First The Penn Relays, Then Graduation

Candice Scott, a native of Trinidad and University of Florida senior, will not be in attendance for Saturday’s Penn Relays events, to cheer on either her Gators’ teammates or Jamaica.

She’ll be back in Gainesville, receiving her diploma with a degree in therapeutic recreation.

“I have to leave on Friday,” she explained.

Which will still give her plenty of time to defend her crown as the two-time defending Penn Relays champion in the College Women’s Hammer Throw. That’s two-time defending champ and two-time Relays and national collegiate record setter.

In 2003, Scott hit a mark of 223 feet, 10 inches for record No. 1, and last year her ball-and-chain traveled 229 feet, 1 inch.

But she saved her personal best for the world’s biggest stage when she finished ninth in the Olympic Games in Athens last September, when she threw 229 feet, 5 inches.

“I had quite a few nerves, but when it came to the competition I was fine,” Scott said. I was on autopilot, you know. I got beat on my best day. I can’t be mad at that. It was all good.”

Scott’s first visit to Florida came when she still in high school and she competed for Trinidad in the Junior Pan-American Games in Tampa in 1999.

“I hadn’t thought much about college,” she admitted. “My education teacher told me to get a scholarship and further my education in the United States. When I came to Florida I fell in love with it, the weather, the academics, the coaches.”

And apparently with the hammer, as well.

“I picked up the hammer throw when I picked up my scholarship in 2000,” she said. “It came kind of natural.”

Natural enough that she’s also won the last two NCAA championships in the event, in addition to her Penn Relays honors.

“The first thing I knew about the Penn Relays was when I knew I was going to Philadelphia for the first time to compete,” Scott said. “It has better competition, gets me more fired up. And for me it’s a chance to meet Mr. (Bill) Cosby again.”

What she will miss this year is Saturday’s USA vs. The World relays, in which, apparently, Jamaica carries the torch for all of the Caribbean.

“Who do you think I cheer for,” Scott asked, and then answered. “Jamaica. “They’re my counterparts, you know.”

Like most world-class track and field athletes, Candice Scott has already set a personal goal of competing in the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008.

And, if she does, she’ll probably have a few more personal best marks behind her, and, more importantly, she’ll have that degree from the University of Florida.