EVER SINCE HE ARRIVED in Gainesville—really ever since he laced up his first pair of spikes—Grant Holloway has been a perennial, perpetual favorite. Realistically, that didn’t change heading into the NCAA, the 4 NCAA titles and the totality of his résumé didn’t truly have people discounting him, but there were some dents in his aura of invincibility. Notably, he had been beaten in the 110s at the SEC by Kentucky’s Daniel Roberts, and Roberts then turned in a better qualifying time in Austin. There was also a disappointing 12th in the first-day’s long jump.
That didn’t really make Holloway an underdog, but don’t tell him that. Normally a jolly presence, Holloway carried around a notable chip on his shoulder all week. He looked and ran like someone with something more to prove. After the speedy semi, Holloway was asked if he noticed Roberts’ times. “You know the answer to that, why do you ask questions you know the answer to?” he shot back.
Then on the Friday that counted, in a span of 40 minutes, Holloway was part of a CR 37.97 sprint relay and a CR 12.98 to Roberts’ 13.00 in the hurdles that should have stood as his best moment on the track to date. Post-hurdles, as he was ushered through the interview zone, off to prepare for an anchor leg on the 4×4, he broke loose, went to the first camera he could find, and started emotionally shouting, “Eat your words! Eat your words! Eat your words!”
By the end of the meet, clearly with a little less energy after a 43.74 closer on the 4×4 (“Now I’m tired. A 43.7, that speaks for itself, I’m tired, I’m tired!”) he reflected on a wild day. “The time was good, something I’ve been training for the whole season, it finally paid off after a bitter loss at the SECs,” he said of the 12.98. “You know, a lot of people were saying I wasn’t going to be able to execute and finish the race. But I came out here, just be me, let the time speak for itself. We did what we had to do. We’ve been training since August and everything’s paying off. We broke the Collegiate Record in the 4 x 100m, and I came back in 30 minutes and broke the Collegiate Record in the hurdles. Then 40 minutes later I split 43.7 on the 4 x 400m, so that’s a great day. I can’t be mad that we didn’t win the team title, but at the same time, it’s just one of those things where you’ve got to be thankful for what you’ve got.”
Even his coach, Mike Holloway, indicated Florida came in playing the underdog card. Speaking of the relay record, he said, “We knew we were capable of it, we just put it together. I told them before the race, we’ve been training for this all year long, let’s just go out here and put it together. There were some people out there doubting we could do it, so why not just prove them wrong?”
Grant Holloway was all about letting inanimate objects talk: “We’ve been training for that time, preparing to run that time, we said we were going to do what we were going to do. I just got the baton around the track, I let the baton speak for itself. It was a team effort from Coach Holloway’s standpoint, from my standpoint, from a relay standpoint. Everybody contributed to this and we all had fun as we were all doing it.” So after all that, was that span from relay CR to hurdles CR the greatest thing he’s ever been part of? “I’ve had better half-hours in football games,” he deadpanned. “But for track & field, this was good.”
There was probably some deliberate understatement there, but his coach did draw a distinction between good and great. “He can still be better,” Mike Holloway said. “I told him a little while ago, he didn’t really run through the line, he got a little too excited. But he’s embraced what I’ve been saying in hurdle 6 through hurdle 10. But there’s still more there. When he came to Florida he said he wanted to be the best hurdler in the world. Until he runs 12.7, there’s more to do.”
Grant admitted, “There are a couple of things I can fix. There are a couple of things I can fix in that race, go back, watch some film, call my Mom, call my Dad, keep everything simple.”
That probably won’t happen at Florida, at least in a Gator uniform. Coach Holloway cut off “What’s next?” questions that were posed to Grant, but later clarified, “I think everyone knows Grant is not going to be back next year. He’ll go down as one of the all-time Gator greats. He didn’t have to run the [4×4], we would have been second (in the team race) without him, but he wanted to close it out the right way.”
He then expounded on the legacy question. “There’s people who think he made Florida track & field. We were pretty good before he got here, but he helped us sustain it. Obviously Grant has taken the sport and become the face of the sport: he’s happy, he’s jovial, he’s kind, he’s caring, he’s the type of person you want around.”
“It was really good,” Grant said of apparently his last day as a Gator. “It was a good day just to have everybody here, have my parents here, but most of all, I finally broke the Collegiate Record, so it was really good. It hasn’t hit me yet, but it probably will in about 2–3 weeks.” ◻︎