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Friday, September 29, 2023

Many obstacles may challenge an athlete’s pursuit of success.

UF sophomore runner Mark Parrish never imagined a car would be his obstacle until he was actually hit by one.

Only weeks after Parrish was struck by a car while riding his bike, he shook off the pain of a nagging sprained ankle and put on a show for the home crowd at the Mark Bostick Golf Course on Saturday in the 23rd Annual Mountain Dew Invitational.

Parrish’s seventh-place finish was second best for the Gators, trailing only sophomore Matt Mizereck, who finished second at the event. But it was Parrish’s effort that defined the Florida cross country teams at the MDI.

Parrish’s grit, combined with that of his teammates, elevated Florida’s performance against the newfound competition presented by North Carolina and Michigan. Despite an expanded and intimidating field of teams, the UF men pulled out a second-place finish, leaving a positive impression on coach Todd Morgan.

Morgan called Parrish “one of the toughest guys [he] has ever been around,” and it was this toughness that appealed most to Florida’s coach.

“Great athletes like competing against other great athletes,” Morgan said.

“We knew that those two teams (North Carolina and Michigan) were coming down here, and we were excited to see how we stacked up against them.”

The determination and will was not limited to the Florida men, as the women’s squad pushed itself to a high that no other team could compare to on Saturday. Led by senior Genevieve LaCaze and junior Florence N’Getich, who finished first and second overall, respectively, the women won their seventh straight MDI and second meet of the year.

“They probably will trade off beating each other all year,” Morgan said of LaCaze and N’Getich.

“But either way, they are pushing each other to be better and that makes the team better, too.”

The Gators will need their gritty determination as they head up to Madison, Wis., in three weeks to face the nation’s best teams in the Wisconsin adidas Invitational.

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