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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
<p>Mark Parrish (left) and Jimmy Clark run during the SEC Championships on Nov. 1 in Gainesville. The NCAA Championships begin today.</p>

Mark Parrish (left) and Jimmy Clark run during the SEC Championships on Nov. 1 in Gainesville. The NCAA Championships begin today.

After mixed results at the Southeastern Conference Championships on Nov. 1, Florida’s cross country teams are hoping to boast a strong showing today starting at 11 a.m. at the NCAA South Regional Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Coach Paul Spangler said the team has limited the volume of its workouts this week after intensifying practice following the SEC Championships.

“Right now, it’s just a matter of feeling fresh, maintaining the fitness that we have, keeping the athletes healthy and preparing them to run faster,” he said.

The men have momentum going into regionals after their second-place finish at the SEC Championships.

They do not want to settle for second-best again.

“Overall, the team was satisfied, but I think that we have more to give,” senior Mark Parrish said. “We’re happy with our fitness … but at the same time, we’re looking forward to having some improvements at Regions.”

The men will be running a 10K for the first time this season when they compete on the Harry Pritchett Running Course today.

Even though this will be the first time some of the runners will experience the extended course length as Gators, Spangler said he does not believe the extra distance will faze the team.

“The training we do is designed for them to run fast, whether it’s an 8K or 10K,” he said. “The only thing you worry about is them mentally going into the race, and I know those guys are mentally tough, so I don’t expect it to affect them at all.”

While the men have had consistency from their top four runners — Parrish, juniors Jimmy Clark and Eddie Garcia and freshman Carlos Miranda — they received an added boost when junior JL Hines returned to the lineup after missing two races this season.

“He’s looked a lot better here in practice recently,” Spangler said.

“We’re excited to see what he can do [today]. He’s going to be key for us.”

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The women are shaking off a fourth-place finish at the SEC Championships — their worst team outing in the event since 2007 — as they prepare for the regional race.

“We’ve left that behind,” redshirt senior Agata Strausa said.

“We’ve acknowledged that some teams were better on that day.”

Strausa said that one form of motivation for the team to perform well at the SEC Championships was the pride of running on their home course.

“We wanted to do well for our fans here,” she said. “There was a lot of pressure, and it’s not that it’s less pressure at regionals, but at regionals, we can race with more risk and just let it all out because this is very important for us to qualify (for the NCAA Championships).”

Strausa was the only Florida runner on the women’s side to finish in the top 10 in the 119-competitor field two weeks ago. Three of Florida’s five scoring runners finished in 30th place or worse.

They hope to change that outcome when they run their 6K today.

“Cross country depends on a daily form, and on that day, there were just other teams that were in a better shape,” Strausa said. “I think we’re all really fit and the day will come that we all get it together and have awesome races and, on that day, we will be winners again.”

Follow Jordan McPherson on Twitter @J_McPherson1126.

Mark Parrish (left) and Jimmy Clark run during the SEC Championships on Nov. 1 in Gainesville. The NCAA Championships begin today.

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