Track team sizzle at Gator Invitational

Sophomore Tiandra Ponteen (St. Kitts) broke the Stephen C. O'Connell Center record in the 400-meter to lead number four ranked Florida, while sophomore Kerron Clement (La Porte, Texas) clocked the second-fastest time in the world in 2005 in the 400m to lead the sixth-ranked men's squad Sunday at the Gator Invitational.

The women's squad recorded six NCAA automatic or provisional marks, while the men's team posted a total of eight. Ponteen's time of 52.31 broke the O'Connell Center record and earned Ponteen her second win of the season in an automatic time.

"I thought we had a good meet today, " Florida women's coach Tom Jones said. "We had some automatic marks, which is nice because it takes some pressure off. Tiandra had the best 400-meter race that any Gator has ever had on this track. It was a nice effort but we have some work to do before the conference meet."

Along with Clement's blazing time of 46.13 in the 400-meter, he also posted a provisional time in the 55m hurdles, while senior Josh Walker (Stone Mountain, Ga.) added a provisional in the same event. Junior Shane Stroup (Highland, Md.) hit a provisional in the mile, junior Sekou Clarke (Kingston, Jamaica) hit one in the 400m and Florida's 4x400m relay of Clarke, sophomore Reggie Witherspoon (Marietta, Ga.) junior Stefan Pastor (Columbia, Md.) and Clement scored a provisional. Sophomore Mike Morrison (Willingboro, N.J.) added another provisional in finishing second in the long jump.

"It was a good all around effort today and I'm pleased," Florida men's coach Mike Holloway said. "We took steps toward getting better today and, for the most part, it was a good meet for us. Kerron Clement and Shane Stroup both had outstanding meets and the 4x400m performed well. It was good meet for us leading up to the Iowa State Classic next week where we expect good competition."

As always, Florida's women's throws group was strong as senior All-American Candice Scott (Port of Spain, Trinidad) recorded another NCAA automatic qualifying toss in the weight throw with a heave of 23.44m/76-11 to place second. Junior All-American Rachel Longfors (Erhard, Minn.) posted the first automatic qualifying mark of her career in the weight throw and set a personal-best mark of 20.83m/68-04.25 to take fourth in the event. Sophomore Jennifer Wynn (Douglasville, Ga.) added a provisional qualifying mark of 18.50m/60-08.50 to place sixth in an event that featured the world and collegiate record holder as well as three current or former All-Americans.

Senior Liz Wanless (Belleville, Ill.) continued a stellar campaign as she posted another NCAA automatic qualifying mark in the shot put (17.20m/56-05.25) to take second place while Scott improved on her previous provisional mark of 16.60m/54-05.50 by taking third and setting a season best mark of 16.86m/55-03.75 in the event.

The women's distance medley relay team of sophomore Kecia Johnson (Gainesville, Fla.), junior Amanda Schommer (Vero Beach, Fla.), freshman Kristen Johnson (Atlanta, Ga.) and senior Carling Cookerly (Sarasota, Fla.) added a win with a time of 12:28.63.

On the men's side, Clement finished second in the 400m to East Carolina's LaShawn Merritt, who won in 45.94. Clement's automatic time of 46.13 is a personal best and ranks third in school history. Clarke finished third in the event with a provisional time of 47.65.

Walker finished seventh in the 55m hurdles with a season-best time of 7.29, which ranks as the seventh-best time in the NCAA ranks this season. Clement took fifth in 7.41 after recording a provisional time of 7.30 in the prelims.

Stroup took home the mile by clocking a provisional time of 4:02.99, which ranks sixth in the NCAA so far this season.

Morrison posted the top collegiate mark in taking second in the long jump with a provisional leap of 24-9.25 before the 4x400m team ended the running events by taking first in a provisional time (3:09.66).

In addition, freshman Henok Lechebo (Toronto, Ontario) won the 3,000m for the second time this season as he clocked a 8:14.48 - a personal best by more than 14 seconds. Florida's distance medley relay team of freshman Andrew Martin (Coral Gables, Fla.), freshman Joe Taylor (West Palm Beach, Fla.), sophomore Brandon Saltmarsh (Lake Mary, Fla.) and freshman Jeremy Miller (West Palm Beach, Fla.) took first in 10:22.85.

The men return to action this week when Florida travels to Ames, Iowa for the Iowa State Classic Feb. 11-12, while the women's squad will compete at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark. on Feb. 12.


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