Holloway, Gators Embrace a Rare Home Start to Championship Season

Facility Photos on Thursday, March 28, 2024 at Percy Beard Track at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. / UAA Communications photo by Gabriella Whisler

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Gators two-sport standout Jeff Demps was a freshman flash, having won a national championship as a running back on the UF football team before track season. In other sports news, Dallas owner Mark Cuban and Denver player Kenyon Martin staged a war of words in the media, and then-Louisville coach Rick Pitino was in the headlines because a woman, not his wife, was trying to extort money from him.

Those were some of the headlines 15 years ago when the University of Florida last hosted the Southeastern Conference Track & Field Outdoor Championships. That changes Thursday-Saturday as the event returns to Percy Beard Track for the first time since May 2009.

How’s this for a perspective flash? Florida’s track and field program has won 13 national titles under head coach Mike Holloway since the SEC Outdoor Championships last made a stop on Woodlawn Drive. The Gators won their first one less than a year later when Demps and Co. claimed the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championship.

They haven’t stopped since, with the men and women sweeping the outdoor national titles in 2022 and the men’s team repeating in 2023. At the most recent NCAA Indoor Championships, the UF men placed third and the women, second, as they chased No. 14.

“Our goal every year is to be national champions,” Holloway said. “This is the time of year we strive for. We want to be at our best.”

Holloway’s teams have won in various ways. In some years, sprinters and hurdlers carried the load; in other seasons, jumpers dominated, and throwers proved crucial. In recent years, at least on the women’s side, distance runners like Parker Valby have set the pace.

Whatever it takes.

“The goal is to always be 100 percent at nationals,” said long jumper Malcom Clemons, second at the SEC Indoor Finals in February. “We’re getting close to that point.”

The Gators are hosting the Southeastern Conference Track & Field Outdoor Championships over the next three days at Percy Beard Track. (Photo: Gabriella Whisler/University Athletic Association)

Being at home doesn’t hurt in their quest to peak over the next month heading into the NCAA Championships in June. The Gators know their way around the track, if you will, and are not living out of a suitcase and in a hotel room for the next few days.

“There’s a comfort level in that,” Holloway said. “Hotel beds and I don’t get alone.”

“I mean, we train here every day, and I love being here, so it’s a lot of confidence going into a meet,” sprinter/hurdler

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