* Florida athletes Anna Hall, Jasmine Moore and Talitha Diggs pose with the NCAA Championship trophy
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports Images
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There's an old saying, "Success breeds success."
It's a simple quote and a simple idea, but it's heavy in meaning. Also, it couldn't be more appropriate when we're talking about the Florida Gators.
The men and women from Gainesville, led by Mike Holloway, the men's and women's head track and field and cross country coach, recently ended their spring track seasons with a pair of national team titles at the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. That tandem of titles is one of many that the Gators have won over the last few years.
In fact, in some ways those recent titles solidified the Gators as the premiere powerhouse in the NCAA. But how Florida built their teams -- and how the men's and women's programs won those titles -- forced us to ask a new question: What could the program's recent success mean for the incoming recruiting season, and all those star high school athletes in the Class of 2023 who are still undecided on a future home?
The thing about Florida, at least on the women's side, is that the team has thrived in almost every single event area at the highest levels of the NCAA. Jasmine Moore dominated the jumps and was undeniably the best leaper in the NCAA this year. Teammates Claire Bryant and Natricia Hooper added to the depth in those same events.
Anna Hall, a multi-event specialist, put together one of the most impressive seasons ever in NCAA history en route to a national title. She just became a finalist to win the prestigious Bowerman award.
Hall's teammate, Sterling Lester, also scored in the heptathlon via a fifth-place finish.
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports Images
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Sophomore Parker Valby stunned the nation when she finished runner-up in the 5K after coming back from an injury during the late winter and early spring. She legitimately challenged the heavy title favorite, Katelyn Tuohy, before settling for second-place.
How about Talitha Diggs? Despite her youth, this Gator superstar cracked the 50-second barrier in the 400m to run 49.99 and win the national title. Imogen Barrett and Gabrielle Wilkinson both qualified for the finals of the women's 800 meters, a field that was arguably the deepest it has ever been. Hall and Vanessa Watson also qualified for the finals in the women's 400m hurdles and each of them were scorers. Hall's runner-up finish in the event was part of a double which included heptathlon. On paper, that double was once considered to be impossible.
Listing these names and their accomplishments isn't intended to overwhelm you, though it certainly could.
Instead, I've illustrated their successes to show you that Florida has taken almost any recruit -- from the Classes of 2018, 2019 and 2020 -- and turned them into national-caliber superstars.
Florida appeals to pretty much every elite-level recruit ... in (almost) every event area. That's extremely rare. But what's even rarer is seeing the Gators have so many all-time superstars on their roster at once.
Having Hall, Moore, Diggs and Champion Allison recently qualify for the 2022 World Championships in July is wildly impressive, too -- and those are just the Americans!
Then there's Joseph Fahnbulleh, who won the men's 100m and 200m national titles earlier this month. The 2019 Hopkins (MN) graduate actually accounted for 28 of Florida's 54 team points when you include his contributions in the Gators' 4x100m relay team. That combination of raw firepower from a variety of different talents in multiple events is awe-inspiring.
But more importantly, that firepower is showing that the coaching staff in Gainesville is proving a trend: That becoming a collegiate superstar is within reach if you come to Florida. Just look at the percentages. On the women's team alone, if we accept all of those women mentioned previously as "stars" or "potential pros" on the Florida team -- and we're going to include hurdler Grace Stark among them, too -- they account for over 20-percent of the 2022 roster.
To become a star at Florida, then, is not a pipedream or a "if you get lucky" scenario.
But how Florida landed so many of these superstar names isn't as straightforward as one would think.
Hall, Moore and Lester were all transfers from Georgia after the Bulldogs' former head coach, Petros Kyprianou, parted ways with the program. Vanessa Watson is a transfer from Tennessee. Cheyenne Young is a transfer from South Carolina and Cait Tate is a transfer from Virginia Tech.
Photo Credit: Ben Lonergan/USA Today Sports Images
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Those are just a few of many transfer examples. On the men's side, Arkansas, Arizona, Alabama, Villanova, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Penn State, Washington and Minnesota all were first- or second-stops for current Florida athletes.
But don't think that the introduction of high-level transfers is slowing down. According to one source I spoke to, a high-level distance talent on the women's side was considering Florida before eventually choosing elsewhere.
Then there is the international recruiting aspect to consider.
Between the men's and women's roster, countries like Barbados, Greece, Finland, Bahamas, Denmark, Guyana and Australia are all represented as Gator track and field athletes.
While Florida's coaching staff, namely Holloway and Co., certainly recruit heavily within the Sunshine State, the program's ability to recruit anywhere from Massachusetts to Washington, and everything in between, ultimately sends a message to the Class of 2023: It doesn't matter where you're from. If Florida wants to recruit you, it's because they want to make you a champion.
And that messaging seems to be perpetuated and echoed the Gators' currently superstar athletes.
With some of the best and most impressionable track and field athletes in the world promoting the Florida Gators' greatness behind a Twitter megaphone, one has to believe that recruits from the Class of 2023 are listening.
And if they are, then choosing any NCAA team over the one in Gainesville will be quite the challenge.
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