A surprising and impressive season for UF cross country's women continued on Friday as they finished second at the NCAA South Regional in Tallahassee.
Junior Jessica Pascoe has accomplished a lot this season.
The result, which blew last season's 22nd-place finish out of the water, was good enough to advance them into the NCAA Championships in Madison, Wisconsin, next Saturday. A place Florida's women haven't found themselves since 2012.
"If you're looking at history, a year ago we were 22nd," a proud Chris Solinsky, assistant coach for Florida, said after the meet. "To finish second in the region, it shows the dedication and amount of buy in the ladies have."
Recently named SEC Women's Runner of the Year, junior Jessica Pascoe led the pack once again for the Gators, finishing in second thanks to a stellar 20:23.6 time in the 6k. Pascoe's runner-up finish was just over six seconds behind the winner, Florida State's Militsa Mircheva (20:16.9). Ironically, Florida State as a team finished just ahead of UF in the results as well, claiming first place and defending home turf at Apalachee Regional Park on FSU's campus.
The Gators had two other women finish in the top 10 on Friday with an additional two sneaking into the top 30.
Redshirt junior Elisabeth Bergh crossed the finish line in sixth, with a time of 20:40.5. Redshirt senior Morgan Hull has been making the most of her last season with Florida, running into the top 10 with a 20:51.7 finish, good enough for ninth place.
Freshman Imogen Barrett (21:10.9) and senior Caitlin McQuilkin-Bell (21:16.4) rounded out the top-5 finishers for UF, coming in at 21st and 28th, respectively.
Florida's men did what they could to finish in the top 10 as a team but came up just short, placing 11th (2:45:14), just four seconds behind the 10th-place team, Samford.
The Gators didn't do quite enough to get to the front of the pack on Friday as none of UF's men finished in the top 30.
Coach Solinsky was still pleased with the effort despite the result.
"The men did better than last year, and we showed signs of being able to run together as a group," Solinsky said. "This group of guys has a lot of potential … they are starting to get there."
Florida did have five men finish in the top 75. Redshirt sophomore Colin Schaefer completed his season with a finish in 34th place (32:32.0) Redshirt freshman Nick Deal was the second Gator for the men to conclude the 10k race, placing in 55th with a time of 32:56.3.
Redshirt junior Magnus Pettersen (33:04.1) came in 59th, redshirt sophomore Blake Lowery (33:16.6) crossed the line in 69th place, and senior Bryce Statham (33:26.0) finished in 74th.
Follow Evan Lepak on Twitter @evanmplepak or contact him at [email protected].