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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
<p>UF's Eddie Garcia (middle) leads the pack during the 2015 Mountain Dew Invitational in Gainesville.</p>

UF's Eddie Garcia (middle) leads the pack during the 2015 Mountain Dew Invitational in Gainesville.

They came into this world together.

Born a day apart, hailing from the same town, following strikingly similar paths: There’s no hiding the special bond that exists between redshirt senior tandem Jimmy Clark and Eddie Garcia.

Growing up less than a half hour away from each other, Clark and Garcia stumbled upon cross country almost by accident, starting their careers as football players — Jimmy opted for the world’s game, while Eddie chose the American permutation.

They ran against one another in high school — Clark donned the formidable red of St. John’s Creekside Knights, Garcia the orange and green of Jacksonville’s Mandarin.

They didn’t just run. They flew.

Even before the experiment that discovered the intense chemistry between the two — before the chain reaction set off by their commitments to the University of Florida — the duo was scorching the opposition.

Case in point: Back in 2010, Garcia outran the competition en route to a third place finish at the Florida Class 4A State Championships.

Clark? He merely shattered the state 5k record by 3.53 seconds, trumping fellow Gator Jeremy Criscione’s record and clocking the first sub-15 minute run in state history.

Together, they blossomed as collegiate athletes, both on and off the terrain.

Strictly from an athletic sense, the pair left an indelible mark on the University of Florida’s cross country program: Two Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team selections, five All-SEC First Team bids and a combined seven USTFCCCA All-South Region laurels.

Even on the track, their skill was apparent.

With an SEC Outdoor Championship in the 10k under each of their belts, Clark and Garcia also own the fourth and tenth-fastest indoor 5,000 meter times in the history of the track and field program.

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Academically, they’ve maintained proper standing, highlighted by dual SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll mentions to go along with two SEC Academic Honor Roll spots.

Their myriad accolades sparkle, adding polish to what were already glistening individual careers.

What they’ve managed to accomplish as friends, however, is arguably of more importance.

Rooming together, the duo reached new levels of camaraderie, attuning to each other on an almost unprecedented level.

They crank out extra runs as partners.

They took concurrent redshirt years in 2014: Garcia refused the opportunity to lead the men’s team without his injured comrade by his side.

They even have the same sleep schedule, with Jimmy using Eddie’s alarm as his own.

And now, heading into the 2015 NCAA Championships, the two runners — qualified as individuals after the team fell just short of an outright bid at South Regionals — lace up their boots for each other.

They aren’t just Gators, singularly qualified to compete.

They aren’t there for individual glory.

They’re a team of two.

And with All-American aspirations fueling their fire to compete, the twosome will, without a doubt, make some noise in their final collegiate race.

They came into this world together.

And they sure as hell are leaving it the same way.

 Follow Alejandro Lopez on Twitter @ajlb95

UF's Eddie Garcia (middle) leads the pack during the 2015 Mountain Dew Invitational in Gainesville.

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