EUGENE, Ore. – One month after placing sixth at the SEC track and field championships, unheralded Florida put on a show in front of a record crowd of 12,244 at the 2016 NCAA Men’s Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field on Friday.
The Gators scored an astonishing 51 points on the final day of competition, including individual NCAA titles from Eric Futch in the 400-meter hurdles and Arman Hall in the 400 meters, to finish atop the awards podium with a total of 62 points.
It was Florida’s third outdoor national title after tying Texas A&M for the NCAA crown in 2013 and winning outright in 2012. The Gators were the runners-up to host Oregon the past two seasons.
Arkansas, led by a historic triple from Jarrion Lawson – he became the first man since Jesse Owens in 1936 to win the 100m, 200m and long jump at the NCAA meet – placed second with 56 points, followed by Texas A&M in third with 50 and the fourth-place Ducks at 48.
In all, the SEC took five of the top six places in the team standings as LSU (41) and Tennessee (30) finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
Florida, which began the day in fifth place in the team standings, began its climb with a fourth-place finish in the 4x100m relay, which seemed to spark the Gators to a string of inspired performances.
In the 400 meters, Hall matched his PR of 44.82 seconds to win that event, while teammate Kunle Fasasi took sixth. Florida grabbed its first lead of the meet after a 1-2 finish in the 400-meter hurdles from Futch (48.91) and TJ Holmes (49.31). KeAndre Bates then exceeded his season-best in the triple jump by more than two feet to place second, and the 4×400-meter relay sealed the deal with a second-place performance.
Florida head coach Mike Holloway said the Gators might have benefitted from flying under the radar.
“That’s a plus for us sometimes to be able to run without all the hoopla … and just fly under the radar,” said Holloway amidst the team victory celebration. “That’s why we’re standing here right now, because they (the team) really believed and really thought it was going to happen.”
Outside of the dramatic team competition, there were several other noteworthy individual performances:
- Arkansas senior Jarrion Lawson became the first athlete since Jesse Owens in 1936 to win the 100m, 200m and long jump at the NCAA Championships, claiming the sprint double on Friday after capturing the long jump on Wednesday. He scored 31 ½ points for the Razorbacks – he also ran a leg on the third-place 4x100m relay – the most of any athlete since Owens scored 40 points 80 years ago. Owens won the 100m, 200m, 220-yard low hurdles and broad jump.
- Texas A&M freshman Donavan Brazier provided the best individual performance of the meet in winning the 800 meters with a collegiate record of 1 minute, 43.55 seconds. The 19-year-old phenom broke the NCAA record of 1:44.9 set by the legendary Jim Ryun 50 years ago to the day; crushed the meet record of 1:44.70 established by Mark Everett in 1990; and bested the Hayward Field record of 1:43.5 (hand-timed) set by Rich Wohlhuter in 1974.
- Oregon junior Edward Cheserek came into the NCAA championships with 13 NCAA titles already to his credit in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. He added two more titles to his tally by sweeping the 10,000m and 5,000m for the second straight season. Cheserek, a 22-year-old Kenyan, became the first man to win three consecutive NCAA titles at 10,000m.
Other individual titles on Friday came from Akron’s Clayton Murphy in the 1,500m (3:36.38); Oregon’s Devon Allen in the 110m hurdles (13.50); Michigan’s Mason Ferlic in the 3,000m steeplechase (8:27.16); USC’s Randall Cunningham in the high jump (7-4 ½); Texas A&M’s Latario Collie in the triple jump (55-8 ¼) and Nebraska’s Nicholas Percy in the discus (201-0).