UF athletic notebook: Cross country opens at home
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 10, 2012 at 11:50 p.m.
The Florida men's and women's cross country teams host the 24th Annual Mountain Dew Invitational Saturday at UF's Mark Bostic Golf Course in what will be the only home meet of the 2012 season.
“A lot of schools don't even have a home meet, but we're fortunate enough to have a fantastic facility to race on,” first-year coach Paul Spangler said. “It will be a great opportunity for people to come out and see the Gators compete.”
Both squads scored impressive team and individual wins at the season-opening Western Carolina Invitational in Culhowee, N.C., August 31.
Freshman Julie Macedo picked up the individual win in the women's two-mile event, garnering SEC Women's Runner of the Week honors, while senior Josh Izewski took top honors in the 5K men's race. A total of 11 Gators ran collegiate-best times and 10 recorded top-10 individual finishes.
Both the competition and the distance get tougher Saturday. The men's collegiate 8K will kick things off at 7:55 a.m., with the women's collegiate 5K scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Varsity and junior varsity high school boys and girls races will follow.
More than 20 college teams and more than 70 high school squads are scheduled to compete.
“I think we're going to approach this race differently than they did last year,” Spangler said. “It's important as we get later in the season – certainly at the pre-national championships, SECs and first-round NCAAs – that our athletes know what it feels like to go out fast. That's something that we're going to do this weekend.”
It's SEC time for the Gators, and their opening road trip to Arkansas and Kentucky will certainly present a challenge to UF's young 2012 squad.
The Gators (6-2), up to No. 13 in the latest AVCA poll, captured the team title at the Active Ankle Challenge in the O'Connell Center this past weekend by downing Jacksonville, Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia Tech behind the play of freshman and Tournament MVP Ziva Recek and redshirt senior Tangerine Wiggs, who joined Recek on the All-Tournament team.
“I can say that the tournament was probably the best precursor going into SEC play,” coach Mary Wise said. “We played three teams from Friday night's match to Saturday's match that provided us different kinds of challenges.”
Both the Razorbacks (9-2) and 24th-ranked Wildcats (6-4) boast experienced and deep teams that are expected to contend with UF, LSU and defending SEC champ Tennessee for this year's crown.UF takes on Arkansas Friday at 8 p.m. and Kentucky Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
“They're both big and physical,” Wise said. “Matchup-wise, it's going to be tough.”
The No. 24 Gators also hit the road for their opening weekend of SEC action.
UF (3-2-1) opens league play Friday at Kentucky with a match against the Wildcats (5-1) at 7 p.m., then travels to Auburn for a contest against the Tigers (4-3) Sunday at 3 p.m.
The Gators are coming off back-to-back home wins over FIU and New Mexico but are temporarily without the services of their top defender, fifth-year senior and two-time All-America center back Kathryn Williamson.
She suffered a meniscus tear in her right knee in the win over FIU. No date has been set for her return.
“Certainly we're just hoping to hold down the fort until Kat gets back,” coach Becky Burleigh said. “It's a critical position for us because we put a lot of responsibility on the position in terms of communication. Our first balls on our offense comes from one of those two players usually, so it's a big loss. But at the same time, we'll have someone who has gained quite a bit of experience by the time Kat gets back.”