"This is unbelievable," Florida head coach Mike Holloway said. "It's an absolute blessing. I can't tell you how proud I am of this group of young men. We had a lot of adversity, not just this week, but throughout the year. You think about things, the people that weren't here, the people that didn't want to give you a chance but our guys never bought into it. I'm extremely proud of them."
In 2009, 2010 and 2011, the Gators had top-three finishes and missed out on the NCAA title by a total of five points. This year, it took a total team effort to take home the crown.
The men's 4x400-meter relay, composed of Dedric Dukes (Miami, Fla.) and Hugh Graham, Jr. (Miami, Fla.), Leonardo Seymore (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) and Tony McQuay (Riviera Beach, Fla.), clinched the NCAA Championship for the Florida men, earning the first individual 4x400-meter relay title in Florida history and securing the first NCAA Outdoor Championship for the Gators on the men's or women's side.
Men's 4x100 Relay Team
"We knew what the team standings were and we came together like a family, as a team," McQuay said. "I trusted my first, second and third legs to get us here. We have a young team and to have them step up really means a lot to the program."
They finished in a school-record time of 3:00.02, sealing the victory for the Orange and Blue. McQuay calmly sat in second with 200 meters to go on the anchor leg and seized control of the race as the Gators ran a world-leading time in victory.
Sophomore Eddie Lovett (West Palm Beach, Fla.) gave the Gators bonus points in the men's 110-meter hurdles, finishing fifth in 13.82 and scoring four much-needed points for the Orange and Blue in his first NCAA Outdoor Championships final.
"That was huge for Eddie to come in, entered possibly one of the best high-hurdle fields in history and to be able to man up and get fifth place in that race," Holloway noted. "That was huge for us. That got us within striking distance and gave us a chance to win this championship."
Lovett got out strong and stayed neck-and-neck with LSU's Barrett Nugent, the defending NCAA champion. Nugent crossed the finish line in fourth and Lovett stayed right by his side, finishing just .02 behind the SEC Outdoor Champion.
"We lost our best sprinter, we lost our best decathlete and our 4x100 didn't qualify," Holloway commented. "A lot of people would have given up hope, but our group of guys didn't. I sat them down after Regionals and I said 'We are still the best team in the country, as long as you believe it,' and our guys believed it.
"I actually figured out on the plane that we had no seniors (competing on the men's side)," Holloway continued. "Obviously, if we stay healthy, there is a bright future for the University of Florida, on both the men's and the women's sides."
The Florida women finished in a tie for 12th, scoring 18 points throughout the week, including 10 points on the final day of competition. LSU's women captured the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championship with 76 points, dethroning three-time defending champion and future SEC foe Texas A&M (38 points), as well as three-time defending NCAA Indoor Champion Oregon (62 points).
Freshman Ciarra Brewer (Union City, Calif.) capped off a stellar freshman season, leaping to a personal best 13.65m/44-9.50 in the women's triple jump, finishing fourth and earning five points for the Gators. Brewer improved her spot as second all-time at UF in the women's triple jump and has laid a solid foundation for her next three years in the Orange and Blue. Brewer finishes her freshman year as a First Team All-American.
Sophomore Cory McGee (Pass Christian, Miss.) finished a spectacular sophomore campaign for the Gators with a sixth-place finish for the Florida women in the 1,500 meters. Her finish earned her three points and improved her 10th place finish from a year ago, earning her First Team All-American.
The women's 4x400-meter relay, comprised of Ebony Eutsey (Miami, Fla.), Amani Bryant (Tampa, Fla.), Lanie Whittaker (Miami, Fla.) and Ugonna Ndu (Newark, N.J.), ended the 2012 season by scoring two points in the race, finishing in 3:32.36.
For many of the Gators, the focus now turns to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. The event will take place June 21-July 1 at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. Holloway is the sprints and hurdles coach for Team USA and hopes to take a strong Gator contingent to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.