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UF Track & Field: Gators Relays Squad, Mardal Steal the Spotlight at Tom Jones Invite

UF’s women 4×400 team logged the third-fastest time in the world and the NCAA this year, and the sixth best in UF history at the 2021 Tom Jones Invite
Photo By: Alex de la Osa

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY RICK HURTADO

UF’s women 4×400 team logged the third-fastest time in world, while senior Thomas Mardal broke his fifth school record this season

Florida track and field shined during day two of this year’s Tom Jones Memorial Invitational, which was highlighted by performances from its women’s 4×400 relays squad and senior Thomas Mardal inside Percy Beard Track at James G. Pressly Stadium.

The Gators’ relay team, formed by redshirt junior Taylor Manson, redshirt sophomores Sterling Lester and Doneisha Anderson, and freshman Talitha Diggs, closed the weekend for UF Saturday after crossing in 3:27.50. That time ranks third in the world and in the NCAA this year, and it’s the sixth-fastest in school history.

Out on the field, Mardal continued his astonishing senior campaign by breaking Florida’s hammer throw record once again with a mark of 76.18 meters (249 feet, 11 inches). The NCAA Indoor champion improved his personal best by 0.41 meters, improving the school record for the second time this outdoor season and fifth overall.

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On the distance side, the Gators were well-represented by redshirt sophomores Gabrielle Wilkinson and Imogen Barrett in the 800 meters.

Wilkinson, who had posted a personal best two weeks ago during the Pepsi Florida Relays, topped that record by almost two seconds after logging a time of 2:03.88. The Wynnewood, Pennsylvania native moved to the No. 2 spot on UF’s All-Time Top 10 list and ranks third in the nation this year.

Barrett followed Wilkinson with a time of 2:03.22 to enter UF’s record books as the sixth-fastest 800-meter runner in school history, while ranking seventh on this year’s NCAA Division I Outdoor Qualifying list.

Wilkinson and Barrett were joined by Abbie Harrelson in the 800, who posted a new personal record of 2:06.33.

On the men’s side, redshirt freshmen Dalton Brown (1:50.48), Caden Monk (1:50.64), and Chase Ruskin (1:53.35) all posted new personal records in the 800 meters to continue Florida’s strong performance by its distance corps.

Jumper Clayton Brown added to the Gators’ top performances to close UF’s last home meet of the year. Finishing second in the triple jump behind Gators Great Christian Taylor, the senior posted the 11th-best mark in the NCAA this year with a leap of 16.16 meters (53 feet, 0.25 inches).

Other notable performances included personal best times and marks by Alexis Brown (11.80) and Dedrick Vanover (10.28) in the 100 meters.

Prior to the end of the day, the track and field and cross country programs paid tribute to Associate Head Coach Steve Lemke, who will retire at the end of the season.

Lemke, who served on Florida’s staff for the past 16 seasons, was responsible for 36 individual men’s and women’s SEC titles, the most by any school in the conference since 2006, in addition to several NCAA championships and All-American honors.

The Gators are back in action April 30 when they travel to Jacksonville for this year’s UNF Invitational.

SENIOR DAY

The Florida track and field program celebrated a total of 18 Gators seniors during this year’s Tom Jones memorial invitational. The group, honored by head coach Mike Holloway, included individuals whose Senior Day celebration was not possible in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A full list is below.

Raymond Ekevwo

Abbie Harrelson

Thomas Mardal

Sophie Ebihara

Jessica Pascoe

Amara Wiggan

Kristine Akaervold

Matt Bomkamp

Jack Guyton

Cole Johnson

Jesse Millson

Dominic Williams

Marshall Dillon

Colin Scharefer

Connor Bandel

Edward Shelikoff

Jacob Stanko

Clayton Brown

TOM JONES INVITATIONAL MEET INFORMATION

  *   Results (Half Mile Timing)
  *   Results (PDF)
  *   Venue: Percy Beard Track at James G. Pressly Stadium
  *   Participating schools: Arkansas, Central Florida, Coastal Carolina, Florida State, Georgia, Jacksonville, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami (FL), Mississippi, North Carolina State, North Florida, South Florida, Virginia Commonwealth.

HEAD COACH MIKE HOLLOWAY

On the team’s improvement and notable performances throughout the weekend

“Phenomenal by everybody involved. It’s just what we do. When you sign a scholarship at the University of Florida, you know that’s who we are and that’s what we do. We prepare for the postseason and this is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re not going to get too excited about this. This is what we’re supposed to do. We got another week and a half to two weeks until we compete again, so we’ve got to take that time and rest a little bit, but work hard to get better. Then, obviously a month from now when the postseason gets here, it’s time to get what we call ‘really busy.'”