The UF men’s cross country team has clinched a trip to the NCAA Championships, but the women will have to play the waiting game.
Florida’s men (68 points) captured a second-place finish behind Florida State (40 points) at the NCAA South Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala., which automatically qualifies them for an national championship meet appearance. This will be the men’s first team bid to Terre Haute, Ind., since 2006.
On the women’s side, the Gators settled for a third-place finish (62 points), behind second-place Vanderbilt (54 points) and winner Florida State (34 points). Because only the top two teams earn an automatic spot in the last race of the year, Florida will have to hope for an at-large bid. The NCAA will announce its choices of at-large bids Sunday, Nov. 13.
Coach Todd Morgan knew Saturday’s race would be a difficult test for the women with two national championship contenders in No. 1 Florida State and fourth-ranked Vanderbilt competing.
“We came in trying to swing for a home run,” Morgan said. “We knew Vandy and FSU are two really good teams. Gen (LaCaze), Cory (McGee) and Florence (N’Getich) all went in looking to start us off as well as possible in the scoring. They were really aggressive and went for it; I’m really proud of those women.”
While the women have to endure the wait until Sunday to know their season’s fate, the men will sleep comfortably tonight due to strong performances by their younger runners. Florida’s big three, sophomore Mark Parrish, sophomore Matt Mizereck, and freshman Jimmy Clark came in fifth, ninth and tenth overall.
The Gators’ fourth and fifth runners also came through for the team. Senior Josh Izewski, fourth for the Gators, and freshman Eduardo Garcia, fifth place, were pleasant surprises for Florida and Morgan.
“Mark (Parrish), Matt (Mizereck), Jimmy (Clark) and Josh (Izewski) grouped up and really stayed focused throughout the race,” Morgan said. “It was huge day for Eduardo Garcia – he’s come in and worked really hard and it was good to see him come in fifth to close out the scoring for us. All of our guys really believed in the plan that myself and Coach Holloway put in place for them, went out there and executed.”