1992 NCAA Championships
A Year at the Top
1992 will go down in University of Florida history books as the year the Lady Gator track and field team ventured to the top of the collegiate track & field world. A world where no Florida track & field team has ever gone before. A world where only the best of the best, the elite amongst the elitist belong. The 1992 squad passed through privileged territories this past season to discover that they belong in this world dominated by so few. Once settled in that arena, the Lady Gators found themselves victors of the Indoor and Outdoor Southeasten Conference Championships, NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships and runner-up champions at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Simply put, the 1992 team rewrote the Florida record book with performances only dreamed about in the collegiate track & field community. By the end of the year-long campaign, 10 athletes would win 30 All-American honors, six athletes would win 13 All-SEC honors and 15 UF record would be either broken or reset. After five years of preparation under former Lady Gator Head Coach Beverly Kearney, the track & field team found themselves ready for the journey to the top of the track & field domain. The trip started out with nine returning All-Americans and a fast and furious Florida squad ready to meet the challenges that lay ahead of them.
The first obstacle the team would cross on the road to national prominence came in the form of the SEC Indoor Championships, held on the Lady Gators' home track at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Here, the Florida squad handled the challenge by winning their second indoor conference title in three years. Florida acquired the title by a 19-point margin, and behind six individual titles as well as nine top-four finishes in 11 separate events.
Senior Michelle Freeman took home the Commissioner's Trophy as the meet's high scorer. She won the 55-meter hurdles (7.36), the 55 meters (6.69) and the 200 meters (23.56), scoring 30 of Florida's 139 points. Freeman became the first woman in SEC history to win three individual titles at the SEC Indoor Championships. Her time of 7:36 in the hurdles was .02 seconds off her world record mark of 7:34 which she set in the semifinals the day before. Freeman thus became the owner of the two fastest 55-meter hurdle times ever recorded.
Florida's other event winners included three record-setting performances by junior Dionne Rose in the long jump (20-9 ¾), junior Leah Kirklin in the triple jump (43-7 ¾) and senior Maria Galloni in the high jump (6-0 ¾). Kirklin's mark equaled the SEC meet record, while Galloni's win in the high jump extended her streak of consecutive SEC high jump titles (indoor and outdoor) to five.
Next up for the track & field team was a meet with the nation's best - the NCAA Indoor Championships. Here, a the national meet, is where Florida would establish themselves as the team that would go down in the annals of Florida track & field history. Recording the most points (50) in school history, the Lady Gators won their first NCAA Championship - becoming the first track team at UF, men's or women's, to win an NCAA team title. Despite a first day poor showing by Freeman - the favorite in the 55-meter hurdles who finished a disappointing fourth along with teammate Monifa Taylor failing to make it to the finals after falling in the semifinals, the Lady Gators bounced back with determination. The next day, Kirklin won her second consecutive NCAA Indoor triple jump title with a school record leap of 43-11 ¾. Nekita Beasley, the NCAA outdoor 800-meter champion, finished second in the 800 meters with a school-record of 2:04.45. Seniors Beasley (with a 400-meter split of 54.5 seconds), Freeman (53.5), Anita Howard (52.1), and junior Kim Mitchell (53.0) teamed up for the spectacular performance on the 1,600-meter relay. Their time of 3:33.10 set an UF school record and ranked as the top collegiate clocking of the indoor season. Others earning All-American honors included Tasha Downing (4x400m relay) and Dionne Rose, who was runner-up in the 55m hurdles (7.60) and eighth in the long jump (20-3).
Not overlooked was the coaching effort of Kearney. She was named SEC Indoor and NCAA Indoor Coach of the Year for the third consecutive year.
So as the 1992 season goes down in the Florida history books as the most successful ever, the collegiate track & field community will not soon forget the year that the Lady Gators - who discovered along the way that it wasn't just a one-time adventure, but a trip to a place where they intended to stay.NCAA Championships
March 12-13, 1992
Nekita Beasley (2nd, 800 meters- 2:04.45)
Michelle Freeman (2nd, 55 meters - 6.70; 4th, 55m hurdles - 7.61)
Leah Kirklin (1st, Triple Jump - 43-11 ¾)
Dionne Rose (2nd, 55m hurdles - 7.60: 8th, Long Jump - 20-3)
1,600m relay - Nekita Beasley, Micelle Freeman, Kim Mitchell, Anita Howard (1st, 3:33.10)
1992 LADY GATOR TRACK & FIELD HIGHLIGHTS
- The Lady Gators became the first UF team, men's or women's, to win an NCAA Championship. On March 14, 1992, Florida claimed the NCAA Indoor title with 50 points (the most in school history).
- 1992 Southeastern Conference Indoor and Outdoor track & field champions. The indoor crown is the second in school history and the outdoor is a first for the Lady Gator program.
- Leah Kirklin won her second consecutive NCAA Indoor Triple Jump title, and the 1600-meter relay team of Nekita Beasley, Michelle Freeman, Kim Mitchell and Anita Howard claimed the Lady Gators' first NCAA indoor 4x400- meter relay title.
- Florida won its second SEC Indoor Championship in three years, scoring a school record 139 points.
- Michelle Freeman won the Commissioner's Trophy as the high scorer at the SEC Indoor meet, scoring 30 points and becoming the first woman in the histoy of the indoor meet to win three events.
- Michelle Freeman set the World, Jamaican, NCAA, SEC Meet, Florida and O'Connell Center record in the 55-meter hurdles with a time of 7.34 in the semi finals of the SEC Indoor Championships.