GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Junior All-American Wes Stockbarger (Port Charlotte, Fla.) broke the meet record in winning the discus with a mark of 61.39m/201-5 to lead the University of Florida men’s track and field team, while freshman Mariam Kevkhishvili (Tbilisi, Georgia) finished third in the shot put and freshman Evelien Dekkers (Etten-Leur, The Netherlands) captured fourth in the javelin for the women’s squad on the opening day of competition at the NCAA East Regional Championships Friday at James G. Pressly Stadium at Percy Beard Track.
The men are tied for fourth with 10 points through five events as Liberty stands in first with 22 points entering the final day. Through five events, the women stand in fifth place with 11 points with Georgia leading the race for the team title with 1y points.
Four men advanced to finals in five events in addition to the 4x100m relay following competition on Friday. Sophomore Dennis Martin (Anderson, S.C.) clocked the fastest time of the day in the 110m hurdles (13.96), freshman All-American Calvin Smith (Lutz, Fla.) was fifth in 400m prelims (46.48) and junior All-American Bernard Middleton (Jacksonville, Fla.) was seventh overall (46.57), sophomore All-American Willie Perry (Lenoir, N.C.) moved on with the No. 6 time in the 100m (10.38) and later won his heat in the 200m in a season-best (20.65) and the 4x100m relay of Martin, Smith, Perry and Middleton won their heat in 39.58.
“I’m very proud of this team after our performances today,” Florida men’s coach Mike Holloway said. “You go down the line and just about everybody who competed stepped up and did a great job. All of the guys did exactly what we asked them to do and that was to compete hard and that’s what we hope to see tomorrow.”
On the women’s side, advancing to Saturday’s finals for the Gators were juniors Lakecia Ealey (Albany, Ga.) in the 100m, Natalie Knight (Snellville, Ga.) in the 200m and Lorain McKenzie (Clarendon, Jamaica) in the 800m, while the 4x100m relay team of junior Abigail David (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago), Knight, Ealey and sophomore Zan Joseph (Boynton Beach, Fla.) also advanced to finals.
“We had a great day,” Florida women’s associate head coach Steve Lemke said. “Mariam and Evelien entered the meet ranked in the top-five in their events, and they got their jobs done today and will be competing for us in Sacramento. The whole goal of this weekend is advancing to the national meet. For the athletes we had competing in preliminaries today, those who were ranked amongst the top-five advanced to finals by winning their heats. Natalie tied the second-best 200m time in school history was just a hundredth of a second away from the school record. Lakecia advanced in the 100m and Lorain in the 800m. All of those women have been getting better as the season has gone along.”
For the men, Stockbarger claimed the 18th East Regional crown by a Gator and the first in the discus. He posted a mark of 61.39m/201-5 on his third throw to win the event by 11 inches. Stockbarger reset his own school record by more than a foot and broke the previous East Regional record set by North Carolina’s Vikas Gowda in 2006 (61.29m/201-1).
The finish was an improvement for Stockbarger, who took fifth at both the 2005 and 2006 NCAA East Region Championships. He’ll move on to the NCAA Championships with a chance to become just the third athlete in school history to earn multiple All-America honors in the discus.
“I felt really good out there today,” Stockbarger said. “I think I could have thrown a bit further, but I got a PR and the regional record and that’s not too bad. My consistency has been really good lately and it came through today. I think it’s the biggest win of my career. I really wanted to get the East Region title and record, so that feels great.”
On the women’s side, Kevkhishvili advanced to the NCAA Championships with a third-place shot put toss of 16.31m/53-6.25. She also scored six points for the Florida in the team standings with the throw, the fourth-best of her career. Kevkhishvili finished the indoor NCAA Championships in eighth and will be looking become the first Gator since Kim Barrett in 2004 to earn both indoor and outdoor All-America honors in the shot put. She is the only freshman in the event advancing to the national meet out of the East Region.
Dekkers punched her ticket to the NCAA Championships in the javelin with fourth-place toss of 48.18m/158-01 to score five points for the Gators in the team standings. She is the only freshman in the event advancing out of the East Region.
Also competing in the javelin for the Gators, freshman Star Sansone (Boca Raton, Fla.) tossed a PR and the fifth-best mark in school history (45.40m/148-11) to finish ninth, just one position away from scoring points. Dekkers will be vying to become Florida’s first All-American in the javelin since Emily Carlsten in 2000. She will also attempt to reach the national meet in the discus on Saturday.
In the opening event of the day, the Florida men’s foursome of Martin, Smith, Perry and Middleton clocked UF’s second-fastest 4x100m time of the season as they crossed the finish line in 39.58 to win their heat. The time was the second-fastest of the day, just behind Florida State’s 39.30.
