “It’s a big accomplishment. It’s keeping those jumps here in Florida alive. I’m blessed enough to be SEC champion and now I’m blessed enough to be national champion. I kept that one alive and I’m keeping this one alive and am going to keep going.”
“They were focused,” Holloway said. “I saw it in their eyes when they got off the bus today. They were ready to compete and that’s why we’re the national champions.”
The Gator women scored 22 points for a ninth-place finish, as Oregon’s women earned their third consecutive NCAA Indoor Championship with 49 points, easily cruising past runner-up Kansas with 30.
The Florida women had a fantastic day of competition, as sophomore multi-event athlete Brittany Harrell (McComb, Miss.) broke the UF pentathlon record and finished sixth, the highest finisher out of the SEC. Harrell scored 4118 points, notching career bests in the 60 meter hurdles (8.69 – 976 points) and long jump (5.92m/19-5.25 – 825 points). Harrell used consistency and patience to break her own UF record, a mark she set just two weeks ago at the SEC Indoor Championships (4050).
Sophomore Agata Strausa (Riga, Latvia) finished seventh in a tactical race, as the transfer scored two points for the Orange and Blue. The 400 meter race proved to be a big one for the women, as Lanie Whittaker (Miami, Fla.) and Ebony Eutsey (Miami, Fla.) came up strong and finished third and sixth, respectively. Whittaker used a personal best 52.80 to score six points for the Gators, while Eutsey raced to a finish of 53.19, moving the Gator women into third with 18 points.
Freshman Ciarra Brewer (Union City, Calif.) could not have asked for more in her first NCAA Indoor Championships, as the lone female first-year for Florida finished sixth in the women’s triple jump with a personal best leap of 13.06m/42-10.25, good for three points and giving her the best finish of any SEC athlete in the event.
The women’s 4×400 was the final event of the night, and the Gator women put Florida on the board with their eighth-place finish of 3:34.69, courtesy of Whittaker, senior Alishea Usery (St. Louis, Mo.), Eutsey and junior Ugonna Ndu (Newark, N.J.)
The NCAA Indoor Championships will air on Sunday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU. The 2012 SEC Indoor Championships, which the Florida women won just two weeks ago, will air on Sunday, March 11 at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
2012 NCAA INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS (MARCH 9-10, 2012: BOISE, ID)
FINAL MEN’S TEAM STANDINGS
1. Florida – 52
2. Arkansas – 47
3. Arizona – 41
4. Arizona State – 31
5. LSU – 27
6. Indiana – 25
7. Texas – 22.5
8. Virginia Tech – 22
8. Texas A&M – 22
8. Florida State – 22
11. Stanford – 21
12. Notre Dame – 15
13. Illinois – 13
14. BYU – 12
15. Iowa – 11
15. Southern Utah – 11
15. New Mexico – 11
FINAL WOMEN’S TEAM STANDINGS
1. Oregon – 49
2. Kansas – 30
3. LSU – 27
4. Texas – 25
5. Texas A&M – 24
5. Arkansas – 24
5. Clemson – 24
8. UCF – 23
9. Florida – 22
10. Iowa State – 21
11. Arizona – 19
11. BYU – 19
13. Stanford – 18
13. Southern Illinois – 18
15. California – 16
SATURDAY, MARCH 10, 2012
DNF Gray Horn
Men’s Heptathlon 60mH
2. Gray Horn, 7.93 (999 pts) (PR)
6. Brittany Harrell, 4,118
Women’s Pentathlon 60m Hurdles
13. Brittany Harrell, 8.69 (976 pts)
Women’s Pentathlon High Jump
8. Brittany Harrell, 1.72m/5-7.75 (879 pts)
Women’s Pentathlon Shot Put
10. Brittany Harrell, 11.65/38-2.75 (638 pts)
Women’s Pentathlon Long Jump
4. Brittany Harrell, 5.92m/19-5.25 (825 pts)
Women’s Pentathlon 800m
12. Brittany Harrell, 2:21.75 (800 pts)
Men’s High Jump
2. Dwight Barbiasz, 2.23m/7-3.75 (PR)
9. Frankie Hammond, 2.15m/7-0.50
Men’s Weight Throw
4. Jeremy Postin, 21.51m/70-7
Men’s Triple Jump
1. Omar Craddock, 16.75m/54-11.50
Women’s Shot Put
14. Keely Medeiros, 16.09m/52-9.50
Women’s Triple Jump
6. Ciarra Brewer, 13.06m/42-10.25
Women’s Mile Finals
7. Agata Strausa, 4:41.74
Men’s 60m Hurdles Finals
8. Eddie Lovett, 7.72
Men’s 400m Finals
1. Tony McQuay, 45.77 (SB, FR, NB)
Women’s 400m Finals
3. Lanie Whittaker, 52.80
6. Ebony Eutsey, 53.19
Men’s 60m Finals
1. Jeff Demps, 6.56
Men’s 800m Finals
7. Sean Obinwa, 1:49.52
Women’s 4×400 Meter Relay
8. Florida (Whittaker, Al. Usery, Eutsey, Ndu), 3:34.69
Key: SR – school record; PR – personal record; SB – season best; FR – facility record; NB – national best
Courtesy of UF Communications.