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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
<p dir="ltr"><span>Florida’s men’s cross country team is tied for fourth with Kentucky in the 2019 SEC Cross Country Coaches’ Preseason Poll. The women’s team is ranked third.</span></p>

Florida’s men’s cross country team is tied for fourth with Kentucky in the 2019 SEC Cross Country Coaches’ Preseason Poll. The women’s team is ranked third.

Florida’s cross country team will be traveling to Jacksonville to compete in the University of North Florida Invitational on Friday at 8:30 a.m. to start its 2019 campaign. The team has competed in the event each year since 2016. Here are some things to know going in:

Florida’s mindset

This time last year, the Gators entered the UNF Invitational with much lower expectations. Assistant coach Chris Solinsky went as far as to say that the team’s mindset this season is on a “completely different level.” The third-year Florida coach attributed this to how much the team has improved since the last campaign.

“Down here in Florida, we build houses on a slab, so the bigger and thicker the slab, the more sturdy your foundation, so you can build a bigger and taller house,” Solinsky said. “So for us, on both sides, both men and women, we’ve built a pretty darn good slab over the summer.”

The women are coming off a season where they finished 16th at the 2018 NCAA Championships, while the men failed to qualify.

The Gators will be without Jessica Pascoe

Florida will be without senior and 2018 SEC Women’s Runner of the Year Jessica Pascoe on Friday. But the UNF Invitational is seen as a more of a “rust buster,” according to Pascoe.

“It’s an ice breaker,” Pascoe said. “Just get your feet in the water, you know, shake off those nerves, everyone’s got them after coming off of a summer just to see what kind of shape you’re in.”

Instead, Pascoe plans to use this time to train in Gainesville. She isn’t the only runner not competing at UNF this year, either.

Eight runners on the women’s side and seven runners on the men’s side will also sit out of the first meet.

Freshmen in the mix

Before the season began, Solinsky said to be on the lookout for freshmen Emily Culley and Hugh Brittenham before they make their debut for the Gators. They will get their chance come Friday.

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Brittenham said he is a little nervous for his first meet and talked about the change going from being one of the most touted recruits in the state of Florida to being a freshman in a program like UF.

“You’ve been demoted to a small fish in a big pond,” Brittenham said. “Personally, I relish that, you know? It’s a good reminder on why I’m putting in so much effort. I want to make that climb back up again.”

Culley was still processing her first week in college but was ecstatic to be at UF and compete.

“I’m just so grateful to be here and running as a collegiate athlete is just a dream of mine,” Culley said. “So I hope to really affect the team in a good way.”

Follow Joseph Salvador on Twitter @JSalvador_14. Contact him at jsalvador@alligator.org.

Florida’s men’s cross country team is tied for fourth with Kentucky in the 2019 SEC Cross Country Coaches’ Preseason Poll. The women’s team is ranked third.

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