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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.

The Florida men’s and women’s cross country teams only have one opportunity to compete in front of a home crowd this season.

It’ll happen Saturday at the Mark Bostick Golf Course, where both teams will get to showcase their abilities at UF’s Mountain Dew Invitational.

And they don’t want to waste this opportunity.

“We’ll have a lot of parents here,” coach Paul Spangler said. “We have a big parent-athlete luncheon after the meet, so they’ll be there watching, and certainly their friends will be there.”

With five more regular season races to go along with four possible Southeastern Conference and NCAA regional and national races, the chance to perform in front of familiar faces is scarce.

And while having friends and family watching them can cause some nerves, it might not be the most intimidating part.

“For a lot of these athletes, their high school coaches will be here watching them too,” Spangler said.

Twenty of the 37 athletes on the cross country roster are from high schools within Florida, and racing in front of mentors and people who have helped them succeed adds pressure to an already competitive meet.

Due to the inclusion of a high school invitational, the meet will be more important than any other regular-season meet.

The day gives potential recruits the ability to prove themselves on a bigger stage, with more than 48 high schools participating for the men and 47 for the women.

It also gives Florida’s talent scouts the luxury of evaluating athletes without traveling too far.

In addition, Florida can play its full lineup.

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New faces are expected when the race begins, such as freshmen Jessica Pascoe and Colin Schaefer, both of whom will be making their debuts as Gators.

Norwegian sophomore Magnus Pettersen will also make his season debut after missing the Covered Bridge Open on Sept. 2 and will look to improve after racing in four meets his freshman year.

And redshirt sophomore Paige Scheriger will make her first appearance for the team after spending her last two years on the Florida swimming and diving team.

Coach Spangler said that while distractions may arise with the meet being at home, Florida needs to be locked in on the No. 1 goal.

“We wanna come out of the meet with a win, he said.

“We know it’ll be a very competitive meet on both sides, so we gotta be ready for them.”

Contact Skyler Lebron at and follow him on Twitter @Skylerlebron.

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

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