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Saturday November 13, 2010Women's Cross Country Punches Ticket to NCAAs; Both Teams Top Five at South Regional

Birmingham, Ala.

The University of Florida women’s cross country team used three top-ten finishes and a second place overall team finish at the 2010 NCAA Cross Country South Regional to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championship meet Saturday in Birmingham, Ala. Junior Genevieve LaCaze (Daisy Hill, Australia) turned in Florida’s top finish of the afternoon, crossing the finish line with a career-best 6K time of 20:06.10, good for five points towards UF’s team total of 67. Florida’s men fell just short of a top-two automatic team bid, but turned in a third-place overall finish with 76 points, led by junior Dumisane Hlaselo (South Africa), who crossed fourth in the field of 147 athletes with a 10K time of 30:11.85, the ninth-fastest for the Gators at the regional meet. Florida State finished first on the women’s side at the South Regional, while FSU and Alabama took first and second, respectively, in the men’s race.

“Our goal is always to come into the regional and claim one of the automatic spots,” assistant track and cross country coach Todd Morgan said. “We did that today with the women – we continued to build momentum off of SECs and we feel really good about this group heading into nationals. Today was a big step forward for Genevieve (LaCaze). She’s been really focused on returning to top form and today was a big step towards that. She’s a big talent for us and it was exciting to see her run so well.”

Led by LaCaze, whose time marked the third-fastest 6K in Florida history and the second-fastest for the Gators in the history of the South Regional, the UF women advance to the NCAA Championship as a team for the fifth consecutive year, 11th all-time, after finishing in the top five at the South Region Championships for the sixth consecutive year.

“I’m also really happy with the way the men ran,” Morgan continued. “We scored 76 points at a regional meet and that’s something to be proud of. We had five guys finish All-South Region. They gave it a good run, a really good shot. We’re disappointed we didn’t claim an automatic spot, but we’re really proud of their effort and how far they’ve come in the past year.”

Florida’s men recorded their best team regional finish Saturday since also placing third in 2007, additionally marking the 14th consecutive season in the top five at the men’s regional.

A total of four Florida women, including LaCaze, senior Charlotte Browning (Chichester, England), junior Rebecca Lowe (Vaucluse, Australia) and freshman Cory McGee (Pass Christian, Miss.) were named to the All-South Region team as top 25 finishers Saturday, Browning in seventh (20:11.17), Lowe in 12th (20:26.71) and McGee in 16th (20:35.65). On the men’s side, five Gators were named to the All-South Region team, including Hlaselo, as seniors James Uthmeier (Destin, Fla.) and Anthony Morales (Palm Coast, Fla.) were UF’s second and third scorers, and freshman Matt Mizereck (Tallahassee, Fla.) and sophomore Derek Wehunt (Odessa, Fla.) took 21st and 24th as the fourth and fifth Gator scorers who were also All-South Region selections.

“Charlotte (Browning) and Rebecca (Lowe) both had solid runs for us today and Cory (McGee) is heading in the right direction. It was also another great day for Steph Strasser,” Morgan added. “Dumi had a fantastic run and got things started really well for the men. I couldn’t be happier for James (Uthmeier), who has been a terrific leader for us. He had a fantastic run. James and Anthony (Morales have been two great senior leaders. Derek (Wehunt) had his second high-level performance in a row after SECs and for Matt (Mizereck) to finish All-Region as a freshman after running his first-ever 10K is a tremendous accomplishment.”

Strasser finished as Florida’s fifth scorer in women’s action, turning in a 21:03.55. Mandy Perkins (Ormond Beach, Fla.) and Callie Cooper (St. Augustine, Fla.) completed the women’s lineup in 52nd (21:40.84) and 99th (22:35.33), respectively. Freshman Mark Parrish (Tampa, Fla.) (31:13.38) and junior Josh Izewski (Doylestown, Penn.) (31:41.98) rounded out the men’s competitors for the Orange and Blue with 27th and 40th-place finishes.

The Gators registered eight personal-best marks, three on the men’s side from Izewski, Morales and Uthmeier for a 10K, and five in the women’s 6K for Browning, LaCaze, McGee, Perkins and Strasser. For Florida’s freshmen and newcomers, including Hlaselo, on the men’s side, the South Region 10K marked each athlete’s first 10K as a Gator.

Florida’s men will await any NCAA at-large bids, set to be established by Sunday evening, while the women will look forward to competing in their fifth consecutive NCAA Championships. This year’s NCAAs will be hosted by Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind., Monday, Nov. 22nd. Stay posted to www.GatorZone.com for news and information as the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championships approach.

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