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<p class="p1">Taylor Tubbs races in the Southeastern Conference Championships on Nov. 1, 2013, on the Mark Bostick Golf Course.</p>

Taylor Tubbs races in the Southeastern Conference Championships on Nov. 1, 2013, on the Mark Bostick Golf Course.

While some might knock the Gators for their lack of veteran runners, coach Paul Spangler is embracing the influx of youth the Gators women’s cross country team has on its roster.

When UF opens the season at the Western Carolina Invitational on Friday in Cullowhee, N.C., Spangler will field a team that, for the first time in his three-year tenure, features no seniors.

With nine of 11 runners being underclassmen, it would be easy to accuse the Gators of having an absence of veteran leadership.

But freshman Lauren Brasure, redshirt freshman Becky Greene and sophomore Taylor Tubbs have Spangler confident the team will face no shortage in the leadership department.

"Rebecca Greene, she was (the Southeastern Conference) freshman of the year, she has a lot of international experience, so we’re going to be counting on that," Spangler said. "Lauren Brasure from Michigan, and she’s arguably one of the top cross country runners in the country. Right there with Taylor and Becky, and no doubt those three girls, I feel like the potential is there to do a very good job in terms of picking up where both Agata (Strausa) and Cory (McGee) left off with the cross country team."

Originally from New Zealand, Greene was a two-time champion at the New Zealand National Cross Country Championships in 2010 and 2011. Greene joined the roster in January, making this her first fall running for Florida.

Tubbs is looking to capitalize on a strong freshman campaign, which saw her finish as a top-five scorer in all six meets she ran in. Spangler says that he’s counting on Tubbs to be a leader, despite only being a sophomore.

"Taylor Tubbs came in as a very good high school athlete out of the state of Florida, and has really just blossomed," Spangler said. "She’s had great summer training and has looked great in practice, and even though she’s a sophomore, she’s going to be counted on for leadership within our top runners, and no doubt she’s ready to take on that role."

On the men’s team, The roster faces little turnover, losing only junior J.L. Hines and senior Mark Parrish, who exhausted his four years of cross country eligibility.

"(Parrish) was the South region champ, so certainly he will be missed," Spangler said, "but for the most part everybody is back behind him."

Despite losing their top runner, the Gators return seniors Jimmy Clark and Eddie Garcia for the 2014 season.

Clark and Garcia ended 2013 on the All-South region team after finishing second and ninth, respectively, at NCAA Regionals.

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Spangler has also seen promise in sophomore Carlos Miranda and redshirt junior David Kilgore. After being named to the 2013 SEC All-Freshman team, Miranda has impressed Spangler in practice.

Kilgore, a transfer who was a reserve on the 2013 National Champion Colorado cross country team, hopes to find a place on the Gators team after struggling with the altitude that being a Buffalo required.

"It’s very rare that an athlete doesn’t react well to the altitude, he’s one of these athletes who just didn’t react well to altitude," Spangler said. "We’ve added the element of speed and endurance, and he’s really reacted well to it. He brings leadership to the group, he’s extremely hard-working and no doubt this will rub off really well on this freshman class."

The men’s team welcomes eight freshmen to a talented team, giving the Gators options to find quality fourth and fifth runners.

When the he U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association released its preseason regional rankings on Monday, the men’s team ranked third in the South region, while the women were picked to finish eighth.

"I think the potential is there to have a much, much better season than we did last year," Spangler said. "I’m very optimistic for what the future holds, certainly as we move into the regular season and postseason and the SEC Championships."

Follow Graham Hall on Twitter @graham311

Taylor Tubbs races in the Southeastern Conference Championships on Nov. 1, 2013, on the Mark Bostick Golf Course.

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