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Wednesday March 2, 2011Notebook: Having Fun?

Gainesville, Fla.

Having fun?

Senior Florida sprinter Terrell Wilks (New Haven, Conn.) wants to make sure that you are.

Despite the fact that the Florida men’s track and field team entered the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championships as the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, a spot it has held for all but one week during the 2011 season, Wilks has continually emphasized the importance of having fun to his teammates, touting that philosophy as the key to success.

Wilks, who in many ways serves as the emotional leader of the UF track and field team, knows that the Gators are stocked with talent, but is also aware that talent alone won’t get the job done. In addition to hard work, a love of sport is also essential to being the best at one’s respective event.

It all started a year ago when jumper Christian Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.), who established himself in his freshman season as one of the top jumpers in the nation, struggled with his timing in the long jump, which led to a number of fouls in early-season competition.

“A year ago, me and Christian Taylor talked, and he was having a hard time with the long jump,” Wilks said. “He had fouled on a lot of jumps and I said to him, ‘Are you having fun doing this?’

“I told him the day you stop having fun in the sport, it’s time to hang it up. And he’s definitely not one to hang anything up. I told him, just go out and have fun and don’t think about anything.”

Shortly after that conversation, at the 2010 SEC Indoor Championships, Taylor placed third at the conference meet in the long jump with a season-best leap of 7.79m/25-6.75, which qualified him for the NCAA Indoor Championships.

“Ever since then, it’s just been something between me and him,” Wilks said. “The past couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about it with the team – making sure we’ve been having fun. We got the shirts made with the smiley face on them – you can’t go wrong with the smiley face.

“On the back, it says ‘Having Fun?’ Because if you have to question that, you need to tighten up.”

Minutes after Florida had won the 2011 SEC Indoor Championship – its first at that event since 2004 – the team came on the track to accept the team trophy with many of its members wearing the new shirts.

Asked at that point, if he had fun competing at the SEC Indoor Championships, Wilks’ response was no surprise.

“I had a great time.”

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