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Friday November 1, 2013No SEC Home Cookin' for Gators XC

By Jenna Perlman
GatorZone.com Intern

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- When the University of Florida found out it would host its first Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships in 11 years, the Gators hoped running at their own Mark Bostick Golf Course would present the opportunity to win two league titles in front of a home crowd.

But Friday’s races didn’t go quite the way the Gators envisioned, as Arkansas took home both of them.

But there was a bright side.

Clark, who covered the 8k course in 23:57, led the men’s team with a fifth-place overall finish. Senior Mark Parrish finished in eighth place with a time of 24:01, followed by junior Eddie Garcia (13th, 24:21), freshman Carlos Miranda (29th, 24:55) and junior John-Logan Hines (41st, 25:10).

With the runner-up finish, the UF men placed in the top five of the conference meet for the 17th straight year.

Clark carded his fourth top-five finish of the season.

“I felt pretty good,” Clark said. “The coaches prepared us well for the race.”

While the men’s team didn’t end its 25-year quest of winning a SEC Title, they got a glimpse of what the future might hold. Four of the five runners who scored for the men’s team will return next season. That's something to build on.

“Certainly our goal was to come away with the SEC Championship, but I thought the men did a good job,” UF coach Paul Spangler said. “Our top two guys really did a good job grinding through it. “

On the women’s side, senior Agata Strausa (20:17) finished fourth overall in the women’s 6k, but that wasn’t much consolation in the big picture; not for a team trying to defend its title.

Strausa said as much.

“We need to be tougher, and we need to approach the next race as if we had never lost before,” she said. “If we leave today behind then we’ll be fine.”

That will mean heading to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the NCAA Regional Meet in two weeks with a clear mind and clean slate. Maybe there, the Gators can reset their goals, reboot the season and head into the cross-country home stretch on a more positive note.

The goal: Qualifying both teams for the NCAA Championships, set for Nov. 23 at Terre Haute, Ind.

“As a team we need to go out and give it our all because when we do that we’re a great team,” Clark said. “We’re excited to get out there for regionals and we’re looking forward to being able to qualify as a team for nationals.”

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