A cool Friday morning on the Mark Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville; the starter pistol fired, followed by the noise of hundreds of runners stampeding away from the starting line. Gators’ cross country is back.
After a two week hold on the season, Florida Gators running made their Fall 2023 debut on their home course at the Mountain Dew Invitational. Fifteen total colleges competed with all 15 competing on the men’s side and 14 on the women’s. This totaled to 178 runners in the men’s 7800 meter race and 139 in the women’s 3 mile, with Florida’s men’s team finishing in 3rd and the women’s in 1st.
Each of the seven men competing for UF have raced at the collegiate level and as a Gator over the past two years. As for the women, three of the nine runners made their collegiate cross country debut. Redshirt senior Allison Wilson, who recently transferred from Alabama, made her UF debut.
“After two years of not racing cross country, I can’t even put into words how great it felt to compete again,” Wilson said. “Beyond proud of my team, and the performances across the board but this is just the start.”
Wilson led the Gators to a 1st place finish at 38 points. Additionally, she was the individual champion, winning with a time of 16:38.7 and a nearly 20 second margin. The remaining scoring runners all finished in the top 15, with a team average of 17:22.7.
“Look out for the Gators this season,” Wilson said.
As for the men, their 3rd place finish at 117 points was led by junior Joe Wester, who finished in 24:36.4. Each of Florida’s scoring runners were under 26 minutes, as they compiled a team average of 24:59.1.
Wester, who did not compete in cross country in 2022, made a statement at the Invitational. Following redshirt junior Ethan Geiger through the 1k mark in less than 3 minutes, Wester managed to maintain a steady pace, moving from 15th to 9th place from start to finish.
The Gators received a boost from competing on home soil, yet this won’t be the last time they’ll see this course in the fall. The NCAA South Regional Championship will be held at Mark Bostick Golf Course Nov. 10.
Competing at home is beneficial for the athletes, as it requires no change in routine, said Will Palmer, the associate head coach for cross country.
Without traveling, the runners will have the comfort of sleeping in their beds the night before the race and have homefield advantage in knowing the course well, Palmer said in an interview Aug. 25.
Florida will be competing in two more meets until postseason competitions begin, which will be the SEC Championships Oct. 27 in Columbia, South Carolina. The Gators will compete at the FSU Invitational in Tallahassee Sept. 29 and the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational Oct. 13 in Wisconsin.
Joe Wester [JR] - 24:36.4
Ethan Geiger [RS JR] - 24:38.2
Javier Vento [JR] - 25:04.3
Josh Stern [JR] - 25:04.7
Orlando Cicilioni [RS SO] - 25:31.8
Ryan Miller [RS JR] - 26:33.8
Macarius Wright [RS SO] - 26:50.2
Spread - 55.5
Average - 24:59.1
Total - 2:04:55.1
WOMENS 3 MILES
Allison Wilson [RS SR] - 16:38.7
Liina Winborn [RS JR] - 17:21.7
Vasileia Spyrou [RS JR] - 17:33.5
Rylee Pustilnik [RS JR] - 17:39.2
Olivia Jones [RS SO] - 17:40.3
Sayla Donnelley [FR] - 17:53.2
Annie Loehle [SO] - 18:15.4
Breanna Stuart [SO] - 18:19.4
Stephanie Ormsby [RS JR] - 18:56.9
Spread - 1:01.6
Average - 17:22.7
Total - 1:26:53.2
Contact Isabella Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @isasmorales.