Eddie Garcia has had an illustrious cross country career at Florida.
It has included making the All-Southeastern Conference Freshman Team, All-SEC Second Team and being named USTFCCCA All-South Region twice.
However, there’s one thing the redshirt senior had never done until Saturday at UF’s Mountain Dew Invitational: win.
"I wouldn’t want it any other way," Garcia said of his victory in his last home meet as a Gator.
"This is my last Mountain Dew and this is actually my first individual cross country victory, so being able to win this one was awesome."
While Garcia could add this victory to his list of accomplishments as a UF cross country runner, the rest of the men’s team had another number in mind: two.
Two is the number of years in a row the team has now fallen short at its lone home meet of the season.
While it was apparent first place would come down to Florida and the University of North Florida when both teams placed seven runners in the top-16, few expected it to be quite as close as it turned out to be.
Ultimately, the Ospreys edged past the Gators 31-32, even though UF had a faster overall time of 2:06:55.12, compared to UNF’s 2:06:59.35.
"When your team averages faster than the other team, it’s a little bit even harder to swallow," cross country coach Paul Spangler said.
"But hey, that’s racing and sometimes, that’s what happens."
The women’s team also had the number two in mind. However, for them, it represented the number of years in a row that the team has won the Mountain Dew Invitational.
Spangler, who was concerned about the gap between the team’s three and four runners coming out of the season’s first meet, was happy to see progress on that front.
"We had 30 seconds between our one and four," he said, "and Caitlin McQuilkin-Bell is gonna be right there with our fourth runner. So that’s encouraging."
When the women won the race last year, they were led by a UF course record-setting time from Lauren Brasure. This year, Brasure finished eighth on the team.
While she would’ve liked to have replicated her past success, Brasure doesn’t feel that her performance on Saturday is going to define her season.
"I’m a little displeased with my time and my place but I’m happy to look forward to improvement throughout the rest of the season," she said.
Another Florida runner who felt mixed emotions about the team’s victory was freshman Maria Larsen, who finished first on the team in the season’s first meet but finished in third on Saturday.
"I was happy because we ran as a team…, but I felt kinda tired towards the end," she said.
"I wanted to kick butt all the way to the end. So I’m happy with it, but I wanna be in front next time."
Larsen and the rest of the men’s and women’s teams have two weeks to continue improving before they’ll travel to South Bend, Indiana, for the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 2.
Follow Ethan Bauer on Twitter @ebaueri
UF's Eddie Garcia (157) leads the pack during the Mountain Dew Invitational on Sept. 19, 2015, at the Mark Bostick Golf Course.
While the Gators failed to qualify as a team for the 2015 NCAA Cross Country Championship, fifth-year seniors ended their decorated careers on a high note and are now ready to pass the leadership torch to their younger teammates. Here's Alejandro Lopez's feature on the two seniors (http://www.alligator.org/sports/cross_country/article_9a4f3732-9d73-11e5-8449-b3ef7f7806df.html)