Florida freshman run the table in Tampa

TAMPA – In its second meet of the season, the Florida Gators men’s cross country team finished with its second first-place finish at the South Florida Invitational at the University of South Florida.

The men’s team took first place in their 8k race with an overall time of 2:10:45.01, and an average time of 26:20.55, while the women’s team came in fourth in their 5k race with an overall time of 1:34:13.00, behind USF, Florida Atlantic and the University of Tampa.

Freshman Phil Duncan was the first runner to finish for the Gators, and the fourth to finish overall with a time of 26.02.74. He was followed by Alex Schanen in sixth place, freshman Alex Izewski in eighth, freshman Eduardo Garcia in 10th, and freshman John-Logan Hines in 11th.

“We ran really well as a team today.” Duncan said. “We all stayed within 10 seconds, I believe – which is pretty much the goal, so it was a good meet overall for our team.”

For the women’s team, junior Mandy Perkins finished first and third overall with a time of 17:58.97. She was followed by freshman Tenley Godfrey in 10th, and SEC Freshman of the Week Grace VanDeGrift in 11th.

“I think I ran pretty well,” VanDeGrift said. “This was just a race to come out here and just run. Coach Morgan has done a good job preparing us and with my team. It was a great experience.”

VanDeGrift said it has been an adjustment to get use to college competition after her second career meet as a Gator.

“Coming in, it’s always nervous,” she said. “I was just scared because running on the collegiate level is a whole different ball game. I mean, being SEC Freshman of the Week definitely was a confidence booster. It definitely made me more sure of myself. I’m just happy to be here, be a Gator. I have a lot of pride in that.”

The Gators had four freshmen run for both the men’s and women’s teams. Assistant track and field and cross country coach Todd Morgan said he wanted to give them an opportunity to be leaders.

“It was great.” Morgan said. “We brought up some younger people to compete – Kind of put them in a little different situation. They knew they couldn’t rely on some of the older people. They responded well and competed well. It was a positive day.”

The Gators will host their only home meet of the season, the Mountain Dew Invitational, on Sept. 24. Duncan and VanDeGrift are excited to prepare for their first home meet of their college career.

“We’re just going to run hard and do whatever our coach tells us.” Duncan said. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s a great coach. He also helps us, and supports us mentally as well. We’ll be ready mentally and physically for the race.”

“It’s always exciting to run in Gainesville and to be at home.” VanDeGrift said. “It’s always a great atmosphere. I really love my team, and we’re just so excited about this home meet. It’s a good course and hopefully everybody will go out there and do well.”

Morgan said everyone on the roster will run in the home meet at the University of Florida’s Mark Bostick golf course.

“It’s going to be a great competition,” Morgan said, “so that will be our first real full-team, full-blown meet.”

Gator Country reporter Darby Underwood can be reached at darbyu9@hotmail.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at darbyunderwood.