The No. 26 UF men’s cross country team found itself in the winner’s circle for the second straight week after Friday evening’s South Florida Invitational, while the No. 22 UF women placed fourth.
Despite the high finishes in Tampa by both teams, the Gators held back their full arsenal as coach Todd Morgan sat out the majority of his veteran runners to let the freshmen prove themselves in their first true collegiate test.
The Gators’ men’s squad consisted of four freshmen and one junior in Alex Schanen.
“It was good to have Alex Schanen back with us today as well,” Morgan said. “He is coming along nicely, and is going to give us some solid depth.”
In addition to bringing experience to the developing team, Schanen also brought home a sixth place finish (26:06.26) in the season’s first 8k to help the men grab their second victory of the young season.
However, it was freshman Phil Duncan who stole the spotlight, finishing with an overall fourth place finish (26:02.74) and the top spot among the UF men. The three remaining runners for Florida – Alex Izewski, Eduardo Garcia and JL Hines – also had strong performances with each finishing within the top 11 spots.
The UF women also raced four freshmen while having junior Mandy Perkins anchor their team in both experience and time in the season’s first 5k. Finishing with in third place (17:58.97), Perkins led the Gators by example.
Both freshmen Tenley Godfrey and Grace VanDeGrift were close behind, finishing 10th (18:19.77) and 11th (18:21.29) respectively. Unlike last week’s perfect score of 15, the women finished with 107 points trailing winner USF (42), FAU (99), and Tampa (102).
"We saw some very positive things from some of our younger runners today,” Morgan said. “By running a different line-up, some people had to respond to different pressures put on them and they responded well. Mandy, Tenley and Grace are improving every week.”
The Gators look to continue to improve before the Mountain Dew Invitational in Gainesville on Sept. 24 where Morgan looks to unveil all his weapons against some of the region’s top teams.