Gators begin national title defense

By Christopher Lee

The No. 1 University of Florida Track & Field team got off to a strong start in its defense of last year’s national title.

The Gators looked like a team that had every reason to be No. 1 in the country after a strong showing at the Alabama Invitational track meet. The Alabama Invitational was the Gators’ first meet of the 2012 and featured players either setting new school records or new personal records.

The standout moment came in the shot put as senior thrower Kemal Mesic broke a school record of 19.95 meters. The previous mark was by Mesic with a 19.53, with his throw on Saturday winning by almost three meters.

Another standout during Saturday’s meet was senior multi-event athlete Gray Horn. He placed first in the long jump with a career-best 7.66 meters, which is 10th best in UF history.

“I was really impressed with Gray,” UF coach Mike Holloway said. “He had one of his best performances in the hurdles and I can’t say enough about what he did in the long jump.”

The men were not the only ones to be successful at the Alabama Invitational. The UF women 4X400 meter relay team of Alishea Usery, Lanier Whittaker, UConn Ndu and Ebony Eutsey finished first in the event with a time of 3:39.76.

In addition to the veteran men and women performing well, several freshmen also performed well. Tyler Cardillo was victorious in the men’s 800, finishing with a time of 1:51.50. He followed closely by junior John Mitchell who was second with a 1:51.54.

Freshman Ciarra Brewer was second in the women’s triple jump in her first collegiate meet, with a distance of 12.74 meters.

Harsha Torke continued the freshman explosion by posting another second place finish with a 4:12.63 time in the men’s mile run. Marquis Dendy recorded a 15.24 jump in the men’s triple jump to earn second in the event.

The Gators’ next meet will be at home as they host the Gator Invite at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Jan. 22.

“I think today was a typical opening meet,” Holloway said. “We saw some good performance, saw some need for improvement and then saw some really great performance out of guys like Kemal and Gray”.

Chris Lee is a Gator Country Intern Reporter, He can be reached by email at or You can also follow him on Twitter @chrslee212.