Gator track places 21 athletes in NCAA Championships

INDIANAPOLIS – The University of Florida women’s track and field team will send 11 athletes in nine events to next week’s NCAA Outdoor Championships, while the men’s squad will travel 10 athletes in nine events as the field of athletes was announced Tuesday.

Florida will have seven athletes competing in seven individual events led by freshman Evelien Dekkers (Etten-Leur, The Netherlands), who will participate in the javelin. Freshman All-American Mariam Kevkhishvili (Tbilisi, Georgia) will take part in the shot put, freshman Lori Bowen (Tallahassee, Fla.) will compete in the pole vault, junior All-American Lakecia Ealey (Albany, Ga.) will run the 100m, junior All-American Natalie Knight (Snellville, Ga.) will participate in the 200m, junior Lorain McKenzie (Clarendon, Jamaica) seized one of the final at-large bids in the 800m and junior Lindsay Sundell (Fort Salonga, N.Y.) will compete in the 3,000m steeplechase.

Both women’s relay teams also made the field with the 4x100m of junior Abigail David (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago), Knight, Ealey and junior All-American Zan Joseph (Boynton Beach, Fla.) earning an automatic berth by winning the NCAA East Regional title. Florida’s 4x400m of junior All-American Dominique McLeggan (Weston, Fla.), Joseph, Ealey and David was granted an at-large bid. Junior Kia Raf (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) will serve as an alternate for the 4x100m, while McKenzie will be the alternate for the 4x400m.

“We found out today that Lorain McKenzie in the 800m and our 4x400m received at-large bids and we expected them to get in,” Florida women’s interim head coach Steve Lemke said. “All of our athletes have competed hard this year and now it’s time to refocus on the last leg of the season. The team has produced each step of the way to get to this point, and we look for that to continue in Sacramento.”

The men will boast six athletes competing in seven individual events led by junior All-American Wes Stockbarger (Port Charlotte, Fla.), who will participate in the discus and shot put. Junior Ryder Leary (Yulee, Fla.) grabbed one of the final at-large bids in the 3,000m steeplechase, sophomore All-American Willie Perry (Lenoir, N.C.) will compete in the 200m, sophomore Dennis Martin (Anderson, S.C.) will run in the 110m hurdles, freshman All-American Calvin Smith (Lutz, Fla.) made the field in the 400m and freshman Mike Morrison (Chesapeake, Va.) will take part in the decathlon.

Both men’s relay teams also made the field with the 4x400m of freshman Carlos Phillips (Winter Park, Fla.), Smith, junior All-American Bernard Middleton (Jacksonville, Fla.) and junior Eric Alberter (Benton, Ill.) earning an automatic bid by winning the NCAA East Regional title. Florida’s 4x100m foursome of freshman Jeremy Hall (Jacksonville, Fla.), Smith, Perry and Middleton received an at-large bid.

“We’ve got a very diverse group of athletes going to Sacramento,” Florida men’s coach Mike Holloway said. “The key is that we’ve got athletes going who are competitive and can compete at a very high level. We’ve got some momentum going after regionals, but we can’t be complacent. We’ve got to go out to California on a mission and we can’t act like we’re happy to be there.”

The women will be seeking a fifth top-10 finish in the last six years at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, which will take place June 6-9 at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex in Sacramento, Calif.,while the men will be looking to record the program’s seventh top-10 finish in the last nine years at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

For the women, Dekkers earned an automatic bid to the NCAA meet in the javelin by finishing the East Regional in fourth with a throw of 48.18/158-1. Dekkers is the only freshman and just one of seven underclassmen that will be in competition out of 27 athletes in the event, Dekkers holds the sixth-best javelin mark (52.84/173-4) amongst the athletes declared for the national meet. That mark, tossed at the Sun Angel Classic on April 14, ranks second in UF history. Dekkers was named SEC Field Athlete of the Week on April 3 for her efforts at the Florida State Relays, where she recorded a javelin throw of 52.40m/171-11 to win the. Dekkers will be looking to become UF’s first All-American in the javelin since Emily Carlsten in 2000.

