As lonesome of an activity as running may be, competitive cross country is anything but that.
And following dual 12th place finishes at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational 10 days ago, the top five athletes on Florida’s men’s and women’s cross country teams learned that lesson the hard way.
Individual efforts can only carry a team so far. In order to be successful, consistency must permeate the roster, regardless of A- or -B-team standing.
Coach Paul Spangler touched on the subject on Monday, calling attention to strong individual showings that didn’t translate to overall team success.
Rattling off names, Spangler commended his runners for their efforts in a tough meet, but concluded that although "(we) had a lot of great individual performances, a lot of personal bests, obviously we’ve got to do better than 12th place on the men’s and women’s side."
Coming into the stretch run of the season, the Gators are still looking for at-large points, which are invaluable to the squad’s national championship aspirations.
If the team wishes to progress and shave valuable seconds off of their splits, an effective practice plan is crucial.
Following the Mountain Dew Invitational on Sept. 19, Spangler’s runners have increased the intensity during training sessions. Splitting his conditioning program into two phases, Spangler installed a high-octane practice schedule, one that his athletes stuck with throughout the Joe Piane Invitational.
"After the home meet we transition to phase two of our training, which is higher intensity workouts, shorter recovery," Spangler said. "I thought certainly the men did a significantly better job at Notre Dame than they did at home."
With Pre-Nationals and the Southeastern Conference Championship both looming on the horizon, it’s this all-out mentality that could help the Gators take that next step.
However, it all needs to come together on the terrain.
"The work’s been done," Spangler said.
"Now it’s just a matter of resting them and sharpening them to run fast on race day."
Follow Alejandro Lopez on Twitter @ajlb95