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Friday, September 29, 2023

Gone are the hopes of Florida’s women accompanying the men to the national championship meet. Gone are the women’s chances to appear in six straight championships. Gone is their season.

On Sunday evening, coach Todd Morgan and his women runners were rejected from receiving an at-large bid for the NCAA Championship in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 21.

The Gators finished third in Saturday’s South Regional behind Florida State and Vanderbilt.

“We came in trying to swing for a home run,” Morgan said. “We knew Vandy and FSU are two really good teams.”

Because only the top-two spots receive an automatic bid to the NCAA meet, Florida had to endure the day-long wait only to find out its season is finished.

A third-place result didn’t discourage the runners, as they believed a solid race and season would speak for itself when the NCAA considered their options. Instead, the NCAA decided otherwise.

Although the women’s team fell short of an invite to the national championship, several individuals got the nod due to their excellence during the season. Senior Genevieve LaCaze, junior Florence N’Getich and sophomore Cory McGee will compete at the meet.

Only four runners in the South Region were chosen to represent their teams in the championship as individuals, with Tennessee senior Brittany Sheffey the lone non-Gator to make the trip.

Despite the individual accomplishments by some of Florida’s runners, Morgan and the team would much rather have had both the men’s and women’s team travel together to the NCAA Championship.

The last time both the men and women qualified for the national championship in the same season was 2006. Since then, the men haven’t made the cut while the women made it every year.

The hopes of a possible sixth consecutive appearance in the national championship ended Sunday to the obvious dismay of the entire team.

However, no one is more disheartened by the rejection than LaCaze. In her senior year, LaCaze has enjoyed four top-10 individual finishes, including a victory at the Mountain Dew Invitational, the Gators’ annual home meet. Although her season will continue individually on Nov. 21, she hoped to bring along the entire team with her.

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It was the unusually high level of competition that kept Florida out of the championship. Morgan’s team had to compete head-to-head against two of the nation’s strongest teams in Florida State (No. 1) and Vanderbilt (No. 4) in the regional meet. In addition, the Gators had stiff competition in the at-large pool with teams like Stanford (No. 8) and West Virginia (No. 13) getting the nod over them.

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