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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

After five years of up-and-down performances, the Gators have finally found a place in the NCAA Championship.

When asked what was different about this year’s squad, coach Todd Morgan said it was a persistent dedication to the everyday things. Coupled with talent, adherence to the “small things,” like eating right and sleeping well, has led to Florida actively competing for a win in every race.  

Well, almost every race.

The men finished 32nd out of 39 teams at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, the only race the Gators fell out of the top-two spots.

Florida must face the frightening realization that Wisconsin may have been a harbinger of bad news to come. However, Morgan would rather view it as simply a bump in the road.

“In hindsight, that was a wake-up call we needed,” Morgan said of Florida’s worst finish of the year. “We know now what to expect. We have got confidence back in our fitness and those guys are going to be better prepared going into that. Looking back, that’s something that made these guys stronger.”

Sophomores Mark Parrish and Matt Mizereck, along with freshman Jimmy Clark, have catapulted Florida into its first appearance at the national championship since 2006. Although Morgan had his share of talented runners in the past, this youthful group has separated itself from the others with consistent top-notch performances week after week.  

Prior to this season, Florida won or was a runner-up five times since Oct. 2008. In just six races this year, the Gators have earned five top-two finishes.

An unforeseen second-place result by this year’s men in the NCAA South Regional automatically qualified them for a spot in the championship race.

But Morgan is looking past the hoopla of the NCAA Championship and is focusing on keeping his men at a consistently elite level of running.

“If you go into these meets doing what you’ve been doing all year, then your outcome is going to be a lot better,” he said.

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