TRACK: Ponteen wins third straight 400M

Sophomore Tiandra Ponteen (St. Kitts) led the number four-ranked University of Florida women's track and field team, while senior Josh Walker (Stone Mountain, Ga.) and the 4x400m relay paced the seventh-ranked men's team as each posted NCAA automatic marks at meets on Saturday.

Both squads competed at two of the most prestigious indoor meets in the country --- the women at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., while the men took part in the Iowa State Classic. The women's squad had five athletes post NCAA automatic or provisional marks, while the men chalked up six.

Ponteen won for the third consecutive time in the 400-meter as she dashed to an automatic time of 51.68, which stands as the second-fastest time in the country this season.

"Tiandra ran a smart, fast race," Florida women's coach Tom Jones said. "It was a nice win for her. It was a nice team effort but we have a young team and they need to learn how to compete at this level."

Walker finished second in the 60m hurdles, barely getting nudged out for first. Walker earned a trip to the indoor NCAAs by posting an automatic time of 7.69, which was just two tenths of a second off his school record. The 4x400m relay of junior Sekou Clarke (Kingston, Jamaica), freshman Bernard Middleton (Jacksonville, Fla.), junior Stefan Pastor (Columbia, Md.) and sophomore Kerron Clement (La Porte, Texas) won the race with a blazing school record and automatic time of 3:03.95.

"I'm pleased with our effort today," Florida men's coach Mike Holloway said. "We saw great improvements from a lot of people and that gives us good momentum going into the SEC Championships. Josh Walker did a great job today with Sekou and Bernard having big runs as well. Mike Morrison also jumped well - he's getting better and better. Our 4x400m team did an excellent job as well and I'm very pleased with the effort they gave."

For the women, senior All-American Candice Scott (Port of Spain, Trinidad) recorded another automatic mark in the weight throw by placing second with a toss of 23.26m/76-3.75. Also in weight throw action, junior All-American Rachel Longfors (Erhard, Minn.) posted a provisional mark of 20.01m/65-7.75 to place her sixth.

Senior Liz Wanless (Belleville, Ill.) impressed again in the shot put competition by posting another automatic qualifying mark of 17.55m/57-7, which was good enough for second and also stands as a career best. Scott added an automatic mark of her own (17.00m/55-9.25) to take fourth place in the shot put to compliment her runner-up finish in the weight throw. Scott's toss was also a season and career best.

Senior All-American Krystle Moss (Alexandria, Va.) leaped to her first provisional mark in the high jump of the season clearing the bar at 1.80m/5-10.75, good enough for third place in the event.

"I was really proud of Krystle," Jones said. "She set a seasonal best and that was important. She also had some great attempts at 1.85 (meters) which would have been a school record."

Two newcomers to running on a banked track impressed coach Jones. Freshman Natalie Knight (Snellville, Ga.) just missed posting the first provisional mark of her career in the 200m missing by just .02 seconds clocking in at 23.92. Sophomore Nadine Palmer (Manchester, Jamaica) would have set a provisional time in the 200m (23.57) but was disqualified when she lost her balance in the final turn.

"Nadine has never run on a banked track in her life," Jones said. "She just lost focus in the last turn, it doesn't help you that much (to break the lane) but it is a violation. I thought Natalie did very well in her first time on a banked track. She was feeling her way in the first 100 meters and then turned it on."

For the men, sophomore Mike Morrison (Willingboro, N.J.) had another stellar day after posting an automatic mark in the long jump Friday evening. He finished third in the high jump with a provisional leap of 2.19m/7-2.25, which is a season best and ties for the best mark in the SEC.

Middleton posted the first provisional mark of his career by taking fifth in the 400m with a time of 46.71, while Clarke was right behind in sixth with a provisional time of 46.92.

Senior Dwight Ruff (Sicklerville, N.J.) also had a provisional for the Gators as he took eighth in the 60m hurdles with a career-best time of 7.91. Freshman Demetrice Webb (Jacksonville, Fla.) took seventh in the 60m with a time of 6.80, while senior Kyle Farmer (Columbia, Md.) posted a mark of 6.75 in the prelims before taking eighth in 6.83. Freshman Richard Adu-Bobie (Ottawa, Canada) finished 10th in 6.85.

Freshman Henok Lechebo (Toronto, Ontario) added his name to the Florida record book by posting the seventh-best time in school history in the 3,000m as he finished sixth in 8:10.46.

Florida women's throwers and vaulters are back in action Saturday, Feb.19 at the Hoosier Hills Invitational in Bloomington, Ind., while the men's squad will next compete at the Southeastern Conference Championships Feb. 25-27 in Fayetteville.

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