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Alachua County Sports and Events Center hosts NJCAA track championships, a key event for the new $30 million multi-use facility

Joleen Cacciatore Miller of the GSC explains how Gainesville was chosen to host the NJCAA championships, along with highlights from the meet.

The Alachua County Sports and Events Center hosted the 2024 National Junior College Athletic Association Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships this weekend, with more than 500 athletes from over 35 schools flocking to Gainesville to compete.

The meet was among the first of many major track events that county officials hope to host at the center during its lifetime.

“We didn’t have one of these indoor track facilities that could support NCAA-type events for several years,” said Sean McLendon, economic development manager for Alachua County. “It’s significant that it’s back, that it’s here in the community.”

After opening in June of last year, expectations are high for the potential economic value that the $30 million project could bring to the city and county. The venue is estimated to bring just over $1 billion in economic impact to the region in its first 30 years, according to McLendon.

With a massive positive impact expected, it is important for the event center to host high-profile events, but how did Gainesville land one of the biggest collegiate track meets of the year?

The Gainesville Sports Commission placed a bid to host the championship meet at the Alachua County Sports and Events Center and was selected by the NJCAA as the winning site, according to Joleen Cacciatore Miller, the commission’s executive director.

Tapiwanashe Makarawu (red uniform) leads coming to the finish of the men’s 60m dash. (Trach Kercsmar/WUFT News)

The championships are held in a different location each year, with cities such as Lynchburg, Virginia, and Lubbock, Texas, hosting in the past.

This year’s edition marked the first time the event has been held in Florida, and it did not disappoint.

The 2024 NJCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships featured over 18 hours of action, with fierce competition, dominant performances and heartwarming stories.

In the men’s 60m dash, New Mexico Junior College’s Tapiwanashe Makarawu took home the gold with a time of 6.63 seconds, edging out runner-up Traunard Folson by seven one-hundreths of a second.

“Coming to nationals I was ranked No. 4, and I knew it was going to be hard,” said the 23-year old from Zimbabwe. “But today, I was so confident that I was going to win, and I did.”

Just a couple hours later, Makarawu set a facility record in the 200m dash with a time of 20.47 seconds, earning his second national championship of the day.

“It’s a great thing to win nationals, and I’m looking forward to coming to division one to race with my guys,” Makarawu said.

Runners come off the blocks at the start of the women’s 4x400 relay. (Trach Kercsmar/WUFT News)
Runners come off the blocks at the start of the women’s 4x400 relay. (Trach Kercsmar/WUFT News)

On the women’s side, Sanae Hasnaoui of Barton County Community College in Kansas stole the show, winning three national championships of her own. The freshman phenom dominated in both the 3,000m run and the mile, winning each by over five seconds. She also took home the gold in the 1,000m run, with a blistering time of 2:52.63.

Hasnaoui wasn’t Barton County’s only national champion, as sophomore Christopher Young came away victorious in the men’s weight throw. Young beat out second-place Tate Joens by just 0.09m in one of the closest competitions of the meet.

“It means everything [to win nationals], making my family back home proud,” said Young, who is from Jamaica. “I love seeing the smile on my mom’s face.”

Both Barton County and Iowa Western Community College claimed the women’s team national championship, each finishing with 106 total points. Indian Hills Community College, also in Iowa, took home the team title on the men’s side, with 91.50 total points.

With a successful national championship meet in the books, the Alachua County Sports and Events Center looks forward to its future, which includes hosting the 2025 World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships next March.

Indian Hills Community College men’s team celebrates winning the team national championship. (Trach Kercsmar/WUFT News)

Trach is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing