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<p class="p1">Taylor Tubbs races in the Southeastern Conference Championships on Nov. 1, 2013, on the Mark Bostick Golf Course.</p>

Taylor Tubbs races in the Southeastern Conference Championships on Nov. 1, 2013, on the Mark Bostick Golf Course.

The Florida cross country teams are approaching the halfway point of the season and only have one meet left before the Southeastern Conference Championship.

This Saturday both the women‘s and men’s teams will compete at the NCAA Pre-National in Terre Haute, Indiana, against many of the top teams in the country.

Both teams have competed well this season, but each is approaching the weekend differently.

Women:

The women’s team should approach the Pre-National meet with nothing but confidence.

The Gators finished in fifth place in their last meet at the Paul Short Run in Pennsylvania, behind only four top-30 teams. Five UF athletes placed in the top 70, including senior Taylor Tubbs, who finished seventh overall.

The high finish at the Paul Short Run gave Florida consideration to be nationally ranked — UF received six votes to be placed in the top 30.

“They go out there and compete with a lot of pride,” coach Paul Spangler said. “I’ve been very impressed with what they’ve done.”

Most impressive has been the performance of the team’s freshmen.

With the absences of top athletes such as sophomore Elisabeth Bergh and redshirt junior Becky Greene, freshmen like Jessica Pascoe and Hannah Brookover have stepped up. Both Pascoe and Brookover ran personal best times in the 6K at the Paul Short Run and contributed heavily to the Gators’ top-five finish.

With Bergh returning to competition this weekend, look for the women to be very competitive against high-caliber competition.

Men:

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The male athletes need to have a breakthrough day if they want to make a splash in Terre Haute.

The team is coming off a decent outing at the Paul Short Run, finishing 12th overall.

Consistency is going to be the key for the men. And the team‘s model of consistency this season has been Carlos Miranda.

The senior ran a personal best in the 8K in Pennsylvania, breaking 24 minutes for the first time in his Gator career and finishing 13th overall in a very competitive field.

However, behind Miranda was a significant gap.

The second and third Florida finishers were sophomores Magnus Pettersen and Jack Guyton, who ran personal bests but finished 73rd and 93rd overall, respectively.

“Magnus and Jack were roughly 30 to 40 seconds behind Carlos, and they need to close that gap,” Spangler said. “And I think they will. Magnus … he’s ready to have a breakthrough race.”

A breakthrough race from those running behind Miranda will be necessary if the Gators want a top finish on Saturday.

But at the very least the men should be competitive for at-large points that could help vault them into NCAA Championship in November.

Contact Mark Stine at mstine@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @mstinejr.

Taylor Tubbs races in the Southeastern Conference Championships on Nov. 1, 2013, on the Mark Bostick Golf Course.

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