The Florida Gators track and field teams had a somewhat successful weekend in Lexington, Kentucky. They won a total of five SEC individual championships, set facility records, two school records and a SEC meet record over the weekend at the 2014 SEC Outdoor Championships.
But they failed to reach their ultimate goals: Neither the men's or women's track and field teams won the team championship.
Considering what the entire athletic department was playing for over the weekend, that turned out to be par for the course.
The men's team finished third overall, 62 points behind leader Texas A&M and 23.5 points behind second-place finisher Arkansas. Arkansas is running royalty, especially in middle-distance events, and the addition of Texas A&M and its many sprinters to the conference a couple of years ago have set things up for a great rivalry between the three programs. Florida being without super-sprinter Arman "Gino" Hall and middle-distance runners Mark Parrish and Jimmy Clark made competing with the Aggies and Razorbacks especially difficult on this weekend
Still, though, it's a bit of a disappointment to get close, be the favorite, and ultimately finish third.
The women's team fared better overall, but still fell short of their team goal. They finished runner-up to Arkansas by just 6.5 points and had a shot to win the whole thing heading into the final event of the meet. Despite finishing second in the 4x400m relay, with the third best time in school history, Arkansas's third place finish in the event sealed the Gators' fate.
At the end of the day, though, the Gators head into the NCAA qualifying process with five SEC champions. As we covered yesterday, Fawn Miller took home top honors in the women's javelin and she's fully expected to compete for the NCAA championship.
All of the other four winners for the Gators came yesterday. Cory McGee won the women's 1,500m run, and set a facility record in the process with a time of 4:13.48s. Gators also swept the triple jump, as Marquis Dendy and Ciarra Brewer won the men's and women's competitions respectively. Dendy's jump of 16.52m currently leads the NCAA and is the fifth-best mark all time at Florida. Brewer's jump of 13.91m set not only NCAA leader and a SEC meet record, but a school record as well.
And Stipe Zunic broke a 22-year-old record and set the No. 2 mark in the NCAA in the men's shot put with a final mark of 20.52m. Zunic also finished fifth in the javelin, an event that he's won before. He spoke about that after the meet:
"In 2012, I won SECs in the javelin throw, so there is a little pride in javelin. I like to toss it for fun. Just getting out there and taking three throws – it was my first time competing after two years – it’s not bad finishing fifth. There’s much more that I have inside of me, but it’s very hard to throw javelin and shot put. Actually, there’s not a thrower in the world that does those two events together, so it’s something unique. From this point in javelin, I can only get better."
The Gators have a lot of work to do in the two weeks before the NCAA East Preliminary Round begins in Jacksonville. That meet decides who goes to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon two weeks after that and who goes home for the year.
If you missed any of the action at the 2014 SEC Outdoor Championships this year, you'll have one final chance to relive the magic of the second- and third-place team finishes for the Gators. ESPNU will be airing a two-hour highlight show this Thursday (May 22nd) at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Men's final team standings (top five):
- 1: Texas A&M, 155 points
- 2: Arkansas, 116.5 points
- 3: Florida, 93 points
- 4: Georgia, 92 points
- 5: Ole Miss, 78 points
Women's final team standings (top five):
- 1: Arkansas, 123 points
- 2: Florida, 116.5 points
- 3: Texas A&M, 113 points
- 4: Kentucky, 104 points
- 5: Georgia, 70.5 points