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<p>Mark Parrish runs in the Southeastern Conference Championship on Nov. 1, 2013 at the Mark Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville.</p>

Mark Parrish runs in the Southeastern Conference Championship on Nov. 1, 2013 at the Mark Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville.

Mark Parrish will take the helm for the Gators one last time.

After winning the South Regional Championship race on Nov. 15, and being named USTFCCCA South Region Men’s Athlete of the Year on Tuesday, the senior will lead Florida’s cross country team at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday at noon.

Parrish paced the Gators in three of the five meets he’s competed in this season, most recently leading Florida to its second-place team finish in the 10K NCAA regional race. He ran a career-best 29:44.24.

“I was really happy with the performance just because it indicates that I have really good fitness,” the Tampa native said.

“I got a nice, rested race at [the South Regional Championship] and it turned out really well, so I’m hoping for a real good performance at nationals.”

Florida’s men will be represented as a team at the national meet for the first time since 2011.

UF had a poor outing that year, finishing 30th out of 31 teams. Even though Parrish led the Gators with a 68th-place finish, no one else on the team placed above 191st in the 252-competitor field.

Coach Paul Spangler hopes for better results this time around.

With consistent performances throughout the season from their three All-South Region runners — Parrish, Jimmy Clark and Eddie Garcia — and SEC All-Freshman Carlos Miranda, Spangler is working to make sure the team is set for Saturday’s 10K at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center.

“Right now, it’s just a matter of recovering from (the South Regional Championship) and not pressing them too hard,” he said.

“We’re going into this weekend well-rested.”

Florida will be one of six Southeastern Conference teams participating in the meet on the men’s side, with Arkansas and Georgia qualifying as teams for winning the South Central and South regions, respectively. Auburn, Tennessee and Texas A&M each have one runner competing as an individual.

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In addition to the men’s squad, redshirt junior Cory McGee and redshirt senior Agata Strausa will represent Florida as individual runners in the NCAA Championships after the women’s team fell short of qualifying for nationals.

The team failed to clinch an automatic berth when it finished fourth at the South Regional Championships and found out Saturday that they did not receive one of the 13 at-large team bids.

“It’s tough that we haven’t been able to put it together and make it (to the NCAA Championships) this year,” McGee said.

“I think we have the talent and have what it takes to be there competing, so to come in fourth doesn’t really do us justice. It doesn’t show how good of a team we really have.”

McGee, who ran her best 6K at the South Regional Championships en route to a second-place individual finish, is hoping to improve on her last outing at the NCAA Championships, when she failed to finish the 6K course in 2011.

“I want to get into the race and be comfortable and surround myself with girls I know I can race with and compete with and believe I can beat,” McGee said.

“I think if I do that and latch onto the people I believe I’m able to run with, then that’s the best thing I can do.”

Follow Jordan McPherson on Twitter @J_McPherson1126.

Mark Parrish runs in the Southeastern Conference Championship on Nov. 1, 2013 at the Mark Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville.

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