"We had a great day out there," Florida men's coach Mike Holloway said. "I'm very proud of Kayne Dakoski because he got off to a rough start and kept plugging away. Mike, Wes, Sekou and Willie all did what they had to do. Overall, it was a good day for us and we just have to come back tomorrow and do it all over again."
For the women, the 4x100m relay of sophomore All-American Lakecia Ealey (Albany, Ga.), senior All-American Nadine Palmer (Manchester, Jamaica), junior Dominique McLeggan (Weston, Fla.) and sophomore All-American Natalie Knight (Snellville, Ga.) jump-started the Gators by qualifying for the finals. Also moving on was freshman Shannon Leinert (Wildwood, Mo.), who clocked the second-fastest and eighth-best time overall in her 800m prelim heat en route to qualifying for Thursday's semifinal round (7:50 p.m. EST). The national runner-up a year ago in the discus, senior All-American Rachel Longfors (Erhard, Minn.) will put the finishing touches on her stellar UF career in the finals on Friday (6:45 p.m. EST).
"We had a pretty good first day," UF women's head coach Tom Jones said. "I was very proud of Shannon Leinert for her showing in the 800m. She showed a lot of heart by moving up like she did in the field. The 4x100m did a good job, but I know that they can run faster. We were a little bit timid in the zones, but I'm proud of the way that Lakecia Ealey and Nadine Palmer have led this group all season. Dominique held her own on the third leg, and I thought Natalie was impressive by doing what she had to do at the anchor spot to get us qualified."
For the men, Dakoski completed the first day of the decathlon and is in 18th place entering the final day with 3,516 points after setting or tying his PR in three of the five events. Dakoski opened the decathlon by running the 100m in 11.72 to stand in 24th place with 707 points. He followed with a leap of 6.43m/21-1.25 in the long jump to score 682 points and remain in 24th. He surged ahead to 19th after the shot put in which he posted a PR by more than one foot with a toss of 13.45m/44-1.50 to finish ninth in the event with 695 points. In the fourth event of the day, Dakoski matched his PR by clearing 1.83m/6-0 in the high jump to notch 653 points and remain in 19th. He concluded the day by a PR by nearly a second in the 400m as he won his heat in 50.78 to score 779 points and move up to 18th entering day two with 3,516. His point total was just five off his previous day one best. A solid second-day performer, Dakoski has an outside chance to become the first Gator in school history to earn All-America honors in the decathlon.
Perry was in control of his heat of the 200m as he cruised to a time of 20.73 out of lane three to win the heat. His mark was the third fastest of the day behind Florida State's Walter Dix (20.62) and LSU's Kellie Willie (20.72). The semifinals of the 200m will be contested at 8:55 p.m. (EST) on Friday. Perry, who owns the top junior time in the world in 2006 (20.42) has a chance to become Florida's first freshman All-American in the outdoor 200m since John Capel in 1999.
Morrison was one of 13 athletes moving on to Friday's final in the high jump, which is slated for 9:30 p.m. (EST). Despite limited practice in the event, Morrison was able to advance after passing on the first height (2.05m/6-8.75) before he cleared 2.14m/7-0.25 on his first try and 2.17m/7-1.50 on his second attempt. Morrison finished fourth in the event in 2005 and has a chance to become third Gator in school history to earn two outdoor All-America honors in the high jump. He's also currently tied for the Florida record with 12 career All-America honors.
Less than two hours after he was finished in the high jump, Morrison qualified No. 1 for Thursday's 9:30 p.m. (EST) final in the long jump. On his second attempt, Morrison uncorked a leap of 7.91m/25-11.50 – the second best outdoor jump of his career. He posted the top qualifying mark by two-plus inches. When he competes on Thursday, he'll have a chance to join Dion Bentley as the only Gators in school history to earn three outdoor All-America honors in the long jump.
