After dominating the competition last week in the Western Carolina Invitational, the Florida men’s and women’s cross country teams are preparing for their next meet at the University of South Florida on Friday.
Freshman Jimmy Clark, who led the men’s team in the Western Carolina Invitational last Friday, will not compete in the meet in Tampa, according to assistant track and field and cross country coach Todd Morgan.
“Jimmy is a little farther along than even I thought he would be.” Morgan said, “I knew he’d do well, but I just kind of thought we’d have him work on some different things here at home, because he came out of the gate so quick in the first meet.”
Although Clark will sit out the upcoming meet, he was excited to be named SEC Freshman of the Week.
“You know it’s great to be the Freshman of the Week in such a great conference,” he said. “And I had the support of the guys on the team, and it’s just a great feeling.”
Clark said adjusting to college competition is hard, but he knows he is in good hands.
“It’s a tough thing to come out and you’re on top in high school, and you come in right at the middle of the road in college,” he said. “I think that all the guys are handling it really well, and the older guys opened up to us and brought us in, and we’re all clicking on the team. The chemistry’s really good and I think it will only lead to great things.”
Coach Morgan said the freshman runners are doing really well, and he expects them to contribute a lot to the team. Morgan’s game plan for the South Florida Invitational is to let more of the younger runners compete and sit some of the older runners.
“I want to put them in a little bit of a different situation,” he said. “Get them used to be counted on a little more.”
Morgan said there will be a few key people to look for in the upcoming meet. One of which was also named SEC Freshman of the Week this week for the women’s team – Grace VanDeGrift. She finished fourth in the Western Carolina Invitational.
“Grace VanDeGrift had a great meet, she was the first one out,” he said. “And we’re going to rely on (junior) Mandy Perkins. She’s one of our older people. She was sick when we went to Western Carolina so I’m going to give her a chance to run. So I think they’ll do well. (Freshman) Eddie Garcia has been looking really strong and he’s going to run on the guys’ side.”
The South Florida Invitational will take place this Friday at USF’s golf course, “The Claw.” The women’s 5k race will begin at 6 p.m., and the men’s 8k race at 6:40 p.m.
Gator Country reporter Darby Underwood can be reached at email@example.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/darbyunderwood.