Looking back at the best moments of 2022
As 2022 draws to a close, we can’t help but look back on the year that has unfolded in Florida Gators athletics.
There have certainly been ups and downs throughout the year. New coaches (Billy Napier and Todd Golden) have taken over the football and basketball programs and gone through all the growing pains one would expect during a transition period, but Gators Wire is focused on doing the good that happened in 2022 before the schedule changed.
The baseball team qualified for regionals, the women’s gymnastics team finished second in the NCAA championships, the tennis program won an individual title, and the track and field dominated all year.
It’s always great to be a Florida Gator, and 2022 was no exception. Of course, not all programs achieved the high standards of the fanbase, but there was plenty to celebrate over the course of the year.
As 2023 begins, let’s take a look back at the Athletic Department’s biggest moments over the past calendar year.
February 19: Florida eliminates No. 2 Auburn in front of a sold-out crowd
DISRUPTION ALERT 🚨
Florida defeats No. 2 Auburn at home!! pic.twitter.com/g9hPXW1wh4
— ESPN (@espn) February 19, 2022
Florida basketball has entered a new era under Todd Golden, but one of the best moments of 2022 came while Mike White was still at the helm of the program. The Gators avoided No. 2 Auburn in an uphill battle that kept NCAA Tournament hopes alive at the time, and they did so in front of a sold-out crowd.
The Rowdies always come to games with 110% energy, but it’s a different vibe when the O’Dome is depleted. Auburn learned that the hard way, and Florida earned its season-highlight victory.
March 5: Keyontae Johnson speaks one last time in Gainesville
#Gators F Keyontae Johnson starts, gets the opening warning, hugs everyone, kisses the floor and walks out 😭 pic.twitter.com/92xqiT0hcu
— Graham Hall (@GrahamHall_) March 5, 2022
Sometimes basketball is more than just a game, and Florida Seniors Night proved it. More than a year after collapsing on the field against Florida State, forward Keyontae Johnson took the field for the Gators one last time. He had been a de facto assistant coach for the entire 2021-22 season, and the team made sure to give him one last moment in front of the Florida faithful.
The Gators won an honorary tip and gave the ball directly to Johnson. He enjoyed the moment before handing the ball to the referee, thanking the teams’ players on the field and kissing the hardwood. Johnson is now with Kansas State and playing again, but his time at Orange and Blue will never be forgotten. What a great end to his tough run in Gainesville.
May 17: Sterling Thompson leaves FSU
STERLIN THOMPSON WALK-OFF HOMER TO BEAT THE NOLES! 🐊@GatorsBB have won 19 of their last 23 against Florida State 😤 pic.twitter.com/aSOOzwC8ZJ
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) May 18, 2022
There’s nothing better than beating your in-state rival with a home run, and that’s exactly what Sterlin Thompson did in May for the Florida Gators baseball team. UF and FSU had already split the first two games of the series and Thompson delivered the final blow in the ninth inning with two outs to secure a second victory for the Gators. Talk about drama.
It’s no surprise that Thompson was then selected 31st overall in the 2022 MLB Draft, and there’s good reason to believe he’ll deliver many more home runs through Colorado’s air throughout his career. professional career.
May 28: Ben Shelton wins NCAA Men’s Singles Championship
Here’s that championship point from Ben 🤩#GoGators 🐊🎾 pic.twitter.com/DAmrYI5W8U
— Gators Men’s Tennis (@GatorsMTN) May 28, 2022
Florida tennis isn’t getting as much love as it should, but Ben Shelton deserves his roses after a historic year for the Gators. He became only the fourth player in school history to win the singles crown, in some ways redeeming the program’s loss at the tag team championships a week prior.
Shelton turned pro after the season ended and will continue to be the pride of Gator Nation for years to come.
June 5: Carsten Finnvold launches a raised nine-inning gem
Reaction to Carsten Finnvold’s gem final against the Sooners pic.twitter.com/tfvlQMpIB6
— Jake Hitt (@jake_hitt06) June 6, 2022
Where were you the day the legend of Carsten Finnvold was born?
Florida had to dig deep just to field a starter in its fourth regional game of the weekend, and Timmy Manning was taken out before he could even register a takedown. Kevin O’Sullivan turned to Finnvold in a move of desperation after the rookie showed promise in the SEC tournament, and former USA southpaw Heritage-Del Ray turned in an all-time throwing performance in the ‘Orange and Blue.
Finnvold pitched the rest of the game, securing the final 27 outs for the Gators while allowing just two runs in the sixth inning and allowing five hits on the day. He proved there was no need for stunning tricks to get the job done on the mound and pulled off four with his elite shots. Florida’s season would end the next day, but that didn’t take away from Finnvold’s masterful performance.
June 6: Wyatt Langford ties program home run record with No. 26
Homerun King 👑
Wyatt Langford equals Matt LaPorta for most home runs in a single season in Gators history! #GoGators pic.twitter.com/ryA99vBagj
— Florida Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) June 7, 2022
Watching Wyatt Langford swing the bat is like watching a master craftsman at work, and Florida fans were treated to a record-breaking season by the catcher-turned-outfielder in 2022. At the start of the year, one wondered if he’d retain the left field spot, but no one doubted his abilities at the end of the season.
Langford hit the No. 26 homer to tie Matt LaPorta’s school record in the final game of the season and is now considered one of the top collegiate prospects for next year’s MLB Draft. Fans will have another year of Langford in Gainesville, but he’s already etched his name in the school history books.
June 8-11: Florida wins men’s and women’s outdoor track and field championships
Winning is always good, and boy, did the Florida track and field program win this year. In June, head coach Mike Holloway led the men’s and women’s teams to the outdoor championships, and we can’t forget the women’s indoor championship in March either.
Holloway made Florida one of the best colleges in the country on the track, and it’s no surprise the school extended his 10-year contract in August.
September 3: The Billy Napier era begins with a bang
Billy Napier’s first year in the swamp wasn’t a good one, but fans will always remember the euphoric feeling that swept through Gator Nation after knocking out Utah’s No. 7 to start the 2022 season. former Group of Five head coach passed his first test with flying colors and Anthony Richardson looked like a legitimate candidate for Heisman, moving in for a two-point conversion as all hope seemed lost.
Of course, things would change for the rest of the season, but for a brief moment, Florida football was back. Amari Burney picked up the win with a last-minute interception, and the party was on in Hogtown. Let’s hope there are more moments like this in 2023.
November 4-12: Florida defeats Texas A&M and South Carolina
Perhaps the best streak of the Gators football season came in November after the team fell to No. 1 Georgia, 42-20. After a tight first half against the Texas A&M Aggies in Week 10, Florida’s defense tightened up in the second half and allowed no points for the rest of the game.
That dominance continued against South Carolina in Week 11 when Florida extended its streak of keeping opponents out of the end zone to six straight quarterbacks. Unfortunately, the team fell apart after that, losing to Vanderbilt and Florida State to close out the year, but it was a glorious two weeks of defensive dominance while things lasted.
Nov. 10: Gators knock out 5-star QB Jaden Rashada from Miami
When Florida lost to Miami in the race to recruit Jaden Rashada, Gator Nation was dejected to say the least. For nearly five months, the West Coast quarterback has remained committed to the Hurricanes, and Miami fans have never missed an opportunity to rub the recruiting victory over Gators fans. That is until Rashada traveled to Florida on Nov. 10 and became the face of the Gators’ recruiting class.
Recruiting wins are always sweet, but this one was different. Billy Napier got his guy and, perhaps more importantly, Miami lost his caller from the future. It will take a few years to see how much the turnaround ages, but it’s hard to say how important this moment was for the new staff.