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Saturday, April 20, 2024
<p>Junior Jimmy Clark (1734) races during the Mountain Dew Invitational on Sept. 14 in Gainesville.</p>

Junior Jimmy Clark (1734) races during the Mountain Dew Invitational on Sept. 14 in Gainesville.

With the cross country season approaching its final stretch, the Gators are hoping to have another strong outing as they head to Madison, Wis., for the Wisconsin adidas Invitational.

Coach Paul Spangler plans to use the races on Saturday — an 8K for the men and a 6K for the women — to see if any last-minute adjustments need to be made to either team before the Southeastern Conference Championships on Nov. 1.

“Obviously we want to do well,” Spangler said. “We all have to compete 100 percent and use this as really a final tune-up and a confidence builder for the SECs.”

The men’s team, which has won all three of its competitions this season, hopes to keep up its momentum at the meet.

“I’m looking forward to going up there as a team and seeing how we stack up with the rest of the teams in the nation,” junior Eddie Garcia said. “It’s going to be a big test for us before SECs, so we’re really excited.”

The women, who have finished in the top three in each of their meets this season, will be receiving a boost heading into Wisconsin — redshirt junior Cory McGee and senior Shelby Hayes will return to the lineup.

McGee has yet to compete for the Gators after running at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow over the summer.

“She will obviously come in and help us out, not only from a leadership standpoint, but also as a team scorer,” Spangler said of McGee. “So it’s good to have her in the mix as we head into the big meet.”

With McGee missing the first three meets of the season and Hayes not running since the season-opening Western Carolina Invitational on Aug. 30, Agata Strausa has paved the way for the team. She led the women at both meets she ran at — the Western Carolina Invitational and the Mountain Dew Invitational.

“I really like the leadership position I have,” the Latvia native said. “For this race, Cory McGee will be back … and it’s going to be the both of us leading on the team, so I’m really excited for that.”

As a whole, the teams feel prepared.

“We’re all excited to transform what we have done at practice into a race,” Strausa said.

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“It’s, in a way, kind of scary because practicing and racing are so different and that they are two different worlds, but since we’ve shown that we’re fit and we’re ready to race, we’re going into this really positive.”

Follow Jordan McPherson on Twitter @J_McPherson1126.

Junior Jimmy Clark (1734) races during the Mountain Dew Invitational on Sept. 14 in Gainesville.

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