Sunday October 30, 2011Gator Cross Country Teams Ready to Compete for SEC Titles Monday in Knoxville
The Florida women’s cross country squad will shoot for a three-peat Monday at the 2011 SEC Championship and UF’s men will look to improve upon their third-place finish at last year’s league meet as the Gators prepare to take on Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville, Tenn. The University of Tennessee is playing host to this year’s races – UT last hosted on Halloween in 1998, also at Lambert Acres. Competition kicks off at 10 a.m. ET with the men’s 8K, followed by the women’s 6K at 11 a.m. and the annual awards ceremony at noon.
Florida’s women enter the 2011 SEC Championship as the two-time defending league champions winning Florida’s fourth and fifth SEC titles in 2009 and 2010. UF assistant track and cross country coach Todd Morgan has also picked up SEC Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors the past two seasons. Florida has now won five league titles on the women’s side (1984, 1996, 1997, 2009, 2010) and boasts four individual champions, with the last individual title coming in 2009 when current redshirt senior Rebecca Lowe captured the crown.
The Gator men’s squad will be looking to improve upon its third-place finish at 2010 SECs – the team’s best finish since also taking third in 2007. Florida has finished in the top five for 15 consecutive years at the conference championship and the Gators own three SEC team titles all-time on the men’s side (1955, 1986, 1987) and three individual titles, the last from Keith Brantly in 1983.
“This is both of our teams’ favorite time of year, starting with the SEC Championship and continuing on to the postseason,” Morgan said. “They’ve both been working really hard up to this point and right now they are ready to get out there and run. We have competed at Lambert Acres Golf Club before for Regional Championship meets; we’ve done well and really enjoyed running there, so we’re looking forward to running there again and putting our best foot forward Monday.”
The 2010 SEC Championship meet proved to be a nailbiter for the UF women’s squad, which topped the team from Arkansas by just one point at the South Carolina-hosted event last year.
Florida returns six All-SEC performers from last year’s teams and will look to carry that experience and leadership into the races Monday. A total of seven Gators have earned SEC Athlete of the Week honors throughout the span of the 2011 season, including four freshmen newcomers.
A trio of veterans on the women’s side have rallied to lead the Orange and Blue, including senior Genevieve LaCaze (Daisy Hill, Australia), junior transfer Florence N’Getich (Eldama Ravine, Kenya) and sophomore Cory McGee (Pass Christian, Miss.). LaCaze has been UF’s top finisher in each of her races this season and turned in an eighth-place finish at last year’s conference championship to pick up second team All-SEC honors. McGee crossed finish next for the Gators in 17th, earning SEC All-Freshman team honors her first year on campus. Florida went on to finish second at the NCAA South Regional, obtaining a bid to the NCAA Championship, where the squad finished 29th overall.
On the men’s side, two sophomores in Matt Mizereck (Tallahassee, Fla.) and Mark Parrish (Tampa, Fla.) have been consistent competitors on the men’s side, along with senior Josh Izewski (Doylestown, Pa.), who brings veteran leadership. Freshman Jimmy Clark (St. Johns, Fla.) has stepped up as a contributor in just his first season with the Gators. Mizereck and junior Derek Wehunt (Odessa, Fla.) return as 2010 All-SEC selections. Wehunt finished 13th in last year’s SEC Championship field, while Mizereck placed 15th overall.
Entering SECs, LaCaze, N’Getich, McGee, junior Callie Cooper (St. Augustine, Fla.), sophomore Stephanie Strasser (Fernandina Beach, Fla.) own five of the top 20 times in the conference in the women’s 6K, ranking third (20:45.50), ninth (21:03.00), 15th (21:19.60), 19th (21:34.20) and 20th (21:38.30), respectively. Both Vanderbilt and Arkansas also have five runners apiece with top 20 times entering the meet. Notably, the 2011 SEC women's champ, Kristie Krueger of Georgia, returns.
On the men’s side, Parrish holds the fifth-fastest 8K (24:29.20) on record entering the Championship, while Mizereck’s time from UF’s Mountain Dew Invitational places him eighth (24:38.50) in league competition so far in 2011. The top male returnee is Eric Fernandez of Arkansas, who was sixth last season.
Follow the Gators on Twitter @GatorZoneXCntry, @GZTrackField, @SECSportsUpdate for updates throughout the day or search the hashtag #SECXC. A complete recap and results will be available on www.GatorZone.com/crosscountry directly following competition.