The Florida Gators had gone all of, oh, almost a month without winning a national championship.
So they went out and got another on Friday night.
The Gators tallied 61.5 points at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, largely based on a slew of phenomenal individual performances, then sprinted home in the 4 x 400 meters relat in the meet’s final event to clinch the title.
Florida held a seven-point lead on Texas A&M entering the vaunted 4x4 — a final hurdle for athletes who have often competed in other events during the Championships, and a simple test of which program can assemble the fastest relay mile. The whole meet came down to that event, as it often does: Florida could not be caught by any team other than the Aggies, but Texas A&M’s blistering relay team could put great pressure on the Gators by picking up the event’s 10 points.
And they did.
But the Gators finished fourth, getting just enough to win a second straight national championship.
It’s Florida’s fourth outdoor national title in six years, and adds to coach Mike Holloway’s resume, which is practically all boldface at this point. Florida has won seven men’s national titles since 2010 under Holloway — four outdoor, three indoor — and made him the coach who has piloted the Gators to more national championships than any other.
Florida’s perennial strategy for national title contention proved to be a championship formula again, as the Gators’ peerless jumping and exceptional sprinting outside of the most glamorous short sprints did enough to carry a team that plays catch-up with schools with better histories of producing distance runners.
KeAndre Bates scored 20 points by sweeping the long jump and triple jump, while Grant Holloway added 18 points of his own by winning the 110-meter hurdles and finishing second in the long jump. And with Eric Futch adding a title in the 400-meter hurdles, and other Gators scoring big points down the standings — Andres Arroyo in the 800 meters, Jhonny Victor in the high jump — Florida had just enough powder in the chamber to beat out a game Texas A&M team that most forecast would duel the Gators to the final line.
That’s exactly what transpired — and though A&M technically got to that line first, Florida went further over the course of the competition, adding another national championship trophy to a case that is already nearly overflowing.