Track & Field 2014 Florida Relays
The History Of The Florida Relays
A look back at an exciting 2014 Pepsi Florida Relays men’s 4x4 relay, featuring Kerron Clement, Justin Gatlin, Tony McQuay, LaShawn Merritt, Jeremy Wariner and more. The Florida men’s team went sub-three minutes with the No. 2 performance in collegiate history at the time (2:59.73).
The Florida Relays first began 76 years ago in 1939, thanks to the vision and creativeness of the Gators' legendary head track and field coach Percy Beard. Since that first meet, the Pepsi Florida Relays have grown in epic proportions from the small regional competitions on April Fools’ Day that featured 209 competitors, to one of the nation's premier track and field meets.
Florida, Alabama, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, the University of Havana and Palm Beach Junior College composed the university division of the inaugural Florida Relays, while Daytona Beach, Lake City, Live Oak, Miami Senior, Ocala, Palm Beach, Riverside Military Academy, Jacksonville Lee and St. Petersburg competed in the nine-team high school division.
The Florida Relays were established after the Southern Relays, held at Georgia Tech, were discontinued in the 1930s. Coach Beard was forced to create a new meet or travel hundreds of miles north to Philadelphia for the Penn Relays. Beard's coaching peers throughout the southeast were receptive to the idea and the Florida Relays were born.
Since its inception, the Florida Relays has grown in both stature and size. Previously regarded nationally as the first major event of the collegiate outdoor track and field season, the Relays once swelled from a one-day inaugural event featuring slightly more than 200 athletes to a four-day extravaganza that attracted more than 3,000 athletes from the high school, collegiate and international ranks.
In 2007, a new era of the Florida Relays began as the meet was been shifted on the track and field calendar to the first weekend in April and the competition took place during the course of two days instead of four. Since 2013, the Pepsi Florida Relays have been expanded to three days.
The Relays have been held every year since 1939 except during World War II (1942-46) and in 2006 when construction to facilities surrounding Percy Beard Track prevented the meet from being contested. The first 15 meets were held on the cinder track at Graham Field, south of Florida Field. In 1959, UF's track and field complex was moved to its present location.
The 1959 Florida Relays was a historical meet, as the University of Florida unveiled the first all-weather track surface in the world. The Asphalt grasstex surface was another of Coach Percy Beard's many track innovations. That surface remained in place until a nine-lane Chevron 400 rubberized surface was installed and a Rekortan surface was put in place during the summer of 1991.
Starting with the 2012 Florida Relays, athletes have the benefit running on a completely renovated track. More than $725,000 was poured into a new Mondo surface, which included renovating the additional 30 feet of track space at the southwest corner of the stadium, installed in 2007.