While older, experienced runners like Carlos Miranda, Taylor Tubbs and Mac Reynolds absorb most of the attention on the Florida cross country team, younger runners may be overlooked.

Enter sophomore Maddox Patterson, who wants to be a bigger contributor in her second year than she was in her first.

“As a freshman, I had a lot of anxiety and was just really nervous a lot,” she said. “So coming back this year, I’m just a lot less stressed.”

Even with the extra stress last season, though, Patterson ran well. She was one of only four women on the 2015 team to compete in six races throughout the season. The other names in that group are runners who were important to last year’s success – Tubbs, who is now the most seasoned runner on the women’s team, sophomore Elisabeth Burgh and former Gator Maria Larsen, who left the team after last season.

All three raced in the 2015 Southeastern Conference Championships and had top-25 finishes. Patterson raced as well, finishing 55th.

But adapting to the college style of competition takes time, and for Patterson, it continues when the Gators host the Mountain Dew Invitational this Saturday at the Mark Bostick Golf Course.

“I know what to expect now, even though the training is different,” she said. “I know that I’m gonna be able to get through it in a race and in a workout.”

After finishing 21st in the Covered Bridge Open last season, Patterson jumped up to 14th this year, her highest finish at UF. She also improved her time by just under seven seconds.

A leap in the leaderboards is something Patterson looks to for motivation.

“It makes me really excited for the season, just because I already feel fitter,” she said. “So to run faster kind of just shows me that the workouts are working.”

As the season progresses, she’ll be relied on more heavily than last season to bring her abilities to a new level.

The Gators are reaching an intense period of the schedule as they have races every weekend for the next four weeks. Only Saturday’s Mountain Dew Invitational takes place in Gainesville.

Patterson and the Gators will have to step their game up in order to achieve the success they want, but motivation is not an element that’s lacking.

“As soon as the race was over, I was already excited and thinking of Mountain Dew,” Patterson said about the season’s first race. “Every day I think about it and I’m anxious to run it and it’s just really exciting.”

Contact Skyler Lebron at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Skylerlebron.

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