The 34th Street Wall says it all for the UF women's cross country team: "We made it. UF XC to NCAAs 2008."
The seven women who signed the wall decided their postseason destiny Saturday by taking second place at the South Regionals in Knoxville, Tenn. By doing so, the No. 15 women's team earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships later this month.
The Gators finished with 64 points in their 6K race, 23 points behind No. 3 Florida State.
"We refocused after the SEC meet, which is always something as a coach you have to do," UF coach Todd Morgan said. "Now, they're focused on going there and seeing how high we can finish. Our goal is definitely to finish higher than 11th, where we finished last year."
The men's team was not able to clinch an automatic bid in its 10K race, finishing in fourth place with 133 points and coming in behind No. 5 Alabama, No. 12 Auburn and No. 25 Florida State.
Without the automatic qualifying bid, the men had to hope for an at-large bid to get a shot at the national championship meet. It didn't happen.
Morgan said a few different people told him that the UF men just missed a berth in the NCAA Championships because of some unexpected results in the West Region.
"We lost to Washington by about 10 points, which is next to nothing at the pre-nationals, and they finished fifth in the West, which caused two extra teams to get in from the West," Morgan said.
Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year Genevieve LaCaze led the women with a fifth-place finish and a time of 21:06.89. She was followed by senior Jacy Kruzel (sixth, 21:08.18), sophomores Ali Crabb (10th, 21:13.24) and Charlotte Browning (13th, 21:24.22) and senior Sara Petrick (30th, 22:08.05).
LaCaze, Kruzel, Crabb and Browning were named to the All-South Region team.
"Genevieve, Jacy, Ali and Charlotte - I can't say enough about how consistent and what great competitors they are," Morgan said. "The biggest help for us was getting Sara and Kaitlin (Shiver) to have better showings than they did at the SEC meet. We needed that."
Senior Jeremy Criscione once again led the way for the men, coming in at seventh overall for his 11th career top-10 finish. Criscione ran the 10K in 31:15.35, good for a place on the All-South Region team and an automatic individual bid for the NCAA Championship.
"He ran really smart and controlled," Morgan said. "Finishing under 10th would have done the job as far as being the low scorer for us."
Junior Sean Blaney joined Criscione on the All-South team, placing 16th with a time of 31:55.36. He was followed by junior Justin Taylor (32nd, 32:43.55), sophomore Anthony Morales (39th, 33:08.72) and junior Matt Hensley (43rd, 33:14.76).
"Even on a perfect day, it would have been tough to beat Florida State," Morgan said. "They're a really good team. We ran a good, solid race and stayed in front of Tennessee so we would get the fourth spot, and then it just came down to what we did in the regular season."
The women's team and Criscione will represent UF in Terre Haute, Ind., where they ran in the Pre-NCAA Invitational, on Nov. 24 for the NCAA Championships.