Martin clocked what would have been a PR in the 110m hurdles, but he ran with a 2.3 tailwind. Nevertheless, Martin won his heat in 13.96 with the day’s fastest time and moved on to Saturday’s 6:15 p.m. final. Junior Joe Taylor (West Palm Beach, Fla.) took ninth in 14.27 and missed out on the eighth and final qualifying spot by 0.01 of a second.
Perry came up just shy of his season-best in the 100m, but the All-American moved on to Saturday’s final by clocking a time of 10.38. His wind-aided mark (2.3) was the sixth-fastest of the day. Nearly three hours later, Perry advanced to finals in the 200m after winning his heat in 20.65 – his fastest time of the season and the second-best of the day.
Smith barely took second in his heat of the 400m with the fifth-best time of the day (46.48) as Columbia’s Errison Hurtault won the heat in 46.33. Middleton will join his teammate in Saturday’s final after crossing the line third in his heat with the seventh-best time of the day and his second-fastest of the year (46.57).
For the women, Knight tied second-best 200m time in school history with a personal-best time of 22.85 to win heat one of the event’s preliminaries and advance to finals. The mark tied Anita Howard’s 200m time from 1992 and was just 0.01 seconds off of the school record, set by Kisha Jett in 1996. Knight’s time was the second-fastest preliminary mark of the day.
Ealey clocked the top time in the fourth preliminary heat, 11.47, to advance to finals. The time was the third-fastest overall preliminary mark.
McKenzie finished with the top mark (2:07.56) in heat one of the 800m preliminaries to advance to finals. Her time was the sixth-fastest overall preliminary mark.
The 4x100m relay team advanced to finals by running the fastest preliminary time of 44.24, the tenth-fastest mark in Florida history.
The NCAA East Regional Championships conclude on Saturday. Live results can be found at http://www.GatorZone.com.
Men’s Team Standings (through five events):
1. Liberty 22; 2. Clemson 16; 3. Virginia Tech 12.50; 4. Binghamton 10; 4. Campbell 10; 4. Villanova 10; 4. North Carolina 10; 4. Florida 10; 9. North Carolina State 9; 10. La Salle 8; 10. Virginia 8; 12. South Carolina 6.33; 12. Georgia 6.33; 14. Coastal Carolina 6; 14. East Carolina 6; 16. Manhattan 5; 16. Farleigh-Dickinson 5; 16. Princeton 5; 16. Monmouth 5; 20. Cornell 4.50; 21. Georgia Tech 4; 21. Georgetown 4; 21. Rider 4; 24. Wake Forest 3; 24. Sacred Heart 3; 26. Bethune-Cookman 1; 26. Yale 1; 28. Connecticut 0.33.
Women’s Team Standings (through five events):
1. Georgia 17; 2. Miami 12; 2. Wake Forest 12 2. Duke 12; 5. FLORIDA, 11; 6. Virginia Tech 10; 6. Connecticut 10; 8. Davidson 8; 8. Monmouth 8; 8. Northeastern 8; North Carolina-Wilmington 8; 8. North Carolina State 8; 8. Cornell 8; 14. Jacksonville 6; 14. Robert Morris 6; 14. Buffalo-SUNY 6; 17. Providence 5; 17. Penn State 5; 19. North Carolina 4; 19. Charlotte 4; 19. Yale 4; 22. Syracuse 3.50; 22. Towson 3.50; 24. Georgetown 3; 24. Harvard 3.; 24. South Carolina 3; 24. Florida State 3, 28. Rider 2; 29. Princeton 1; 29. Radford 1.
Florida Men’s NCAA East Regional Champions (1 athlete, 1 title):
Wes Stockbarger – Discus
Florida Men’s Automatic NCAA Championships Qualifiers (1 athlete, 1 event):
Wes Stockbarger – Discus
Florida Women’s Automatic NCAA Championships Qualifiers (2 athletes, 2 events):
Mariam Kevkhishvili – Shot Put
Evelien Dekkers – Javelin
Florida Men Advancing To Finals (4 athlete, 5 events, 1 relay):
Dennis Martin – 110m Hurdles
Bernard Middleton – 400m
Willie Perry – 100m
Willie Perry – 200m
Calvin Smith – 400m
Dennis Martin, Calvin Smith, Willie Perry, Bernard Middleton – 4x100m
Florida Women Advancing To Finals (5 athletes, 3 events, 1 relay):
Lakecia Ealey – 100m
Natalie Knight – 200m
Lorain McKenzie – 800m
Abigail David, Natalie Knight, Lakeica Ealey, Zan Joseph – 4x100m