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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
<p>Senior Agata Strausa (left) races at the Mountain Dew Invitational on Sept. 14 in Gainesville. </p>

Senior Agata Strausa (left) races at the Mountain Dew Invitational on Sept. 14 in Gainesville. 

Agata Strausa’s consistent improvement during 2013 was one of the reasons the Gators looked poised to live up to their predicted second-place finish at the Southeastern Conference Championships on Friday.

After leading Florida in the three of her races prior to the SEC Championships, the redshirt senior did not disappoint.

She kept up with the lead group for the entire race to finish fourth out of 119 runners, posting a career-best time of 20:17.79 — the seventh fastest 6K on the Mark Bostick Golf Course and 33.27 seconds faster than her time on Florida’s home course earlier this year.

The three runners Strausa fell to individually — Dominique Scott, Shannon Klenke and Grace Heymsfield — were from Arkansas, which won the meet.

“She’s looked great in practice since Wisconsin, and we’ve felt like she was ready to contend for the title,” coach Paul Spangler said. “She put herself in a position and with 400 [meters] to go, it was whoever had the best foot speed, and she kind of lost out on that. But to finish fourth against three very, very talented girls, I’m very proud of her.”

Despite Strausa’s performance, which resulted in first-team All-SEC accolades, the rest of the Gators could not keep up with the competition. Florida finished fourth — its worst showing in the SEC Championships since 2007.

“We went in really confident and really strong,” Strausa said. “We tried to stick with the front pack, but it went out pretty fast — faster than expected.”

Strausa was the only Florida runner to crack the top 15 at the meet. Cory McGee, who was the second Gator to cross the finish line, finished in 16th place with a time of 21:01.16.

“We just need to be tougher,” Strausa said. “We just need to approach the next race as if we have never lost before, race like champions and leave this behind on the golf course.”

As the race came down to the final lap, Strausa said she realized she was about to finish her last home cross country race as a Gator and used that as motivation.

But Strausa said the team has a different source of motivation as it prepares for the NCAA Regional Championship, one that came from watching Arkansas chant “pig sooie” on their home course after sweeping the individual awards.

“It makes us hungry,” she said. “It makes us want to be better. It makes us more angry than it hurts. It’s great training fuel.”

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Follow Jordan McPherson on Twitter @J_McPherson1126.

Senior Agata Strausa (left) races at the Mountain Dew Invitational on Sept. 14 in Gainesville. 

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