Parrish makes his mark on program


Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 11:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 11:59 p.m.

As a 1996 and 1997 NCAA qualifier in cross country as well as an All-SEC and All-South Region selection his senior year at Alabama, second-year Florida coach Paul Spangler is in a unique position to evaluate Gator senior standout Mark Parrish.

“Even when I was as fit as I was, I wouldn't have wanted to line up against him,” Spangler said. “I think there are a lot of other athletes who can learn from Mark's competitiveness. When the gun goes off, he's ready to go.”

That was clearly the case this past Saturday when Parrish, competing at the tough Wisconsin Adidas Invitational — an event Spangler noted “is arguably the most competitive cross country meet held outside the NCAA Championships” — completed the 8K course in 23:34, setting a UF school record en route to an impressive 11th-place individual finish among a field of almost 300 runners.

Parrish's career-best time nipped the existing 8K school mark set by All-American Jeremy Criscione in 2008 (23.35) by one second.

“I could tell based on the competition I was around that I knew I was running well, but I didn't know exactly how fast,” Parrish said. “It took me about half the race to work my way into the top 20. At that point, I was in the second pack and tried to get clear of them. Eventually, the front pack kind of fell apart, and I was able to catch most of the people from that.

“The last 1K was pretty much a slugfest with people making moves all over the place, and I had a pretty good sprint to the finish. That was real exciting.”

Spangler was impressed.

“I thought Mark ran great,” he said. “Anytime you have an athlete go out there and run a school record and finish 11th in that race, he's certainly a role model for all of the other athletes to look up to. He's worked hard, and he's a very, very tough competitor.”

Last year, Parrish, a former prep star at Tampa Chamberlain, earned his second consecutive first-team All-SEC and All-South Region honors, highlighted by a then career-best 8K mark of 23:43.2 at the 2012 Pre-Nationals in Louisville, Ky., that ranked No. 4 all-time at UF.

With his performance Saturday, Parrish now owns two of UF's top-five 8K times as well as the No. 6 all-time NCAA 10K school mark (30:32.90, 2011).

“They've had some great runners come through here like Jeremy Criscione and of course Keith Brantly,” Spangler said. “Mark has really put his name up there in terms of really the elite of the elite and certainly on the national level as well.”

Parrish, a 2011 and 2012 SEC Academic Honor Roll member, also is a distance standout for head coach Mike Holloway's track and field squad each spring and garnered 2013 honorable mention All-America honors in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. He competes in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters as well.

His focus now is on next Friday (Nov. 1) when UF hosts the SEC Championships in what will be his final home cross country meet.

“It's definitely exciting,” Parrish said. “This is probably the most talented team I've ever been on, and it's also a very consistent team. We're consistently running fast, and I think that's important. In the past, we had highlights here or there, but we've got a lot of guys who are capable. I might have a highlight one day, but another day I might not be as good and Jimmy (Clark) will take my place or Eddie (Garcia) can take my place. We have a really high-level group

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