Florida's women's track team placed eighth at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships, which concluded Saturday in Eugene, Oregon — but that doesn't mean the Gators didn't set the pace at some stages of the event.
The Florida 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams each claimed national titles in their events on Saturday, knocking off Texas A&M in the former event and USC in the latter. Robin Reynolds, Shayla Sanders, Destinee Gause, and Kyra Jefferson ran the 4x1 for the Gators, earning the school's first national title in the event, and Reynolds, Jefferson, Gause, and Claudia Francis ran the 4x4.
Florida's overall showing was slightly disappointing, especially after some projections (based on form charts and entrants) had the Gators pegged to win a national title as late as midway through preliminary competition on Thursday. And it's hard to fault Florida's sprinters — especially Jefferson, perhaps Florida's finest female track athlete this season, who had a hand in delivering 25 points to the Gators, running both relays and also finishing fourth in an ultra-quick finals of the 200 meters, in which she set a personal record and thus broke her own school record.
But variety of factors in other events — defending triple jump national champion Ciarra Brewer fouling out of her finals, defending javelin national champion Fawn Miller finishing eighth in the event, and Taylor Burke not competing in the high jump finals among them — led to the Gators' lowest finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships since 2006.
The finish was also a step back from a fourth-place finish in 2014. Head coach Mike Holloway wasn't exactly mincing words in his comments to GatorZone.
I have to go back and take a really good look at what we’re doing. We weren’t who we are this weekend. We didn’t compete with the pride and passion I’m accustomed to seeing out of my teams. I’m the head coach and that falls on my shoulders. We’re going to go back and get it fixed."
And yet: Florida's women still haven't won a national outdoor title, and have only placed second once, way back in 1992. Holloway is demanding greatness of a program that hasn't always flashed it — and his high standards have produced five national titles for Florida's men's teams.
If Florida can improve on its fine sprinting performance, though — all five of the athletes who contributed to those relay national titles should be back in 2016 — while also reloading in the field events, the Gators should be able to contend again next year and beyond.
Yeah, I'm late on this. I blame ESPN.