At last weekend’s NCAA East Regional Championships, Kevkhishvili took third in the shot put with a mark of 16.31m/53-6.25. Two weeks prior, Kevkhishvili won the Southeastern Conference shot put title with a personal-best toss of 17.05m/55-11.25, the fourth-best mark in UF history and seventh amongst athletes declared for the national meet. Kevkhishvili earned All-America honors in the shot put during the indoor season and will be vying to become the Gators’ first outdoor shot put All-American since Kim Barrett in 2004. She is just one of two freshmen and just one of six underclassmen that will be competing in the field of 28 in the shot put Sacramento.

Bowen recorded a personal-best pole vault of 3.96m/12-11.75, the fifth-best mark in school history, to take fourth at the NCAA East Regional and secure a place in the national championship meet. Bowen will look to become Florida’s fourth All-American in the pole vault and just the second outdoors. Junior Natalie Moser most recently earned the honor this past indoor season, while Dara Altman is the only UF athlete to earn the honor outdoors (2006).

Ealey surged to a second-place finish in the 100m at the NCAA East Regional with a wind-aided time of 11.49. She will be looking to become Florida’s first 100m All-American since Kisha Jett in 1998.

In the 200m, Knight ran the second-fastest time in school history in the East Regional prelims, a mark of 22.85, to advance to finals where she took third in 23.10. The Gators last 200m All-American is none other than Knight herself, having earned the honor in 2005.

McKenzie received an at-large selection to the NCAA meet based off of her personal-best time of 2:05.68, the 15th-best mark in the nation, which she ran at the SEC Championships to take third. The Gators’ last had an outdoor 800m All-American in 2002, when Melissa DeLeon earned the honor. 

Sundell clocked a school-record and personal-best 10:07.25 in the 3,000m steeplechase to finished fourth at the East Regional and advance to the national meet. She broke the school record, which she already held, by over 13 seconds. Sundell’s time places her second all-time amongst all steeplechase competitors in SEC, only behind Arkansas’ Lilli Kleinmann who’s best mark was 10:01.52 in 2001. Sundell will be contending to become Florida’s first All-American in the steeplechase.

The Gators 4x100m relay team will be in search of its third straight All-America honor at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The group earned an automatic bid to the meet by winning the NCAA East Regional title in 44.03, the sixth-fastest time in school history. That mark ranks eighth amongst teams declared for the championship meet. Ealey and Knight were a part of both the 2005 and 2006 relays, while Raf was on the relay in 2005 and McLeggan ran in 2006. The Florida 4x100m relay has earned All-America status in six of the last 10 years.

Earning an at-large selection to the NCAA meet, UF’s 4x400m relay team will challenge for its first All-America honors since 2005. Both Joseph and Knight were on the 2005 relay and will be looking for their second All-America honor in the event. The mark that earned the bid for the 4x400m, 3:36.06, came at the California Collegiate Challenge.

On the men’s side, Stockbarger broke the NCAA East Regional discus record last weekend to win the event with a mark of 61.39m/201-5 – the second-best mark of any athlete during regional competition. A day later, Stockbarger took fifth in the shot put to automatically qualify for NCAAs. His mark in the discus ranked seventh in the nation in 2007, while his top shot put toss of 18.80m/61-8.25 seeds him 14th. The 2007 Southeastern Conference discus champion, Stockbarger will attempt to join Matt Simson and Dwight Johnson as the only Gators to ever earn indoor and outdoor All-America honors in the shot put in the same season and could become the first athlete in school history to earn All-America honors in the shot put and discus at the same meet.

