Every sport has dealt with challenges presented by COVID-19 this year. As a new season begins on Friday for UF, it too has had to change.
“We have to rethink how we’re used to doing things,” said Chris Solinsky, assistant coach of the Florida men’s and women’s cross country teams.
One of those changes is the number of races the team will be able to get in. This season will only be three meets before the SEC championship on Oct. 30th, down from six last year. This means every race will be that much more important down the stretch.
UF enters the season ranked 7th on the men’s side and tied for 5th on the women’s, something Coach Solinsky described as “fair” due to the number of new faces.
“Yeah, I think it's a good place to start out, knowing that we're a team which enjoys outpacing any of those preseason rankings," Solinsky said. "And you know, the benefit of six last year so being rated by my peers, the other coaches too for the men to finish seventh, I think it's pretty close.”
Combined, there are 12 true freshmen in the men’s and women’s ranks.
This Friday, the Gators will host the Mountain Dew Invitational, which features teams from both the ACC and SEC, including Florida’s two big in-state rivals in FSU and Miami. Other teams include Georgia Tech and more universities to be named.
After the Mountain Dew Invitational on the 18th, the team will travel to Tallahassee to compete in the FSU Invitational on Oct. 2nd and Birmingham, Alabama, for the Blazer Classic hosted by the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Oct.16th.
The team already has one runner who has tested positive for COVID in junior Maria Fernandez, but Solinsky assured the team is taking the virus very seriously.
“Obviously, when the kids are running, they're not wearing masks,” Solinsky said. “But, you know, for us as coaches remembering to remind them to have their masks on, you know, when they're not running and they're doing the other parts of practice that aren't quite so cardio based.”
With questions both on and off the course, this young team hopes to make a good first impression in a time of much speculation.
Contact Myles Herbert at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @myles_herbert.
UF enters the season ranked 7th on the men’s side and tied for 5th on the women’s.