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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

UF’s cross country teams travelled to Tallahassee on Friday to compete in a race. FSU turned it into a training session.

“They didn’t run hard,” UF cross country coach Todd Morgan said. “It’s bizarre. I really don’t know a way to describe it, but it’s what they chose to do.”

Morgan predicted earlier in the week that the Seminoles’ No. 3 women’s and No. 15 men’s teams, like the Gators, would rest the top half of their runners for next week’s Pre-National race in Terre Haute, Ind. The runners that did race would then be able to use the FSU Invitational as a springboard for a conference meet spot.

Instead, FSU chose to run over 50 runners compared to the five women and five men’s runners UF brought to the meet.

 Only a few Seminole runners in the women’s 5K and men’s 8K races actually chose to compete at a high level, Morgan said. The rest used the race as a practice session, cruising along the Apalachee Regional Park course until the finish.

In the men’s division, those that did compete were a welcome challenge to the eventual race winner, UF sophomore Alex Schanen, who broke FSU’s course record with a 24:45.3 run.

“It was interesting,” Schanen said. “But it’s not a big deal. We’ll see them again at Regionals. So we’ll be ready for them then.”

After a slow, conservative start over the first two miles of the race, Schanen said he began to move to the front of the pack where a small selection of runners was collecting. He paced himself with that group until a quarter of a mile was left and then “took off,” leaving second and third place finishers, Ben Martucci (Florida Southern) and unattached racer Seth Proctor, behind him.

The win was Schanen’s first as a collegian after redshirting last year with a stress fracture to his hip. The No. 30 Gators finished second in the meet with 55 points.

In the women’s race, two UF runners turned in top 10 showings led by sophomore Mandy Perkins’ third place finish with a personal best time of 17:46.7. Freshman Stephanie Strasser crossed the line 19 seconds later for 10th place, helping the No. 27 Gators to a fourth place finish with 106 points.

Morgan said Schanen and Perkin’s performances over the past two meets and now at FSU locked up Southeastern Conference meet spots for the runners.

“You can’t let up though,” Morgan said. “The point is not to just to be on the plane and make the SEC meet. The point is that the Gators win, not that we’re just at the meet hanging out.”

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