Smith posted the No. 10 time in school history last Saturday to take runner-up honors in the 400m at the East Regional meet (45.60). That mark ranked sixth in the nation and earned Smith the No. 5 seed at the NCAA Championships. The 2007 SEC outdoor 400m champion will have the opportunity to become just the third athlete and second freshman in UF history to earn All-America honors in the 400m both indoors and outdoors in the same season. Also likely to run on both relays, only two athletes in Florida history – Calvin Long (1988) and Jimmie Hackley (1997) – have earned All-America honors in the 400m, 4x100m and 4x400m at the same NCAA meet.

After being hampered by injuries all season, Perry has regained the form that made him an indoor and outdoor All-American in the 200m as a freshman in 2006. He qualified for nationals in both the 100m and 200m, but will compete in only the 200m in addition to the 4x100m. At the NCAA East Regional Championships, Perry clocked the second-fastest time of his career to take third in 20.57 – the eighth-best time in the nation. Perry, the No. 7 seed in the event, will attempt to become the first athlete in school history to earn outdoor All-America honors in the 200m as a freshman and sophomore.

Martin improved on his personal best in the 110m hurdles in five of the six meets he competed in during the outdoor season, including his fourth-place East Regional time of 13.97 that earned him a trip to Sacramento. Martin will move on to the national meet and attempt to join Josh Walker (2003) as the second athlete in school history to earn All-America honors in the event as a sophomore.

In the only complete decathlon of his career, Morrison posted the second-best score in Florida history (7,316) to take second at the SEC Championships. His score ranks 11th in the nation and No. 1 among freshman decathletes in the country. Morrison will try to become the first Gator ever to earn All-America honors in the decathlon.

Leary completed an improbable run to the NCAA Championships field in the steeplechase by shaving nearly 30 seconds off his PR in his last two meets to qualify at 8:50.07. Entering the SEC Championships, Leary had clocked a best of 9:16.69 in his career. He crossed the finish line in 9:01.23 to take seventh and secure the first NCAA Regional qualifying mark of his career at SECs. Last weekend, Leary posted the sixth-fastest time in Florida history to take sixth at the NCAA East Regional Championships in 8:50.07.

Florida’s 4x400m relay of Phillips, Smith, Middleton and Alberter upset the nation’s No. 3 foursome in South Carolina to win the East Regional title last Saturday with a time of 3:06.31. The Gators will enter the meet ranked ninth in the nation and looking to earn All-America honors for the sixth time in the last 11 years in the event.

The Gator 4x100m relay claimed an at-large bid after running the nation’s No. 5 time (39.49) at the Jim Click Shoot-Out on March 24. Despite lineup changes throughout the year, the foursome of Hall, Smith, Perry and Middleton is in a good position to collect All-America recognition for the eighth time in the last 11 years for the Gators in the event.

The NCAA Outdoor Championships will be contested June 6-9. The meet will be broadcast live on CSTV from 8:30-11:30 p.m. (ET) on June 8 and live on CBS from 1-3 p.m. (ET) on June 9. Live results can be found at

Florida Men’s NCAA Outdoor Championships Participants (event):

Ryder Leary – 3,000m Steeplechase

Dennis Martin – 110m Hurdles

Mike Morrison – Decathlon

Willie Perry – 200m

Calvin Smith – 400m

Wes Stockbarger – Shot Put

Wes Stockbarger – Discus

Jeremy Hall, Calvin Smith, Willie Perry, Bernard Middleton – 4x100m

Carlos Phillips, Calvin Smith, Bernard Middleton, Eric Alberter – 4x400m

Florida Women’s NCAA Outdoor Championships Participants (event):

Lori Bowen – Pole Vault

Evelien Dekkers – Javelin

Lakecia Ealey – 100m

Mariam Kevkhishvili – Shot Put

Natalie Knight – 200m

Lorain McKenzie – 800m

Lindsay Sundell – 3,000m Steeplechase

Abigail David, Natalie Knight, Lakecia Ealey, Zan Jospeh – 4x100m*

Dominique McLeggan, Zan Joseph, Lakecia Ealey, Abigail David – 4x400m

*Kia Raf will be an alternate for the 4x100m