For the second straight year, Florida didn't quite have the stamina to beat Oregon at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
That didn't stop jumper extraordinare Marquis Dendy from soaring and scoring.
Florida (56 points) finished a distant second to Oregon (85 points) at the end of competition on Friday, with the Ducks' phenomenal performance in the 5,000 meters (a 1-2-4 finish worth more than 20 points on its own) powering them to a second straight title. And Dendy was the only Gator to win a national championship in men's competition this weekend.
But he won his titles.
Dendy's first national championship came in Wednesday's long jump, and it was a staggering result: With a significant tailwind, Dendy leapt 27 feet, eight inches, the best mark at NCAA Championships since 1993 and the No. 2 mark in the world this year.
He was better still on Friday in the triple jump, beginning with a leap of 57 feet, five inches on his first jump of the finals, a mark that set a new school record, and would have won the competition by almost two feet had he decided not to jump again.
Then he improved on that twice, finishing with a monstrous jump of 58 feet, 1.75 inches that stands as the No. 3 performance all-time in collegiate history regardless of conditions, the No. 3 mark in the world for 2015, and a new NCAA Championships.
You want a résumé? Here's a résumé:
Following Day 3 of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Dendy finished his career with seven national titles, 13 All-America honors and seven Southeastern Conference Championships between the long and triple jump events. He’s swept both at every championship meet since 2014 NCAA Outdoors, including 2015 SEC and NCAA Indoors, SEC and NCAA Outdoors.
Dendy only competes in those two jumps, so he's swept every national title available to him in 2015, and is quite possibly the leading candidate for the Bowerman, awarded to the best collegiate track athlete of the year, because of it. And after this perfect senior season — individually, anyway — he's off to a professional career that will likely see him competing with former Gators Christian Taylor, Will Claye, and Omar Craddock for spots on the U.S. Olympic team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Dendy's titles produced the only podium-topping moments for Florida's men's team, however, as a disappointing performance in sprints helped Oregon make what could have been a close competition a runaway win.
Florida was favored in the 4x400, having recorded a stupendous mark in the event earlier this year, but LSU's Vernon Norwood hawked Najee Glass — much as he did in the 400 meters — to give the Tigers the victory and the Gators a second-place finish. And the Gators were favored in the 200 meters, with defending national champion Dedric Dukes running the race, but while Dukes flew the distance in a blistering 19.86 seconds with an illegal tailwind, USC's Andre Del Grasse finished an amazing 100-200 double by zooming the length in 19.58 — this after a 9.75 in illegal wind to knock off Baylor phenom Trayvon Bromell in the 100.
With just two senior sprinters (Dukes and Hugh Graham, Jr.), Florida's fastest men will be back for revenge in future years, though the Gators' championship prospects may dip in 2016 with the losses of Dendy and throwers Stipe Zunic (javelin) and Kyle Strawn (hammer throw). But Florida is far and away the nation's best school for jumpers, having claimed the last six outdoor titles in the triple jump, and freshman KeAndre Bates has shown plenty of promise in his own right.
In those events, the sky will always be the Gators' only limit. And if they can catch up to the Ducks in the middle distances, or improve in the sprints, a return to the top of the podium is very much possible.