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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

With many of the UF cross country team's top runners sitting out of the Walt Disney World Classic Saturday morning, Anthony Morales took advantage of the opportunity to prove himself.

The sophomore finished second overall in the men's 8K race with a time of 25:02.80, leading the Gators team to a second-place finish behind only Windsor (Ontario).

Windsor's Dave Weston took first place in the 8K, crossing the finish line just under a second and a half before Morales.

"We went out and ran as a team for a couple miles, and (Morales) took off and led it for the majority of the remainder of the race," UF redshirt freshman Michael Anderson said. "He only got passed at the end."

UF coach Todd Morgan said many of his runners were sitting out of the meet in Lake Buena Vista to prepare for next Saturday's Pre-NCAA Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind., but Morales' performance may have earned him a spot on the seven-man team for that meet.

"Over the last three weeks, he's been looking great," Morgan said. "He could definitely be a guy to add to our SEC roster, so I'm going to run him next week at the pre-nationals. He's a talented guy, and he'll be able to help us out."

Anderson, the second Gator to cross the finish line Saturday, took fifth overall with a time of 25:41. The other three scorers for the men's team were junior James Uthmeier (ninth, 25:46.20), freshman Alex Schanen (10th, 25:55.30) and freshman Alex Wills (25th, 26:21.40).

The women's team finished 24th out of 44 teams with 707 points in the women's 5K race. Morgan said the women's team is smaller and a few of the runners are recovering from injuries, so resting his top competitors severely cut down the number of runners available for the Disney Classic. Only five women ran for UF.

Sophomore Laura Garrow led the way, finishing 15th with a time of 18:21.50. She was followed by junior Alison Babb (50th, 19:11.10), sophomore Hailey Neal (140th, 20:50.50), freshman Claire Spurling (322nd, 26:42.80) and sophomore Daisy Glasser (324th, 26:49.40).

After the race, Morgan's focus had already shifted toward next week's Pre-NCAA Invitational, in which the Gators will race against a much more competitive and talented group of teams.

"We saw a couple good things today, but everybody's getting ready for pre-nationals next week," he said.

Morgan added that UF's men's team for the Pre-NCAA meet will consist of Morales, freshman Josh Izewski and UF's top-five finishers from the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 4 - senior Jeremy Criscione and juniors Justin Taylor, Sean Blaney, Aaron Kindt and Matt Hensley.

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Seniors Jacy Kruzel and Sara Petrick, junior Julie Northrup, sophomores Ali Crabb, Charlotte Browning and Kaitlin Shiver and SEC Freshman of the Week Genevieve LaCaze will represent the women in Terre Haute next Saturday.

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