With Category 4 Hurricane Irma threatening to reign over Florida, the Gators men’s and women’s cross country season began earlier than planned this year. After saying goodbye to standouts such as Taylor Tubbs on the women’s team and Carlos Miranda on the men’s team, younger players have proven they can rise to the occasion after Thursday’s performance at the North Florida Invitational in Jacksonville, previously scheduled for Saturday morning.
Sophomore Jessica Pascoe, who hasn’t competed in a cross country meet since the NCAA South Regional Championship last November, placed second in the women’s 5K with a time of 18:11.12. She made a strong return to the women’s team after sitting out most of last year’s indoor and outdoor track season with tendon inflammation and tendonitis in various areas around her foot.
Following Pascoe was redshirt sophomore Emily Chapman, placing fourth with a time of 18:52.14, and freshman Laura Jones, who placed sixth with a time of 19:23.81. Personal records were set by Chapman and redshirt sophomore Autumn Bartlett, who placed seventh with a time of 19:37.64.
The men’s team also finished well on Thursday, with three of the Gators taking 5th, 6th and 7th place in the Men’s 5K. Redshirt freshman Marshall Dillon’s time of 15:51.41 earned him a spot in 5th place, with redshirt sophomore Mac Macoy just behind him at 15:52.89. Redshirt freshman Blake Lowery finished in seventh with a time of 15:57.69.
“Marshall Dillon ran at the U.S Junior Championships in track in June,” assistant coach Chris Solinsky said. “When you get the chance to have someone at the U.S Junior Championships, it’s a good experience. Typically exposure to that level of competition gives somebody a good jump forward that following year in terms of confidence.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams have gained three new freshmen this season. On top of these new members of the team, Florida will be making a few adjustments to the coaching staff this season. The Gators are led by Solinsky and head coach Mike Holloway.
“Leading into this year, it’s a bit more of a rebuilding year, just with the transitioning of coaches and different coaching philosophies,” Solinsky said. “We have a bunch of good freshmen coming in and then other kids that probably will be our leaders but have a red shirt available. We’re actually kind of sitting them out this fall and letting them build towards being ready for when the track season [begins] and at very worst be ready for next fall.”
The Gators' next match is the Mountain Dew Invitational Sept. 23 at the Mark Bostick Golf Course.
This story has been edited to reflect Irma's current strength.
You can contact Alana Gomez at [email protected].