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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

At the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday, Jacy Kruzel led the UF women's cross country team to a fifth-place finish. And she only needed one shoe to do it.

Another runner stepped on Kruzel's foot, pulling off the back half of her shoe less than half a mile into the race, cross country coach Todd Morgan said. The senior kicked the shoe off and finished the 5K race in 24th place with a time of 17:10.

"I was scared about whether or not I'd get disqualified," Kruzel said. "It's such a competitive race and everyone goes out so fast, so I figured if I stopped (to put the shoe back on), I would end up being in last place."

Kruzel and the No. 14 Gators racked up 179 points in their fifth-place finish. Many of the top teams in the country competed in the race in South Bend, Ind., including Florida State, which took first place in both the women's 5K and the men's 5-mile race.

Also scoring for the women's team were sophomore Ali Crabb, who came in 28th with a time of 17:14, freshman Genevieve LaCaze (31st, 17:15), sophomore Charlotte Browning (39th, 17:20) and sophomore Kaitlin Shiver (57th, 17:36).

The men's team, ranked fourth in the South Region, finished the 5-mile race with 217 points, tied for sixth with Notre Dame. Senior Jeremy Criscione led the way for the Gators, finishing third overall with a time of 23:34, breaking the UF 5-mile record he previously held by 14 seconds.

Criscione finished behind only Samuel Kosgei of Lamar University and Shadrack Songok of Texas A&M, last year's NCAA champion in the 2,000-meter race.

"He was right up front from the word 'go,'" Morgan said. "With 600 meters to go, I thought for a second he might steal the win against some of the better guys in the country."

Four juniors took the other scoring positions for UF. Justin Taylor, competing in his first race of the season, finished 15th with a time of 24:03. He was followed by Sean Blaney (47th, 24:34), Aaron Kindt (57th, 24:39) and Matt Hensley (96th, 25:06).

Before the meet, Morgan said he was curious to see how the team would finish and where they stood among some of the nation's top teams.

He definitely caught a glimpse of his team's potential on Friday. The men's team finished three spots ahead of No. 8 Michigan, ranked in the country, and the women's team finished four spots in front of No. 10 Illinois.

"We ran strong against tough competition and showed that we're right where we want to be this time of year," Morgan said. "We were fortunate to beat some good teams and show people that we're a little better than they thought."

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