Divide and conquer. At least that was the intention.
Racing on two fronts Friday, Florida’s cross country teams managed mixed results, securing a second- and eighth-place finishes at the Florida State Invitational while settling for a pair of 12th place on both sides at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Cross Country Invitational.
Splitting both the men’s and women’s sides, coach Paul Spangler sent his nine finest runners to compete in South Bend, Indiana, aiming to secure important at-large points for regional qualifying.
Paced by redshirt senior Jimmy Clark’s 19th-place 24:10.6 five mile run, the men’s contingent managed four runners in the top 100: Clark, redshirt senior Eddie Garcia (27th), junior Carlos Miranda (54th) and redshirt senior Charles Chambers (80th), propelling the men to 12th place.
On the women’s side, history-making performances by freshman duo Maria Larsen and Elisabeth Bergh powered Florida to another 12th placed result.
Racing against nationally ranked competition, Larsen finished 21st overall, the fastest time ever recorded by a UF freshman at this event. Bergh, a native of Haugesund, Norway, clocked a 17:13.3 5k split, good for 32nd overall and just the third UF freshman to finish higher than 83rd at this event since at least 2000.
Although Spangler’s A-team had a tough outing, his group of understudies found greater success, coasting to a second-place finish in Tallahassee. Trumping third placed South Florida by 18 points, the Gators placed five men in the top 15.
Leading the way for the Gators with a 26:05.50 8k, redshirt junior crossed the finish line in sixth place, followed by eighth placed senior Elliot Clemente 16.10 seconds later.
The women, had a rougher go of things, finishing eighth out of nine in the event’s Division I 5k category. With an average time of 19:49.98 and a total of 195 points, the squad ended its day 132 points behind eventual victors Jacksonville.
Freshman Emily Chapman, the lone Florida runner in the top 20, logged a 19:10.6, setting a personal best in the 5000 meter run.
With two weeks to prepare for their next event, the Gators turn their collective focus towards preparing for a weekend doubleheader.
Taking place in Tampa, both teams will race in the University of South Florida Invitational, hitting the ground running on Friday, Oct. 16 at 5:00 PM. The following day, the Gators will race at Pre-Nationals, with the men scheduled to run at 9:30 a.m. The women will get going at 10:15 a.m.
Follow Alejandro Lopez on Twitter @ajlb95
Jimmy Clark races during the 2013 Mountain Dew Invitational.