Last season, the Florida men’s cross country team entered the Southeastern Conference Championship riding three first place finishes in their previous four meets.
The women also had success entering the championship, finishing in the top five in three of their four meets before the SEC championships.
Florida was predicted to finish second entering the SEC Championship — a meet they would host for the first time since 2002.
The Florida men and women exited the event with second and fourth place finishes, respectively.
Challenges have arisen in 2014, calling for different runners and a different story line. With seniors Jimmy Clark and Eddie Garcia officially redshirted, the men look to other names to step up and fill the gap.
Sophomore Carlos Miranda and redshirt sophomore Mac Reynolds have given the Gators the production this team has asked for.
Between the two, they have totaled five top 12 finishes in four races.
Florida coach Paul Spangler knows having guys step up in Clark and Garcia’s absence is key.
"They other guys have had to step up, certainly from a leadership role," Spangler said. "It’s been tough on those two guys to have to sit out. Especially for a guy like Eddie who is really fit right now."
The rest of the men’s squad will be rounded out by David Kilgore — whose last two races have been his best this season — Mark Mutz, Elliot Clemente, and freshmen Thomas Howell and William Decker.
Spangler said younger runners will look to the experienced runners to ensure success on the Alabama course.
"Some of our athletes are familiar with this course, it’s where regionals were last year," Spangler said. "So for our experienced athletes they have a chance to run a course that they have already seen. For the younger runners, they have a chance to go in and make a name for themselves."
The women’s team will send four underclassmen runners to Tuscaloosa to compete on Friday. Freshman Lauren Brasure and sophomore Taylor Tubbs lead Florida heading into the championship.
The two runners have placed in the top three on UF’s team in every race this year. Spangler will be relying on young runners like Brasure, Tubbs and Becky Greene to have success in Tuscaloosa.
"Lauren is extremely coachable, she had a very good coach in high school," Spangler said. "She has given the coaching staff 100 percent confidence and trust that she knows what she’s doing. She’s gotten tremendously better."
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Carlos Miranda races during the Southeastern Conference Championships on Nov. 1 in Gainesville. Miranda placed 29th, as the Gators finished second in the meet.