Clarke took second in his heat of the 400m and automatically advanced to Friday's 8:35 p.m. (EST) semifinal. He crossed the finish line in 45.88 – just 0.06 off his career best and the second sub-46 time of the season and fourth of his career. Clarke's time was the eighth-fastest of the day.
Stockbarger concluded events for the Gators on Wednesday by making his first NCAA final after posting the 11th-best mark in the discus (55.20m/181-3). With the top 12 athletes advancing to finals, Stockbarger was on the outside looking in before he secured his spot with his second throw. He'll compete in the final on Friday at 9:15 p.m. (EST).
In the opening running event of the day on the men's side, the cobbled together Gator 4x100m relay of freshman Dennis Martin (Anderson, S.C.), freshman All-American Chris Gilchrist (Broken Arrow, Okla.), Perry and sophomore All-American Bernard Middleton (Jacksonville, Fla.) couldn't quite make it to the finals in the event after finishing 14th with a time of 40.00.
For the women, Ealey and Palmer had successful opening legs on the 4x100m before Knight received the handoff from McLeggan and raced towards the finish line, crossing at the 44.12 mark – good enough for third in the heat and tying Miami for seventh overall in the semifinals. South Carolina has the leading time heading into finals (43.12) and won UF's heat, while Auburn was the other qualifier out of the five-school opening flight with a clocking of 43.35. UF's group will compete in Friday's final slated for 7 p.m. (EST).
Leinert was in the back of the pack heading into the first turn of the final lap, but she raced towards the front of the eight-athlete group by moving to the inside, which enabled her to take the lead heading into the last turn. Leinert finished second in the heat with a clocking of 2:06.78, while UTEP's Fatimoh Muhammed edged her by nine hundredths with a time of 2:06.69.
Longfors will look to add a sixth All-America honor in her career and fourth in the discus when she competes in the finals. Longfors launched a toss of 49.72m/163-1 to place 11th in the semifinals, making the cut of 12 to advance to Friday's finals. This year's event will mark the fourth-straight final for Longfors in the discus.
Knight began the 200m first round in the back of the pack heading into the first turn and turned on the jets during the final stretch, but it was not enough to move onto the semifinals as she placed sixth in the heat and 21st overall with a time of 23.95, missing the cut by three tenths of a second.
On Thursday, Dakoski will complete the 10-event decathlon beginning at 1 p.m. (EST), while senior All-American Shane Stroup (Highland, Md.) will look to make finals in the 1,500m at 9:15 p.m. (EST) and Morrison will compete in the long jump final at 9:30 p.m. (EST).
For the women, senior Jyn Wynn (Dougalsville, Ga.) kicks off a busy day of competition for the Gators on Thursday with the qualifying round of the hammer throw at 2 p.m. (EST). Ealey will compete in the first round of the 100m at 6:30 p.m. (EST) and in the semifinals at 8:20 p.m. (EST) should she qualify in the opening round. Senior Dara Altman (Tampa, Fla.) and sophomore Natalie Moser (Tampa, Fla.) will make their NCAA Championships debut in the pole vault qualifying round at 7:30 p.m. (EST), while Leinert will follow them with the 800m semifinals at 7:50 p.m. (EST). The 4x400m relay is the final event on the docket for the Gators, as the quartet looks to improve on its third-place finishing time of 3:31.52 at the NCAA East Regional two weeks ago. The 4x400m relay semifinals will begin at 9:30 p.m. (EST).
The NCAA Outdoor Championships will continue with second-day action on Thursday. Live results of the meet can be found at www.ncaasports.com.
Men Advancing To Finals (3):
Mike Morrison – High Jump, Long Jump
Wes Stockbarger - Discus
Men Advancing To Semifinals (2):
Willie Perry – 200m
Sekou Clarke – 400m
Women Advancing To Finals (2):
Rachel Longfors - Discus
Lakecia Ealey, Nadine Palmer, Dominique McLeggan, Natalie Knight – 4x100m
Women Advancing To Semifinals (1):
Shannon Leinert – 800m