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UF Track & Field: Men Place Fourth, Women finish Sixth at NCAAs

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY RICK HURTADO

Florida’s men collected 34 team points, while the women earned 30 to close the 2021 indoor season

The Gators track and field teams closed their indoor season Saturday with a fourth-place finish on the men’s side, while the women finished sixth at this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships. Florida’s men collected 34 team points and the women earned 30 inside the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Senior Raymond Ekevwo finished as runner up in the NCAA after crossing in 6.64 seconds in the 60 meters to give the Gators an eight-point lift. Meanwhile in the 200 meters, sophomore Joseph Fahnbulleh finished third with a time of 20.38 seconds. Fellow sophomore Tyler Davis joined Fahnbulleh to contribute one point with an eighth-place finish.

Newcomer Ryan Willie closed his freshman indoor campaign as the fourth-fastest runner in the NCAA. The first-year sprinter clocked a personal-best time of 45.40 seconds in the 400 meters that ranks fifth in school history.

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Willie then joined Ian Davis, Denzel Villaman, and Chantz Sawyers in the 4×400-meter relays. The squad closed the afternoon for the men with a time of 3:06.31, finishing fifth in the nation and securing the fourth-place finish for the team.

Saturday’s performances on the men’s side gave a strong finish to the meet that began with a national title by senior Thomas Mardal in the weight throw. The Gloppen, Norway native collected the crown Thursday with a 24.46-meter bomb (80 feet, 3.75 inches) that broke his own school record and made him the third-best performer in collegiate history.

This was the 17th time in history the Gators finished among the top 4 teams at NCAA nationals. UF now has the second-most indoor top-4 finishes in the nation. Only Arkansas (29) has more.

On the women’s side, freshman Talitha Diggs finished third in the nation with a time of 51.26 seconds in the 400 meters. Meanwhile on the distance front, redshirt sophomore Gabrielle Wilkinson contributed three team points on a sixth-place finish after clocking a time of 2:03.32 in the 800 meters.

Out in the field, jumper Natricia Hooper scored three points with a mark of 13.53 meters (44 feet, 4.75 inches) to match her personal best and finish sixth in the NCAA.

In the last event of the evening, Florida’s 4×400-meter relays team, formed by Taylor Manson, Diggs, Sterling Lester, and Doneisha Anderson, earned a sixth-place finish with the ninth-fastest time in UF history. The squad logged a time of 3:30.58 to move up UF’s All-time Indoor Top 10 list.

QUOTABLE

HEAD COACH MIKE HOLLOWAY

On the overall performances by both teams throughout the weekend

“The men, they did what our men do. They showed up, they trust, and they believed. For a small group of guys to come in here and fight and get fourth place in the country is a great accomplishment. Obviously, we always want to be the best and sometimes you do your best and you don’t win. This was one of those weekends, but we’ll be back to fight again.”

“Overall, the women did a good job, wasn’t a great job. But again, I’m the coach and I need to go back and fix that and I’ll find a way to get it done.”

SENIOR THOMAS MARDAL

On winning his first NCAA championship in the weight throw

“Winning an NCAA championship was something I’ve had my eyes on since I got here. I knew it was going to be quite the battle to get there and I would have to throw very far. Luckily, I was able to pull something out in the first couple of throws and put it away early on. I knew I really didn’t have the energy to go six full throws, so I’m glad I got something big out in the first three throws.”

On closing his indoor career as a school record holder

“It’s my last meet ever with the weight here [at Florida], so I wanted to see if I could improve the record and make it even harder to beat for the next person who wants to try to beat me.”

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