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Thursday, November 30, 2023

A week after a pair of newcomers fueled the Gators cross country teams to season-opening wins, the rest of the freshman class is looking to get in on the action.

The No. 26 UF men dominated their 5k at the Western Carolina Invitational with five of their runners posting the top-five spots while the No. 22 UF women had eight of their runners finish in the top ten in their two-mile race.

Each team looks to continue its dominance on Friday when they compete against other in-state schools at the South Florida Invitational, hosted by USF.

However, with Gators cross country coach Todd Morgan not running his most veteran runners, it is hard to predict how Florida will fare against its in-state counterparts. All seven of the freshmen on the men's team, with the exemption of Southeastern Conference Freshmen of the Week Jimmy Clark, will be in uniform while it contends in its first collegiate 8k race.

Morgan also looks to give the more experienced runners on the women's side a break as well on Friday. This will give the freshmen a chance to get more experience by running their first collegiate 5k race.

“We really need to take advantage of being able to train really hard,” Morgan said about giving his more veteran runners a break this Friday at the meet in Tampa.

The coach of the SEC’s two-time defending women’s cross country team wants to use this upcoming meet as a means of experience for the younger runners, but is looking forward to the Mountain Dew Invitational — Florida's lone home meet — on Sept. 24, and the vital races down the homestretch in October and November.

With only a little over two weeks until the Gators come home to compete against some of the top teams in the region, Morgan is pushing his teams to the limit.

“Right now, we want to be tired, we want to be working really hard,” Morgan said

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