Florida women’s cross country finish first in SEC preseason poll, men in third

The Florida Gators women’s cross country team was voted by the Southeastern Conference coaches as the favorites to claim its third straight SEC title in the 2011 SEC preseason coaches poll on Thursday, while the Florida men’s cross country team were selected to finish third.

The UF women earned six first-place votes to over Arkansas, while the Florida’s men team was selected behind Arkansas and Alabama, respectively.

Last year, the Florida women’s squad captured the program’s fifth all-time SEC title and its second in a row, after getting past Arkansas by one point at the league meet in Columbia, S.C.

Florida assistant track and field and cross country coach Todd Morgan picked up his second consecutive SEC Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year accolade in the process, and eight Florida men and women picked up All-SEC honors.

The women’s squad went on to secure and automatic bid to NCAAs with a second-place finish at the NCAA South Regional, while the men placed third and took home an individual at-large bid for the first time since 2008.

At the 2010 conference meet, the Gators men secured third place in the team race, the best team finish since 2007. The squad finished in the top five at the conference meet for the 14th consecutive year and in the top three for the seventh season in the last nine.

The 2011 SEC Cross Country Championships, hosted by the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, will be held on Oct. 31, while Florida kicks off its 2011 season on Sept. 2 in Cullowhee, N.C., at the Western Carolina Invitational.

The Gators will then participate in the South Florida Invitational on Sept. 9 in Tampa before returning home to the Mark Bostick Golf Course for the 23rd Annual Mountain Dew Invitational on Sept. 24.