Florida places both teams in top 4 at SECs

There were many highlights to Championship Sunday as the Florida men’s and women’s track & field teams closed the book on the 2013 Southeastern Conference Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center at the University of Arkansas.

Florida’s men finished second in the team standings behind the No. 1 Razorbacks, scoring 117 points over the course of the three-day meet. The women turned in a fourth-place score with 87.50 points throughout the weekend. A highlight package of the SEC Indoor Championships will air on Wednesday, March 13 on ESPNU beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET.

“I’m very proud of my team. I’ve said for the longest time that I think this is the best meet and if you look at the results, you’ll see that,” Florida head coach Mike Holloway said. “Extremely proud of our kids for lining up and getting after it and never backing off. At the end of the day, what we did is set us up well to be back here in two weeks at NCAAs and do well at the national championship meet.

“Absolutely, my hat’s off to Arkansas’ men’s and women’s teams,” Holloway continued. “I really respect what they do here and to come here and finish behind them, I don’t like to finish second to anyone but you have to take your hat off to people when they do and they were really impressive this weekend.”

Junior Cory McGee (Pass Christian, Miss.) had a huge day Sunday, claiming the women’s mile crown with her time of 4:35.33. The title comes as her second in three years, having won the championship as a freshman as well. The Gator women have won three of the last four women’s mile crowns (Charlotte Browning, 2010).

“I love the mile. The mile is my race,” McGee said. “I was focused on this race for weeks. There are more fast girls in this race than ever. I almost pushed too hard and had to sit back and run my race.”

McGee also ran anchor on the women’s distance medley relay, joining with Mandy Perkins (Ormond Beach, Fla.), Amani Bryant (Tampa, Fla.) and Agata Strausa (Riga, Latvia) with the seventh-fastest time in program history, racing to an 11:13.45 finish.

“Very proud of that group as a whole and it’s a great time,” Holloway noted. “Watching Cory on the end of that and the way she handled herself, bringing a DMR title home for the Gators, I just couldn’t be prouder. Also very pleased with Mandy Perkins and Amani Bryant, both seniors in their last SEC meet and for them to go out as SEC Champions is very special.”

With her two titles today and her runner-up finish in the 3,000 meters yesterday, McGee was the runner-up for the Cliff Harper Trophy with 20.5 individual points scored throughout the weekend. The women’s trophy went to LSU’s Kimberlyn Duncan with 21.5 points

“I love the Gators and my team,” McGee said. “I was injured during the fall and I think that makes you realize how much you love it. It’s good to work with the distance group and work together as a team.”

Junior Eddie Lovett (West Palm Beach, Fla.) had another record-breaking day on the track, taking the SEC title in the men’s 60-meter hurdles in a school-record time of 7.54. It was Lovett’s third consecutive crown and his time set a new SEC Championship meet record (7.55 – Ron Bramlett, Alabama).

“Yesterday (in the prelims) was a fun day, I had a great day. We wanted to come in here and let everyone know that Florida was here,” Lovett said. “It’s kind of like a rivalry against Arkansas indoors and it’s fun. I wanted to come out here and get better and have fun. I feel like I set the example for everyone else to follow.”

Lovett became the first three-time SEC hurdles champion since South Carolina’s Terrence Trammell won the 55-meter hurdles in 1998 and 1999 and the 60-meter hurdles in 2000. Lovett’s time is the sixth-fastest time in collegiate history and leads the NCAA, as well as ranks third in the nation and fourth in the world this year.

“Eddie was phenomenal yesterday and today,” Holloway said. “I just don’t know what more I can say about where he’s put himself this weekend. He’s in great position heading into the NCAA Championship meet and he won his third SEC title as just a junior. I’m so proud of the work he and Coach (Erin) Tucker have done together.”

Junior Sean Obinwa (Tampa, Fla.) clinched his first individual SEC championship in the men’s 800 meters, overtaking the field in the final 300 meters to take the title in 1:48.40, a new season’s best.

