Friday April 6, 2012Florida's 1992 NCAA champion women's track team to be honored Saturday at Florida Relays
Updated: 7:52am, April 6
Updated: 7:52am, April 6
The memories unexpectedly rushed through LaTanya Wynn-Hall’s head on a trip back to UF’s campus to watch her nephew compete. They were woken up when she looked up and saw the banner at the O’Connell Center honoring the Gators’ 1992 NCAA Indoor champion women’s track and field team.
Had it really been 20 years?
The Gators, after five seasons of building toward the ultimate goal under then-head coach Beverly Kearney, captured the school’s first national championship in men’s or women’s track – it remains the only one for the women’s program – in Indianapolis.
“That was a dynamic team,’’ said Wynn-Hall, a graduate assistant coach on the team. “They literally worked four years for that national title. They had won three SEC titles but had not won the Big Dance.”
It looked as if the Gators might fall short again on the first day of competition when senior Michelle Freeman, the favorite in the 55-meter hurdles, finished a disappointing fourth. Meanwhile, teammate Monifa Taylor fell down in the semifinals and didn’t even make it to the finals.
Those were points the Gators expected to gain but didn’t.
No worries. Kearney, who left after the season to become head coach at Texas, had built a deep roster. The Gators scored enough points (50) to nearly double the total of second-place Stanford (26) to leave Indianapolis with the national title.
Leah Kirklin (triple jump) won her second consecutive individual national title, Nekita Beasley finished second in the 800 meters, and Beasley, Freeman, Anita Howard and Kim Mitchell teamed up to win the 1,600-meter relay with a school-record time of 3:33.10.
Mission accomplished. The victory was the first of 18 national team titles for the Gators’ athletic program since Jeremy Foley took over as athletic director in March 1992.
“That’s the pinnacle,’’ said Wynn-Hall, a former standout at Virginia known as LaTanya Wynn back then. “We went in there as No. 1 and got the points we needed to make it happen.”
The moment was also the pinnacle of Wynn-Hall’s coaching career. When Kearney left for Texas a couple of months later Wynn-Hall opted to embark on a career in children’s social services rather than coaching. She recently returned to Gainesville after many years in Jacksonville and will be all smiles on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. when the ’92 Gators are honored at Percy Beard Track during the Florida Relays.
After seeing that banner at the O-Dome, Wynn-Hall became the driving force to get the team back together for a special occasion. A phone call here, countless Facebook searches there, and more than a dozen members of the team will be recognized Saturday.
It really has been 20 years.
“I think there is going to be a sense of pride,’’ Wynn-Hall said. “Most of the ladies coming in now are wives and mothers who are bringing their children. All of these young ladies graduated from Florida and they are now professionals, from teachers to real estate agents to an athletic director at her high school.
“There’s a lot of pride in what that team accomplished and they now can share it with their kids and families.”
Thanks to research done by Florida track sports information director Amanda Brooks and her student staff, here is a list of those scheduled to be recognized on Saturday:
Anita Howard Prather
Kimberly Mitchell Jones
Leah Kirklin Anderson
Tasha Downing Hill
Raelene Carter Lawless
Maria Galloni Czyzewski
Angela Fitts Holloway
SEC Outdoor 1,600 Relay Champion (1996)