Florida looks for 1st national outdoor title
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Florida men's track and field team has seemingly accomplished everything except for a national outdoor title.
The star-crossed Gators have finished in second place four times since 2004, and last season they wound up third after losing in the final race of the meet.
But Florida has three straight indoor national titles to its credit and is once again among the favorites to win this year's meet, which starts on Wednesday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.
Texas A&M's men and women have won the last three national outdoor titles, but most expect that streak of pulling off double titles to end in 2012. The Aggie men appear to stack up equally with Florida State and Florida, which can't afford to focus on their past inability to break through at the outdoor meet like they have indoors.
"It's not something that we talk about a lot, to be honest with you,'' Florida coach Mike Holloway said. "Am I losing sleep over it at night? No.''
Holloway would be sleeping a bit easier if star sprinter Jeff Demps was making the trip to Des Moines with him.
Demps ran for nearly 2,500 yards as a running back for the Gators, but he decided to focus on track rather than football in hopes of making the U.S. Team headed to the London Games. But Demps, who won three straight national indoor titles at 60 meters and was the national outdoor champion at 100 meters in 2010, injured his hamstring during the SEC meet last month and won't run this week.
Demps' absence could leave the door open for Florida State, which won national title in 2006 and 2008 and was second to the Aggies a year ago. The Seminoles are led by Maurice Mitchell, who won the 200 last year and headlines an impressive group of sprinters on the 400 relay squad.
On the women's side, Oregon's resume is very similar to Florida's, for better or worse.
The Ducks have also won three straight national indoors titles, but they haven't taken the outdoor trophy back to Eugene since 1985. Oregon faltered last year in Des Moines as a favorite, but the Ducks are stacked in 2012.
They're led by distance star Jordan Hasay, sophomore sprinter English Gardner, defending 800 champion Anne Kesselring and heptathlon star Brianne Theisen, a three-time indoor champion in the pentathlon.
The Ducks will likely be pushed mainly by 14-time national champions LSU and their star sprinter, Kimberlyn Duncan.
Duncan is the current collegiate leader in the 100 and the 200 and will highlight the Tigers relay teams as well.
The Kansas women's team is also expected to contend for the team title, which would be the first in school history. The resurgent Jayhawks have 11 athletes competing in 13 events under coach Stanley Redwine.
"It's just been a long process. The athletes have worked really, really hard,'' Redwine said. "We definitely don't like losing.''
Neither do the Aggies.
But this might finally be the year Texas A&M's streak of six consecutive titles, three for the men, three for the women, comes to an end. While the men might push the Seminoles and Gators, the women could have trouble with the Ducks, Tigers and Jayhawks.
Texas A&M finished fifth in the 2012 NCAA women's indoor meet.
"This is a good competitive group,'' Henry said. "What you did to get here, great. But you've got to do it here, so that's the challenge.''
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