After finishing their last two meets of the regular season within the top five of the leaderboard, the Gators men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete in the SEC Championships in Athens, Georgia, this morning.
The women’s team has to adjust its lineup after being affected by numerous injuries and will now focus on a core of four runners as it heads into the meet hosted by Georgia.
“We got a few girls that we’ve been conservative with this season, making sure we didn’t cause any major injuries,” assistant coach Chris Solinsky said. “I don’t know exactly where that’s gonna leave us at the SEC meet. This year, I think leaves us a little bit further behind where we would hope to be in a year.”
The injury total for the women’s squad is six, ranging from tendonitis to hip labrum surgery. One runner who will sit out today’s meet is redshirt junior Lauren Perry, who has nerve problem in her heel.
“I think our top four could really put it together and then we have someone step up in that fifth runners spot,” Solinsky said. “That’s the question mark we’re going into this weekend with who’s gonna be that fifth runner. Do the top four do their job well enough that we can afford some flexibility on that last score?”
These injuries have forced the Gators to keep some of their athletes off the course, but it hasn’t stopped their drive to work together and place high in its postseason meets. Sophomore Jessica Pascoe, recovering from tendonitis in her foot, understands how vital it is to step up and perform in light of her teammate’s injuries.
“Just keeping everyone together (and) not worrying about our position on the team, but worrying about where we place on the field for the team,” Pascoe said. “This will be one of the first chances to really compete so (I want to) see what I can do off of all the training I’ve done.”
The teams are coming off third-place finishes at the FSU Invitational where Pascoe led the UF women’s team and redshirt sophomore Jack Rogers took the lead for the UF men’s team. Rogers will enter today’s race with the goal to stay close together in a pack, and use each other to push forward in the race.
“We’ve been working the whole season on pack running and staying competitive with the other runners, but not getting complacent just because you’re next to a teammate,” Rogers said. “Sometimes guys will be next to a teammate and they’ll be like ‘oh I’m with a teammate, we don’t have to go fast right now, we’re working together.’ But then they’re falling off the pack.”
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The women's cross country team is dealing with numerous injuries ahead of the SEC Championships. "I don’t know exactly where that’s gonna leave us at the SEC meet," assistant coach Chris Solinsky. "This year, I think leaves us a little bit further behind where we would hope to be in a year."