“I was behind after 400 meters and just had to stay focused and relaxed on those last two laps,” Obinwa said. “I gave it everything I’ve got. I’ve been praying all day and just left it in God’s hands. You have to trust your training and come out and give everything you’ve got.”

Obinwa missed the majority of the 2012 outdoor season due to injury and looked true to form on Saturday and Sunday, cruising to the second-fastest indoor 800 of his career in the finals.

“Sean was a guy who, a couple of weeks ago, was in panic mode and Coach (Paul) Spangler and I spoke to him and he figured out what would get him to relax and focus on this meet and what you saw this weekend was a byproduct of that,” Holloway commented. “We haven’t won an 800-meter title in 23 years, so I’m really proud of Sean and his efforts. We still have work to do to get him back here in two weeks for the national championship.”

Senior Omar Craddock (Killeen, Texas) and sophomore Marquis Dendy (Middletown, Del.) were back on the runway Sunday, finishing 2-3 in the men’s triple jump. Craddock jumped to a season’s-best 16.49m/54-1.25 (SB) and Dendy leapt to a personal-best 16.25m/53-3.75, moving him up to fifth all-time in Florida history.

Dendy finished the meet as the runner-up for the Cliff Harper Trophy, the individual scoring champion, with 16 points. The men’s trophy went to Texas A&M’s Henry Lelei with 22 points.

Also on the runway was sophomore Ciarra Brewer (Union City, Calif.), who used a new personal-best jump of 13.35m/43-9.75 to finish in the bronze-medalist spot in the women’s triple jump Sunday.

The men’s relays turned in top-three finishes Sunday, as freshman Najee Glass (Woodbridge, N.J.), sophomore Hugh Graham, Jr. (Miami, Fla.), senior Leonardo Seymore (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) and Dedric Dukes (Miami, Fla.) claimed a second-place finish in the men’s 4×400-meter relay with their time of 3:04.31.

The Gators’ time is the second-fastest finish in Gator history and the ninth-fastest time in collegiate history. The finish would have been an SEC Championship meet record if not for Texas A&M’s finish in 3:04.18.

The men’s distance medley relay claimed bronze-medalist honors with their finish of 9:52.03. The foursome of Ryan Schnulle (Punta Gorda, Fla.), Jovon Toppin (Port of Spain, Trinidad), Obinwa and Matt Mizereck (Tallahassee, Fla.) turned in the fastest time of the season for the Gators.

The men’s distance corps came up big individually for the Orange and Blue, as Josh Izewski (Doylestown, Pa.) and Mark Parrish (Tampa, Fla.) finished 3-5 in the men’s 5,000 meters, crossing the finish in 14:06.67 and 14:12.08, respectively. Izewski’s time marks a new PR and goes down as the fifth-fastest time in program history.

Freshmen Jimmy Clark (St. Johns, Fla.) and JL Hines (Orlando, Fla.), who joined Izewski and Parrish in turning in personal bests Saturday in the men’s 3,000 meters, had career days as well, finishing eighth and 11th with times of 14:15.49 and 14:18.48, respectively. Clark’s time is ninth all-time at UF and Hines’ is 10th.

The Gators now prepare for the Last Chance Meets, as Florida will head to the Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend, Ind. and the Virginia Tech Qualifier in Blacksburg, Va. After that, Florida’s qualifiers will head back to Fayetteville for the 2013 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. The Gator men are the three-time defending NCAA Champions and the Florida women turned in a top-10 finish a year ago.

“The biggest thing about the last chance meets is running fast enough to where you can come back and run here in two weeks,” Holloway finished. “If you don’t have to go to last chance meets, you have to be smart enough to know how to rest properly but not rest so much that you’re flat. We’ve been pretty good at that in years past and at the end of the day, we’ve got to do what we do best and that’s get our kids ready to perform at a high level at the NCAA Championship meet.”

Courtesy of UF Communications