Jessica Pascoe

Jessica Pascoe became Florida's first female All-American since 2013 and was named the SEC Women's Runner of the Year last year.

The Florida cross country program has high expectations entering the 2019 season. Assistant coach Chris Solinksy was not hesitant to express that.

“We want to be that consistent top 10 contender that eventually builds up to a national title contender,” Solinsky said. “This year we want to be the best team that has ever come out of the University of Florida.”

The women’s team finished 16th at the 2018 NCAA Championships. The men failed to qualify. Although both improved from a disappointing 2017 campaign, placing 16th was not enough for Solinsky or the women’s cross country team.

“Pretty much everyone was unsatisfied with how the season finished,” Solinsky said. “Everyone seems to be pretty motivated to not just do what we did last year but improve on it significantly.”

The women’s team may have been disappointed, but it still managed a second-place finish in the SEC Championship and an NCAA Championship appearance (both for the first time since 2012).

Senior Jessica Pascoe had a breakout year in 2018 and led the way for the women. The Australian was named the 2018 SEC Women’s Runner of the Year and earned All-American honors at the NCAA Championships (the first Florida women’s All-American since Agata Strausa in 2013).

Pascoe will be expected to finish her collegiate career strong in 2019.

On the men’s side, Solinsky wants the team to focus on the basics. When referring to the men’s team, he asked a question: “How bad do you want it?”

The five-time NCAA champion knows what it takes to make a championship run and Solinsky preached that self-motivation is a key part of it, particularly in the offseason.

“Summer is so much more important than the season itself,” Solinsky said. “A lot rests on their motivation, their consistency to be able to put the work in when people aren’t around, when people aren’t watching. It takes a special kind of person to be able to do that at a high level, and we have those individuals.”

The program will add 11 freshmen in the fall. Solinsky said to keep an eye on Emily Culley from Lawton Chiles High School in Tallahassee and Jackie Addy from Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta on the women’s side.

For the men, Solinsky said to be on the lookout for Caden Monk from Buchholz High School in Gainesville and Hugh Brittenham from Estero High School in Estero, Florida.

The Gators start their season on Aug. 30 at the UNF Invitational in Jacksonville.

“I think we were a top 10 team last year, we just kind of fell short of that,” Solinksy said. “This year we’re just as good, if not better. That’s definitely the goal, let’s see how far into the top 10 we can finish.”

Follow Joseph Salvador on Twitter @JSalvador_14. Contact him at [email protected].

Joseph Salvador is a Sports Journalism student at the University of Florida and was previously Sports Editor for Broward College's newspaper The Observer. He has been with the Alligator since Summer 2019.