Florida freshman Grant Holloway sprinted through the athlete recovery tent behind the west grandstand at Hayward Field, rushed through the media entrance and tackled his coach, Mike Holloway, mid-interview.
“Proud of you, cousin!” Grant shouted while embracing his coach.
When Grant made the decision to give up football last winter and focus solely on track, this was what he envisioned.
Holloway and the Gators captured their second consecutive NCAA outdoor track and field championships on Friday with a dramatic performance in the 4×400-meter relay, the last event of the day, to edge the Texas A&M Aggies.
The Aggies held a lead in the team standings heading in the final relay, and the Gators needed a finish of fifth or better to unseat them and take home the championship. Holloway received the baton with the Gators in fifth place and delivered a gutsy kick to move up one spot, giving Florida a fourth-place finish in the race and 61.5 points overall, two better than Texas A&M.
“I think what you saw in the 4×4 is indicative of who we are as a program,” Holloway said. “We have a lot of proud in who we are.”
Florida had revenge on its mind coming into the week. The Gators lost by one point to the Aggies at the NCAA indoor championships in March, leaving many of the team members — including Holloway — devastated.
Expected to deliver points in multiple events during that meet, Holloway came away with just a fourth place finish in the 110-meter hurdles and didn’t score a point in the long jump, despite earning the second seed in the event. He made a promise to his coach then that he would never let him down again.
“A man’s only as good as his word,” Holloway said. “That’s what my father told me. If I made a promise to coach Holloway, I was trying to keep it.”
A four-star wide receiver recruit out of high school, Holloway hung up his football cleats for good in January and chose to give his full attention to track. On Friday, that decision came to fruition.
Holloway finished with a win in the 110 hurdles in 13.49 seconds and a second place finish in the long jump to go along with his clinching anchor performance in the relay. Holloway and teammate Keandre Bates — who won the long jump and triple jump — combined to score nearly half of Florida’s points.
Texas A&M’s Fred Kerley cruised to victory in the 400-meter dash and finished the 4×400 with a dominant anchor leg to give the Aggies a win in that event as well. But it wasn’t enough for the Aggies, who also got a win from Lindon Victor in the decathlon on Thursday.
“My goal coming in this whole season was to win every race I was in,” Kerley said. “My main goal every track meet was to win the race; that’s what this whole season was about.”
Oregon finished ninth in the team standings with 19.5 points to take home its worst outdoor championship performance since 2012.
Kyree King delivered fourth place finishes for the Ducks in both the 100 (10.20) and 200 (20.61). He is the fourth Duck ever to take home All-American honors in each event. Tennessee junior Christian Coleman won each of the sprint events.
Marcus Chambers finished sixth in the 400 for the Ducks to wrap up his college career. Blake Haney finished 11th in the 1,500.
“Definitely a different feeling being here on this day,” Oregon head coach Robert Johnson said. “Definitely would rather be out there nervous and on the hunt and in the grind. … Not a feeling that I want to get accustomed too, that’s for sure.”
Follow Jarrid Denney on Twitter @jarrid_denney