One second was all senior Charlotte Browning needed to take home first place in her first race of the season.
After sitting out UF’s home meet two weeks ago, Browning was plugged into the Gators’ race lineup Saturday at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational to test her form against runners from five other ranked schools. She helped the women’s team to a seventh place finish with 195 points, which matched the seventh place finish by the UF men’s team who tallied 217 points.
“Every one knows that Charlotte’s good, and, definitely, it’s just a statement that she will be a player at the NCAA level,” UF cross country coach Todd Morgan said.
Browning stayed at the front for most of the women’s 6K race, jockeying for position with the third and fourth place finishers: Syracuse senior Katie Hursey and NCAA runner-up and North Carolina junior Kendra Schaaf. When the runners began to sprint down the last stretch of the Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course, Michigan State senior Emily MacLeod made a last dash for the win, narrowly missing Browning at the finish line.
Browning finished in 20:14 with Macleod following one second behind.
“I didn’t even notice how close she was,” Browning said. “I just saw the result.”
While the No. 7 Gators came into Madison, Wisc., as the highest ranked women’s team at the invitational, Morgan explained that team victories will be hard to come by as long as injuries to senior Rebecca Lowe and freshman Shelby Hayes continue to sideline them from competing.
No. 25 Indiana finished with 43 points to win the men’s 8K race, and No. 11 Syracuse women’s team won the 6K race with 89 points.
“Right now today this meet is a big deal, but in a month from now when you’re at the NCAA and [Southeastern Conference] meet it’s long forgotten,” Morgan said. “My job is to have the best team on the line for the NCAA championship.”
In the men’s 8K, the Gators’ top-10 finish was the highest of any unranked school competing in the race. UF was lead individually by junior Dumisani Hlaselo who finished in seventh place with a personal best time of 23:46. Six other Gators runners including Mountain Dew Invitational winner Josh Izewski also posted the best 8K times of their college careers.
“They’re talented, hard working guys and they were banging all the way up front with some of the top guys in the NCAA,” Morgan said. “We’re definitely encouraged about the future of this season.”