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Monday, May 27, 2024
<p>Jimmy Clark races during the 2013 Mountain Dew Invitational.</p>

Jimmy Clark races during the 2013 Mountain Dew Invitational.

Goals are crucial.

Setting them, pursuing them, achieving or failing in the pursuit of them. They are a motivating factor in our everyday lives.

While redshirt seniors Jimmy Clark and Eddie Garcia — the University of Florida’s lone representatives at the 2015 NCAA Cross Country Championships — may have fallen short of their All-American dreams, their performances in Louisville, Kentucky capped a solid showing for the Gators’ cross country program.

In turning in the best Nationals performance of his career, Garcia’s 30:51.00 10k was good enough for 86th place and the ninth-fastest time recorded by a Gator at the event. The Jacksonville native finished sixth among Southeastern Conference competitors.

“It’s been quite a journey so far,” Garcia said, “and to come away with my best finish at the NCAA Championship is a nice way to cap off my cross country career.”

Crossing the E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park finish line in 31:11.5, Clark ended his cross country career with a 126th place finish, his second-best run on the national stage. It ended Clark’s distinguished five-year career as the only runner in program history to earn four USTFCCCA All-South Region laurels and three first-team All-SEC selections.

“It certainly wasn’t what Jimmy was hoping for, but it was certainly better place-wise than he was two years ago,” coach Paul Spangler said.

“I thought Eddie did a great job. Top 100 was certainly one of our goals going in. If you’re top 100 in the country, you’re pretty good.”

Added Clark: “I went out in 4:43 through the mile and was back in about 130th and I think my confidence took a shot. Around halfway, I decided to really just appreciate the journey I had taken to get where I am at today in my running career…It’s not what I expected out of myself, but I left it all out on the course today.”

From a team perspective, 2015 represented a solid year for both the men’s and women’s contingents.

For the men, team wins in the season-opening Covered Bridge Open and October’s South Florida Invitational highlight a campaign that saw six top-ten finishes in eight events. All but two runners made an appearance at a meet, with coach Spangler showing a willingness to name young runners to rosters for important races. Fourteen of 19 rostered athletes registered personal bests in the 8k distance.

On the women’s side, an incredibly young roster — 11 of 18 runners entered the year as true freshmen — pieced together a respectable record, converting six of eight scheduled events into top-10 finishes. Led by freshman Dane Maria Larsen, all but redshirt freshman Lauren Perry competed in an event, with 12 clocking PRs in either the 5k or the 6k.

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For these distance athletes, two months separate them from the Rod McCravy Invitational, the first event of the 2016 track and field schedule.

Until then, the offseason presents an opportunity for these runners to log extra time with  Spangler, tuning their form and shaving seconds off of their times in the hopes of seeing success in Spring.

 Follow Alejandro Lopez on Twitter @ajlb95

Jimmy Clark races during the 2013 Mountain Dew Invitational.

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