Outdoor season means fresh air, fast times, and, above all else: shades.
Another perk of outdoor track: clouds. Lots of gorgeous clouds. Sunlight creates fun effects as well.
On the track, sophomores Ryan Clark and Michael Timpson Jr. squared off in the 100 meters, with Clark (left) edging out his teammate for what is now a national top 30 time (10.33 seconds).
Redshirt seniors Destinee Gause and Kyra Jefferson also enjoyed quick starts to their outdoor campaigns. Jefferson opened with a 52.75 in the 400 meters, good for ninth nationally. Gause clocked a 23.21-second wind-legal 200 meters, placing her in the top 30.
Back in the field, AJ McFarland set a new PR in the hammer throw (more on his rank later), and triple jumper Asa Garcia eclipsed the 13-meter mark for the first time in her career. Garcia (42 feet, 10.25 inches / 13.06 meters) ranks tied for 11th nationally.
Also, Ebony Luster opened at 41 feet, 7.25 inches (12.68 meters), putting her squarely in contention for an NCAA East Preliminary spot.
Ah. The Pepsi Florida Relays. One of the southeast's most prestigious meets lived up to its billing, concluding with a pair of collegiate records, a handful of world leads, and even more collegiate leads.
The Gators made plenty of noise and did the bulk of their heavy lifting for the NCAA East Preliminary over the course of three days.
Numerous Gator Greats also took center stage, including Olympic gold medalists Kerron Clement (400 hurdles) and Christian Taylor (triple jump). Though the two only ran events for their training models, they impressed nonetheless.
Claudia Franics clocked a World Championships standard in the 400 meters, running 52.00 seconds, while Najee Glass (400 meters), Eddie Lovett (110 hurdles), Ugonna Ndu (400-meter hurdles), Robin Reynolds (400 meters), and Calvin Smith (400 meters) all turned in solid season-opening runs.
The contingent of Gator post-graduates also included jumper Marquis Dendy (100 meters), Olympic 4x400 relay gold medalist Arman Hall, Cory McGee (800 meters), Sean Obinwa (800 meters), and a battle in the 100 meters between Jeff Demps and two-time Olympic 4x400 relay medalist Tony McQuay.
Along similar lines in the 400 meters, Sharrika Barnett tied her outdoor personal record (52.25) and Taylor Sharpe (52.78) broke 53 seconds for the first time as a Gator.
As Arroyo crossed the finish, freshman Clayton Brown and junior Jhonny Victor wrapped up their impressive high jump performances. Victor cleared 2.11 meters (6 feet, 11 inches) and Brown topped out at 2.21 meters (7 feet 3 inches)--which is tied for third nationally and No. 6 on UF's All-Time Outdoor Top 10.
Three of Florida's top performances came in the 400 hurdles.
First, Brandee' Johnson ran a top-15 national time and became the No. 5-ranked runner in school history--in her first collegiate 400 hurdles race.
Johnson also boasts a national top-50 time in the 100 hurdles (13.47) from the Hurricane Collegiate. She is one of only six freshmen since 2007 to break 13.50 and 57.25 prior to the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Shortly thereafter, seniors Eric Futch and TJ Holmes took on the hurdles, posting the first two sub-50-second times of the collegiate season.
Roll the tape!
Shayla Sanders (22.95) and Michael Timpson Jr. (20.77) capped the afternoon track session with strong runs in the invite 200 meters. Both are ranked in the top 25 nationally in the 200, and Sanders' also checks in at No. 8 in the 100 meters (11.28)--which she also ran at Florida Relays.
Field events took no such break. McFarland threw a new PR (65.34 meters / 214 feet, 4 inches) for a second straight meet--moving up as the No. 4-ranked hammer thrower in school history. It also got him into a conversation about bowling with head coach Mike Holloway later in the night.
Fun story: the airline Mexican hammer thrower Diego del Real took to the meet lost his luggage, leaving him without shoes. With the Gators hosting, McFarland knew he had an older pair he ceased using. They were a perfect fit. del Real won the competition with a world top-20 throw of 75.03 meters (246 feet, 2 inches).
Jontavia Dykes kept things rolling with a season-best of 49.35 meters (161 feet, 11 inches) in the discus throw--putting her in the NCAA East's top 40.
The night in the field concluded with redshirt senior Marija Vucenovic winning the javelin. The Serbian's national top-5 throw of 54.29 meters (178 feet, 1 inch) was the second-best season-opening mark of her career.
When action resumed on the track, senior Taylor Tubbs and sophomore Jack Guyton clocked massive PRs in the 1,500 meters. Tubbs (4:20.61) narrowly missed UF's All-Time Outdoor Top 10, while Guyton (3:43.63) cracked it at No. 6.
With business taken care of, day three was where the fun of the Pepsi Florida Relays came in, because it featured almost any relay one can imagine.
However, there were some field events to take care of first. Cameron collected her second national top-20 mark of the year, this time doing so in the shot put (16.90 meters / 55 feet, 5.5 inches). In the triple jump, Bates tied the No. 2 mark in the nation (16.31 meters / 53 feet, 6.25 inches) and David, the indoor national runner-up, posted the No. 3 mark in the country (13.52 meters / 44-42.5).
We promised the fun stuff. How's an NCAA-leading 4x100 relay for a starter?
Prior to the 4x800 relays, Florida honored a pair of its record-breaking 4x8 teams. The women's quartet of Sandra Braasch, Sonja Braasch, Chris Crowther, and Susan Nash broke the indoor world record in 1986, while the men's team of Dedric Jones, Lewis Lacy, Stephen Adderly, and Scott Peters broke the indoor American record in 1992.
Florida's team of Sharpe, Barnett, Gause, and Jefferson clocked the second-fastest time in school history and the No. 3-ranked time in the nation (3:27.33), garnering runner-up honors.