There is no shame in finishing second at NCAA Indoor Championships. There is no reason for a program which posted its 18th top-2 finish in its last 29 NCAA Championships to be discouraged, especially when no other program has done it more than nine times during that span. There is certainly no humiliation in finishing behind a Texas A&M team that, with no room for error, turned in a near-perfect two days of competition.
But losing by half a point, something that only happened one other time in history? Half a point? Nothing can take the sting out of such a close loss. And it was evident last Saturday (March 11) in College Station.
While the overall tone of the trip was business-like, the Gators still had plenty of fun in their two practices leading up to the meet.
The fun did not end at practice for Grant Holloway Thursday afternoon, as the freshman participated in an interview with ESPN's production crew and the pre-meet press conference.
Per usual, Holloway made sure everyone enjoyed the sessions as much as he did.
After Grant stole the show, Coach Holloway took the stage and had a few amusing exchanges with his friend and coaching rival Robert Johnson, head coach of Oregon, during the coaches' press conference.
Meanwhile, on the track, things heated up. Kunle Fasasi and Eric Futch, neither of whom were seeded to be finalists, both qualified for the 400 meters final. Fasasi clocked a huge PR of 45.57 seconds, the No. 5-ranked time in school history. Futch posted a 46.17, just one hundredth of a second off his personal best.
It marked the 14th consecutive year Florida qualified at least one 400 meters finalist--which is the longest active streak in any event and tied for the third-longest streak in any event since 1990.
On the straightaway, Holloway overcame a frustrating 11th-place finish in the long jump and posted the fastest time in the 60 hurdles preliminary (7.64).
The women's team scored three points opening night.
Junior Lloydricia Cameron finished seventh in the shot put, becoming the first Gator to score in the event since 2010. Cameron's best throw of 17.34 meters (56 feet, 10.75 inches) was just 13 centimeters off her personal best.
Fellow junior Darrielle McQueen took eighth place in what may have been the deepest women's long jump competition in collegiate history. McQueen soared to a season-best jump of 6.38 meters (20 feet, 11.25 inches), a mark that would have put her in the top five in all but five NCAA meets since the first championship in 1983.
Day two's scoring opened with freshman Clayton Brown tying for fifth place in the high jump, only the third top-five finish by a Gator since 2001. Less than 10 minutes after his elimination from the high jump, Brown checked in for the triple jump.
The St. Andrew, Jamaica native went on to finish seventh, moving up two spots with a 15.92-meter leap (52 feet, 2.75 inches) on his last run.
Fasasi and Futch added to Florida's point total with fifth- and sixth-place finishes, respectively, a total of seven points, in the 400 final. But a disqualification led to the negation of Fasasi's four points. Futch bumped up to fifth place, leaving the Gators with three fewer points than they originally scored.
Bates added to his impressive weekend with a runner-up finish in the triple jump, becoming the fourth Division I man since 2006 with top-2 finishes in both horizontal jumps. The other three--Marquis Dendy (2015), Will Claye (2011), Christian Taylor (2010)--are all Gator Greats.
The women's competition came to a close with the Gators posting an eighth-place finish in the 4x400 relay. The quartet of Brandee' Johnson, Destinee Gause, Taylor Sharpe, and Sharrika Barnett clocked the No. 6-ranked time in school history (3:31.94).
Fasasi handed off to Holloway with the Gators in second place, exactly one second off the pace set by Texas A&M.
Holloway split 44.81 seconds, the fastest by any man in the field, to put the Gators back in front as he handed off to Futch.
Futch handed off to Ryan Clark, a 60/100/200-meter sprinter and Florida's top relay reserve who was given the nod shortly before the race.
Clark maintained the lead as long as he could, but Texas A&M's Mylik Kerley, who finished third in the open 400 meters, was too strong to hold off.