UF's cross country teams will control their own destiny Saturday, and they'll have the luxury of doing so in their own backyard.
The Gators will tread through the Mark Bostick Golf Course, their home course, for the NCAA South Regional Championship, beginning at 11 a.m.
The Gators must finish in the top two of their respective races to secure an automatic berth to the NCAA Championship just nine days later. However, they can still receive an at-large bid based on their performances if they fail to capture one of the top two slots.
The women?s team faces challenges from No. 3 Florida State, No. 25 Tennessee and No. 29 Georgia. The No. 24 men will look to tackle conference foe No. 17 Alabama, which finished one spot behind the Gators at the SEC Championship two weeks ago.
Although each team expects to make the cut, the runners must not look ahead.
BIt?s just a matter of everyone laying it on the line and seeing what you can do,C senior Lindsay Sundell said. BOnce the gun goes off, you?re in a different element.C
At last year?s meet, Sundell finished with the fastest 6K South Regional time in school history, leading her team to a second-place finish and an automatic berth to the NCAAs.
This year, she just hopes the team returns to the national meet.
BIt?s my final cross country season at the university, so if we can go out with a bang, that?s my No. 1 priority,C Sundell said.
Sophomore Sean Blaney said the men?s team has improved drastically since last year?s regional meet, where it finished third overall.
Now, the men's field seems wide open, and everyone is hitting their stride at just the right time.
BEverything?s coming together towards the end of the year,C Blaney said. BWe definitely gear our whole season towards the last two or three weeks of the season. So I think there should be an improvement this week.
BWe?re confident that we?ll be able to make it to nationals.C
UF coach Jeff Pigg has stressed to his team all year to prepare for the end of the season, and now that the time has come, he wants to see the results of his message.
He said his teams are much stronger, faster and more confident than they were to begin the season.
BIf they?ll just go out and do what they?re capable of doing, we?ll be fine as a team,C he said. BWhen you try to make it bigger than that or ask them to do things that they?re not capable of, sometimes then the pressure starts to creep up.C