GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Death, taxes, and Florida Track and Field winning championships. It may not be the original expression, but if we treated old adages like smartphones, the Gators’ stockpile of trophies from the last decade would be evidence enough the phrase required an update.
Every year since 2009, Florida’s won at least one conference or national title. The running 10-year total? Eighteen. Yes, 18.
The Gators celebrated three championships in 2018, capturing their Division I-leading eighth men's NCAA crown since 2010 and sweeping the SEC Outdoor Championships for the first time in program history. And while there are no guarantees in sports, while even sensible and well-researched predictions often go awry, expecting Florida’s string of victories to suddenly snap this year is simply illogical.
There is a different air around this year’s team, though. Or perhaps more accurately, the spotlight is pointed in a different direction, with Florida’s women taking center stage and stepping out of the long shadow cast by the men’s team.
That’s no slight to Florida’s men, No. 2 in the preseason indoor rankings. It’s just that, as head coach Mike Holloway often says, the men are who they are. They have one of the best all-around athletes in collegiate history, as four-time national champion Grant Holloway delayed a professional career and returned for his junior season. They have three of the nation’s best hammer throwers, along with an array of veteran sprinters, jumpers, and hurdlers ready to climb the national rankings and, once again, put the Gators in the trophy hunt.
Variations of such dialogue have taken place over the last decade, making this year impressively ordinary (pardon the oxymoron) for the men.
The Gators' women, who sit at No. 6 in the indoor preseason rankings, lost a trio of impactful seniors, but two rising seniors set to fill those leadership vacancies are national title contenders.
Yanis David is the top returning long jumper and triple jumper in the country. Sharrika Barnett ranks second among all returners in the 400 meters. Both lead by example, with David adding a cannonball splash of personality.
All the pieces of a school record-breaking 4x400 relay are back. Sophomore multis athlete Amanda Froeynes thrust herself into the mix for NCAA points immediately, finishing fifth outdoors and ninth indoors. With half of last year’s top six graduating, she is likely to score even higher this year. Redshirt junior Jessica Pascoe, who broke a school record and posted a top-15 national time last month, leads a revitalized distance corps which could be Florida’s wild card come championship season. Add in a pair of junior college transfer jumpers who, on paper, are likely to make an immediate impact, and you have all the makings of a national title contender.
To be clear, this will not be an arrival for Florida’s women. They’ve been knocking on the door to national prominence for the better part of a decade. They’ve won five SEC titles since 2009. They finished fourth at NCAA Indoor Championships last year--their sixth national top-four finish since 2010--and fifth at each of the last two NCAA Outdoor Championships.
They’ve proven they belong in any and all championship conversations. They’ve been there all along, lurking in the immense shadow cast by a men’s team on a dynastic run.
This season, though, Florida’s women can step to the forefront and put a historically successful men’s program in their shadow.
Below is a season preview of 2019 Florida's track and field program, broken down by discipline.
Returning SEC Scorers: Sam Ahrenholz (eighth – 1,500 meters), Elisabeth Bergh (third – 1,500 meters; fourth – mile), Jack Guyton (fourth – 1,500 meters; fifth – mile), Kyren Hollis (fourth – outdoor 800 meters), Jessica Pascoe (seventh – 10,000 meters)
Newcomers to Watch: Imogen Barrett (800 meters; mile; 1,500 meters), Trevor Foley (3,000 meters; 5,000 meters; 10,000 meters), Gabrielle Wilkinson (800 meters)
Returning NCAA Qualifiers: Brandee’ Johnson (400 hurdles), Cory Poole (110 hurdles; 400 hurdles)
Timetria Mitchell rounds out the notable returnees, as she ranks No 6 on UF’s 60 hurdles all-time top 10.
Returning NCAA Scorers: Clayton Brown (fourth – indoor triple jump; eighth – outdoor triple jump), Yanis David (second – indoor triple jump; second – outdoor triple jump; fourth – indoor long jump; fourth – outdoor long jump), Grant Holloway (second – indoor long jump), Jhonny Victor (eighth – outdoor high jump)
Returning NCAA Qualifiers: Ryan Clark (100 meters; outdoor 200 meters), Taylor Manson (outdoor 400m), Chantz Sawyers (outdoor 400m)
Returning NCAA Qualifiers: Mardal (weight throw), McFarland (weight throw)
Returning SEC Scorers: Connor Bandel (fifth – outdoor shot put), Eriksson (second – hammer; fifth – weight), Mardal (fourth – weight; fifth – hammer), McFarland (third – weight; sixth – hammer)
Newcomer to Watch: Kristina Moore (discus throw)
The hammer trio is back. Eriksson, Mardal, and McFarland are now the undisputed top three hammer throwers in school history, and the three combined for 11 points at last year’s NCAA Outdoors.
While the group is easily the strongest on any team in the country, only one of the top 12 finishers at last year’s national meet exhausted their eligibility, meaning fans of the hammer are in for another historic year. The Gators’ trio will most definitely be in the middle of it all.