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Saturday, May 18, 2024

There's a lot to be said about preseason rankings. Today, you can say they were right.

The UF cross country teams, picked to finish second and fourth, respectively, in the Southeastern Conference at the beginning of the season, took second and fourth place at the SEC Championship in Starkville, Miss., Monday. The women finished second and the men fourth.

"One or two breaks either way, and we would've beat those predictions," UF coach Todd Morgan said. "We'd like to have finished higher than we were predicted to finish, but we'll take how we ran today and move on from here."

The No. 14 women finished their 6K race in second place with 53 points, just 7 points behind No. 13 Arkansas, which won its 13th SEC Championship. The Gators finished with four runners in the top 10.

"Our front four girls were just unbelievable," Morgan said. "They had a terrific day and really put the heat on Arkansas."

Sophomore Ali Crabb set the pace for UF, taking fifth place with a time of 20:42.57. Freshman Genevieve LaCaze finished just over 7 seconds behind her in sixth place, and sophomore Charlotte Browning clocked in 2 seconds behind LaCaze for seventh place.

"Charlotte started us off strong, and Gen was ahead of me until the very end," Crabb said. "It was a lot easier having teammates there to work with because we all kept pushing each other and encouraging each other."

Senior Jacy Kruzel was the fourth Gator to finish in the top 10, taking ninth place with a time of 20:58.02. The final scoring runner for UF was sophomore Julie Northrup, who ran the 6K in 21:42.86, good for 26th place.

The No. 28 team finished with 107 points in the 8k run. No. 26 Arkansas, which entered the race having won 17 straight SEC Championships, finished third behind No. 5 Alabama and No. 11 Auburn, both of which had three of the top-six finishers.

Senior Jeremy Criscione led the way for the Gators, taking seventh overall with a time of 23:35.05 and breaking his own 8K school record, which he set in the team's last meet.

"The top half of our conference individually is as good as any conference in the country, so he's running against some good guys," Morgan said.

Criscione was followed by junior Sean Blaney (15th, 24:14.70), sophomore Anthony Morales (24th, 24:50.82), juniors Justin Taylor (26th, 24:54.29) and James Uthmeier (36th, 25:11.88).

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"The men's team is carrying a lot of momentum into the NCAA Regionals, which is what we need to do," Morgan said.

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