Thursday October 25, 2012Florida Cross Country Squads Ready to Compete for SEC Titles Friday in Nashville
Preliminary Women's Entries (finalized Thursday)
Preliminary Men's Entries (finalized Thursday)
Florida’s 2012 men’s and women’s cross country squads will embark on the 2012 SEC Championships Friday, Oct. 26, at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, as Vanderbilt University plays host to this year’s conference meet in Tennessee.
Race day will kick off with the women’s 6K at 11 a.m. (ET), followed by the men’s 8K at noon (ET), with the awards ceremony following. Admission to the 2012 SEC Cross Country Championships is free.
The Orange and Blue own eight SEC team titles combined, three for the men (1955, 1986, 1987) and five for the women’s team (1984, 1996, 1997, 2009, 2010).Last year, UF had six All-SEC selections (three men & women) and four runners named to the SEC All-Freshman Team (three men, one female), while current sophomore men’s runner Jimmy Clark (St. Johns, Fla.) was the 2011 SEC Male Freshman of the Year.
WOMEN’S SEC PREVIEW
Individual SEC Champions (four individuals, five titles):
Shelly Steely, 1984 (15:55) – three miles
Tricia Clifford, 1986(17:57) – five kilometers
Becki Wells, 1995 (17:16) – five kilometers
Becki Wells, 1996 (17:04.70) – five kilometers
Rebecca Lowe, 2009 (20:57.35) – six kilometers
School record for 6K: Erin Merten (19:44.04) on 10/29/01
Florida’s women enter the 2012 SEC Championship after claiming third place at the 2011 SEC Championship in Maryville, Tenn. The Gators’ third-place finish marked the program’s fourth consecutive top-three league finish and eighth consecutive top-five showing. Florida has won five league titles on the women’s side (1984, 1996, 1997, 2009, 2010) and boasts four individual champions and five titles between them, with the last individual title coming in 2009 when Rebecca Lowe captured the crown.
The Florida ladies are coming off a ninth-place showing at the competitive Pre-Nationals meet in Louisville, where the squad got its first glimpse at some top-level competition while scoping out the 2012 NCAA Championship course. Under first-year assistant track and cross country coach Paul Spangler, the women’s team has seen a total of 21 collegiate best marks between its season-opening two-mile race, the Mountain Dew Invite 5K race and two 6K competitions at St. Leo and Pre-Nationals.
Gator senior Florence Ngetich (Eldama Ravine, Kenya) holds the seventh-fastest 6K in the league entering the championships (20:35.30), while sophomore Stephanie Strasser (Fernandina Beach, Fla.) ranks 12th (21:00.80) and senior Callie Cooper (St. Augustine, Fla.) (21:09.80) checks in 19th to round out UF’s top-20 runners.
The Gators lost top 2011 SEC finisher Genevieve LaCaze to graduation, while fifth-place finisher Cory McGee will take a redshirt this season, leaving Ngetich as UF’s top returning SEC scorer from last season. Ngetich checked in 10th in the field of 104 athletes.
MEN’S SEC PREVIEW
Individual SEC Champions:
Don Gagnon, 1955 – 4.4 miles
Frank Lagotic, 1967 (18:47) – 4.065 miles
Keith Brantly, 1983 (24:06.7) – 5 miles
School record for 8K: Jeremy Criscione (23:35.05) on 11/3/08
After chalking up a second-place finish in 2011, the men’s team’s highest finish since back-to-back second-place finishes in 2006 and 2007, the Gators are setting their goals high and aiming for the program’s first SEC Championship in 25 years. The Gators own three SEC team titles all-time on the men’s side (1955, 1986, 1987) and three individual titles, with the last from Keith Brantly in 1983. UF will be looking to make it 16 straight top-five finishes and will strive for three consecutive top-three finales at the league meet.
Similar to the women’s squad, Florida’s men have seen a drastic drop in times under Spangler, as junior Mark Parrish (Tampa, Fla.) turned in the fourth-fastest 8K mark in Florida history at Pre-Nationals in Louisville October 13. Parrish went 23:43.2 to jump into fourth, while sophomore JL Hines (Orlando, Fla.) checked in 10th on UF’s top-10 8K times list with his 24:00.70 mark. Parrish and Hines’ career-best times are two of 17 lifetime bests for the Florida men’s squad this year between one 5K race and three 8Ks leading up to the conference championships.
Entering the league championship in Nashville, Parrish owns the fifth-fastest 8K (23:43.20) among his peers in the SEC, while Hines checks in eighth (24:00.70). Clark and sophomore classmate Eddie Garcia (Jacksonville, Fla.) have the 19th (24:27.40) and 20th (24:28.80) best marks in the league through the 2012 fall season thus far.
Parrish, a 2011 USTFCCCA All-South Region honoree and All-SEC first team member was Florida’s highest finisher with a third-place showing at the 2011 SEC Championship.
PREVIEWING THE SEC FIELD
The defending SEC men’s cross country champion is Arkansas, which has claimed 19 of the last 21 conference team titles. The defending women’s SEC cross country champion is Vanderbilt, which captured its first-ever league title last season.
Six SEC teams are ranked entering this weekend’s meet – three on the men’s side and three on the women’s side – in the latest poll from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Arkansas is the highest-ranked SEC men’s team, checking in at No. 9 in the USTFCCCA poll. Georgia is ranked No. 28, while Texas A&M is No. 29. Fellow SEC team Florida also is receiving votes.
Arkansas is the top-rated SEC women’s team, checking in at No. 12 in the USTFCCCA poll. Vanderbilt is No. 28 in the latest poll, while Florida checks in at No. 30. Fellow SEC team Kentucky also is receiving votes.
Tennessee has won a league-leading 25 men’s SEC cross country titles, but has not taken home the title since 1990. Arkansas is second with 19 crowns, including the last two. Arkansas has captured a league-leading 13 women’s SEC cross country championships, while Florida and Tennessee have each taken home five apiece.
LAST TIME OUT FOR FLORIDA
The Gators were last in action Oct. 13 at Pre-Nationals, where both teams had impressive, top-10 showings, as the women checked in ninth overall in the field of 38 teams, while the men were 10th of 40 men’s seeded teams. Four Gator men’s runners cruised to career-best 8K marks, while the ladies registered five collegiate best 6K times after last Saturday’s competition. Parrish led the way on the men’s side with a 16th-place overall finish with the second-fastest 8K time in the SEC so far this season, while Ngetich was 24th in the women’s 6K field as Florida’s first scorer.
Follow the Gators on Twitter @GatorZoneXCntry, @GZTrackField, @SECSportsUpdate and @SEC_Sean for updates throughout the day or search the hashtag #SECXC. A complete recap, quotes and results will be available on www.GatorZone.com/crosscountry directly following competition.