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Florida men’s indoor track wins fourth national championship, Gators’ 40th

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Another mission finished on top.

Track and Field: NCAA Indoor Championships Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Entering Saturday, the Florida Gators hadn’t won a national championship in almost nine whole months.

It’s only been a day now.

The Florida men’s indoor track team used sensational performances from Grant Holloway and a scintillating relay run to win the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships team title on Saturday.

Holloway, a sophomore sprinter and jumper who is likely to be another Gator turned Olympic champion, was the leading point-scorer for the Gators, snagging 10 points for a first-place finish in Saturday’s 60-meter hurdles, another eight for placing second in Friday’s long jump, and helping Florida pick up six crucial points in Saturday’s meet-closing 4 x 400 meters relay by teaming with Kunle Fasasi, Chantz Sawyers, and Benjamin Lobo Vedel to set a new team record in the event and finish third in the fastest race in the event’s indoor history.

USC took the top spot in that event with what would be a new world-record time if not for the fact that USC’s relay team is of multiple nationalities, and USC, Texas A&M, and Florida all finished faster than the Polish and American teams that had just reset the world record in the event a week ago.

Thanks to Holloway’s 18 individual points, 13 points from the triple jump combination of runner-up KeAndre Bates and fourth-place Clayton Brown, and another three points for the sixth place Bates took in the long jump, the Gators needed only to finish sixth and get three points in that decisive relay to earn at least a share of the national title.

Instead, they got finished third, and got six points — and thus won their fourth men’s indoor national title since 2010, matching four men’s outdoor titles under head coach Mike Holloway in that span.

Mike Holloway — no relation to Grant — is now one of just four coaches in NCAA Division I history to lead men’s teams to four indoor and outdoor titles, and Florida is now just one of four programs in Division I history with four men’s outdoor titles, joining rarefied air in a dynastic sport long dominated by only a handful of schools.

Florida’s women also had a fine performance over the weekend in Austin, placing fourth as a team thanks to 13 individual points from jumper Yanis David and 11 points earned by sprinter Sharrika Barnett’s performance in the 400 meters and blistering anchor leg in the 4 x 400 meters relay. It was the women’s first top-four finish since 2015, and a promising return to the nation’s truly elite for a program that won Florida’s first national title in track in 1992, but has been merely excellent in the shadow of Florida’s men’s teams collecting hardware at an alarming rate this decade.

And yesterday’s addition to the trophy case brings Florida to 40 team national championships in school history, and 35 NCAA national titles. Florida has won all eight of its men’s track national titles since 2010, and that program has nearly matched the efforts of the rest of the Gators’ formidable programs, which have netted 10 total team titles in that span.

Saturday’s national title also extends Florida’s string of consecutive academic years with a national title to an astonishing 13 years. The Gators last failed to win at least one national title in an academic year in 2004-05 — the last academic year prior to Florida winning two national championships each in football and men’s basketball over the span of three seasons.

It has always been great to be a Florida Gator.

Of late, though, that has also meant celebrating so, so many champions.