NAMPA, Idaho – Florida’s men got its payback for its title and Oregon’s women gave some notice that is it not all field and no track for its win as both schools won their third consecutive team crowns at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships Saturday night.
Florida took the tournament with 52 points. It was followed by Arkansas (47), Arizona (41), Arizona State (31) and LSU (27). The Gators’ loss to the Razorbacks in the Southeastern Conference championships was fresh in coach Mike Holloway’s mind; he didn’t allow himself to relax until Jeff Demps, edged Illinois’ Andrew Riley 6.56 to 6.57 to win the finals.
“When Jeff popped up with a victory and Omar [Craddock] was leading in the triple jump, I knew we had 50 [total points],” Holloway said. “And we had [Sean Obimwa] in the 800. I knew Arkansas couldn’t get any better than 47 and I knew we were fine.
“It was a battle all meet. Arkansas really had a great meet. My hat’s off to Coach [Chris] Bucknam and his team and his staff. They nipped us at the SEC meet and we knew going in it was going to be a battle with them. They do such a great job. We felt like coming into today if we did what we’re capable of doing, we could pull it off.”
Folks got a glimpse of that with a dominant first day where all but one of its entrants made it to the finals. That Florida has won the past three titles is almost a given.
“If you look at our recruiting over the past couple of years, there is nobody out there saying, ‘I can’t believe Florida is doing this.’ We have a great group of athletes. We have a great staff, a great support staff and we’re supposed to do this.”
Just like Demps was supposed to win the 60. He was the two-time defending champion in the event. And after posting a school-record, personal-best and collegiate-leading time of 6.52 seconds in the men’s 60 meter preliminaries Friday, and he said he was merely trying to hold up his end.
“It’s one thing we all counted on was everybody coming out and doing their best,” Demps said. “I definitely thought about getting the 10 points for the team. We came to win a team title and we did that today.
“It definitely feels good to win it three times back-to-back-to-back. I want to thank God, my coach and my family for just believing in me and having faith.”
Oregon coach Vin Lananna had faith in his team once the first day was completed. But this was a different title in that turned heads from the effort turned in by redshirt freshman English Gardner in the 60 meters. Gardner, competing in her first ever indoor championships ran a 7.12 to knock off favorite and fellow freshman Octavious Freeman of Central Florida (7.15).
The Ducks won with 49 points. Kansas (30), LSU (27), Texas (25) and Arkansas (24) followed.
“After the mile [earlier Saturday], I knew we were in pretty good shape,” Lananna said. “But English winning the 60, that was icing on the cake. She was very impressive and she’s a great, kid too.”
A grateful one, too. A fractured leg knocked her out of the indoor event last season and she was a bit starry-eyed over what had just happened. But at the same time she is glad to see her team’s sprinters pitching in more on this win.
“I just tried to do the best I could,” said English. “This is all new to me. I came out here thinking I was just going to come out here and compete. I came back this year and did what I had to do to compete with the people in the field.
“Oregon is definitely trying to make a better name for itself on the sprint side of things. We’ve never been seen as a spring school so we’re working to have an overall great program. We’re a team that can score any points from anywhere, and I was glad to get 10 points for our team. It feels great to be part of something special like this.”