The men’s outdoor track and field national championship begins Wednesday with most of the attention focused on the top two ranked teams. If we were being more accurate, Florida and Oregon might as well be ranked 1A and 1B, as less than one point separates the teams in the USTFCCCA rankings.
During the past five years, Florida has developed an elite consistency, winning three indoor championships (2010-12) and two outdoor championships (2012-13). Last year, the Gators had a chance for a three-peat, but were beat by Oregon on the final day, finishing as runner-up.As much as the narrative may sharpen to focus on these two teams and rankings demonstrate how close they are as competitors, the Gators will try not to let it distract them.
“We don’t really pay attention to rankings and numbers,” Florida jumps coach Nic Peterson said. “They don’t mean a lot to us. We have a plan coming in here and we like to take care of the Gators. If we come in here, do our job, we feel we can be successful.”
A lot of attention, however, will be paid to Florida jumper Marquis Dendy, who enters the competition as one of the country’s top jumpers.
In the NCAA East Regional, he finished first in the long jump with an 8.05m and the triple jump, scoring a 16.27m.
An air of confidence surrounds Dendy, who attacks each competition with a heightened level of focus and intensity. He continues to score result near or at the top for each competition, a big boost to Florida’s recent successes.
“Every meet, every time I’m out here and going to jump, it’s always a lesson to learn, whether I win or lose,” Dendy said. “Knowing that, that I can get learn from everything and kind of taking that in is my reason [for my intensity].”
Peterson added: “A jumper is a little bit like a sprinter. You have to have a healthy sense of confidence is a good way to put it. Marquis [Dendy] believes in himself and I think that’s very important. He truly believes he’s one of the best jumpers in the world.”
Peterson also gives credit to Dendy for his leadership off the track, setting an example for younger jumpers like KeAndre Bates can follow.
But as it usually does, most of Florida’s success can be attributed to the man at the top, head coach Mike Holloway. He’s developed Florida into its model of performance through his tenure by being relentless in their pursuit for consistency.
“He challenges me every single day,” Peterson said. “Doesn’t matter how good of a meet we had, or what happened. Marquis [Dendy] could jump 28 feet and he’s going to look at me and say how can we get better.”
Whether that drive will be enough to separate Florida from Oregon and the rest of the field this year will soon be seen.