By LARRY VAUGHT
It really was no surprise when Kentucky freshman Sydney McLaughlin announced she was turning professional after winning the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA Championships Saturday.
Many were surprised she even came to UK instead of turning pro out of high school, but she wanted to work with UK coach Edrick Floreal and be around some of his talented hurdlers.
Floreal was named head track and field coach at UK in 2012 after six years at Stanford. He has worked with 11 athletes (Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, Leah Nugent, Rondel Sorrillo, Grace Upshaw, Jackie Edwards, Amaechi Morton, Arantxa King, Toby Stevenson [2004 silver medal] , Erica McLain, Ian Thompson) at the Olympic Games. That doesn’t include Kendra Harrison, who missed the 2016 Olympics but broke the 28-year-old world record in the 100-meter hurdles (12.20) at the 2016 London Anniversary Games.
Floreal leads six sports programs at Kentucky, including men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s indoor track and field, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field.
Floreal has made Kentucky track relevant on the national scene — he had three women win national titles and one male over the weekend.
One has to wonder now if Kentucky can keep Floreal and if he might figure having a generational athlete like McLaughlin for this year might make it the right time for him to move on.
It would be nice to see UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart keep Floreal — and maybe the coach has no thoughts of leaving now or in the future. But my guess is that at least one big-time offer, if not more, could be coming Floreal’s way and make it hard for Barnhart to keep him in the Bluegrass.