As the Gators’ cross country teams approached foreign turf Friday morning, the unfamiliarity of the field was anything but a bump in the road for the runners.
UF dominated the podium at its second meet of the season with a first place finish for the men in 39 points and a second place finish for the women in 42 points.
Florida has not participated in the FSU XC Invitational since 2020, and although pre-nationals were also held at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee in 2021, only two of the women’s ten runners and five of the men’s nine runners raced on this course nearly two years ago.
Returning to Seminole territory was nonetheless a successful trip for the Florida Gators, both on an individual and team level. Redshirt junior Ethan Geiger led the field with a first place finish in 24:42.1 for the men’s 8k, on the same course that he made his collegiate debut in 2020.
“It felt great to work with the boys today,” Geiger said. “The team had performed well and showed great depth throughout the race.”
The rest of the men’s scoring runners all finished in the top 20 of 342 runners. Two runners on the men’s team, juniors Aiden Villasuso and Matthew Mule', made their 2023 season debuts, finishing ninth in 25:05.6 and 17th in 25:20.1, respectively.
“I feel like we all executed very well and I’m excited that we came away with a first place finish,” Geiger said.
Sophomore Lucinda Rourke, who made her 2023 season debut, led the women’s second place finish. She finished fourth with a time of 17:24.0. Each of the women’s scoring runners ran the 5k in under 18 minutes, with a top 12 finish for all scoring runners out of 335 competitors.
Redshirt junior Jordan Shapiro also made her debut for the season, finishing 11th in 17:53.0. Right behind her was the Gators’ women’s fifth runner, redshirt junior Rylee Pustilnik, who finished in 17:53.1. Pustilnik had the biggest jump in the race out of the team’s scoring runners, moving from 35th place at the 1 mile split to 12th at the finish.
For the next two meets, the Gators will be on the road, with their next race in Madison, Wisconsin for the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational Oct. 13.
“It’s almost a preview of the national championship,” said Will Palmer, the associate head coach for cross country, in an interview Aug. 25. “It's a really big meet.”
An equally competitive meet, the SEC Championships in Columbia, South Carolina, will follow on Oct. 27, marking the beginning of the Gators’ cross country postseason competitions.
Ethan Geiger [RS JR] - 24:42.1
Joe Wester [JR]- 24:52.5
Aiden Villasuso [JR]- 25:05.6
Javier Vento [JR]- 25:08.8
Matthew Mule' [JR]- 25:20.1
Michael Fiore [JR]- 25:26.7
Josh Stern [JR]- 25:42.6
Orlando Cicilioni [JR]- 25:46.2
Macarius Wright [RS SO]- 26:02.2
Spread - 38.0
Average - 25:01.8
Total - 2:05:08.9
Lucinda Rourke [SO]- 17:24.0
Liina Winborn [RS JR]- 17:41.9
Sayla Donnelley [FR]- 17:45.7
Jordan Shapiro [RS JR]- 17:53.0
Rylee Pustilnik [RS JR]- 17:53.1
Olivia Jones [RS SO]- 18:15.0
Breanna Stuart [SO]- 18:15.7
Annie Loehle [SO]- 18:56.0
Stephy Ormsby [RS JR]- 19:07.1
Allison Drummond [RS SO]- 20:39.9
Spread - 29.1
Average - 17:43.5
Total - 1:28:37.4
Contact Isabella Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @isasmorales.