After a weekend free from competitions, the Florida Gators Cross Country teams will host their first and only home meet of the season on Saturday. University of Florida assistant track and field and cross country coach Todd Morgan said it’s still early in the season and this is the time to get good workouts in.
“This time of year, training wise, it’s a lot of volume right now, you’re tired every day,” Morgan said. “A lot of it is keeping them confident. Earlier on those meets we ran, they’re not going to feel good when they line up to race, but they develop a lot from that. They learn that they can do a lot of things that they didn’t think they could when maybe they don’t feel their best. That’s how you really develop as a runner and they’ve handled that well. Training has been extremely consistent.”
Morgan has been pleased with the freshmen runners’ performance in the first couple meets. Jimmy Clark and Grace VanDeGrift were awarded with SEC Freshman of the Week honors after their first meet in North Carolina. The next week, they were followed by Phil Duncan and Tenley Godfrey.
“All of the newcomers we’ve brought in have really been training at a high level and have not let being tired going into a meet affect them, which is sometimes a little different for a high school athlete transitioning into college,” Morgan said. And so they’ve remained composed going into a meet and competed well and that was great to see.”
While most of the runners on the team have competed in at least one meet, this race will be sophomore Cory McGee’s first for this season.
“I really just want to see where I’m at,” McGee said. “I know compared to last year, going out for runs alone, just like some of the training that we’ve been doing and kind of comparing how I feel this year as compared to last year, I know I’m in better shape. I know I’m going to race better than I did last year. But I think it’s just kind of getting an idea of what I’m capable of right now so early in the season.”
The runners and coaches are excited to host the Mountain Dew Invitational at UF’s Mark Bostick Golf Course. Morgan said it should be a good meet because many excellent teams will be competing including North Carolina’s men’s and women’s teams and Michigan’s men’s team.
“It’s nice being at home,” he said. “You’re not missing class. You’re sleeping in your own bed. All of those general types of things are great. You’re not out of your routine as much. They do get excited. More people get to come watch. There will be a lot more friends and family and fans coming to watch which is always exciting. It also, too, forces us to really focus on remembering that it is a competition. You can’t get complacent just because you’re at home.”
McGee said her goal for Saturday is just to win. She would like to see all of the hard work the team has put in to pay off.
“We are going to have more competition than I think we have at this race in the last few years and it would be great to go out and win it and kind of let our team bring home the title again because I think we have definitely been working hard and deserve to do that. So, that will be exciting and just to go out and get our first five across the line and do better than we did last year.”
If you’ve never attended a cross country meet before, Coach Morgan says you will see a lot of action, in a short time.
“Our course is great,” he said. “You don’t have to go a great amount of walking to get to see a lot of running. You can see them come by in a lot of different spots and see the race develop even though the guys are running five miles, as a spectator, you really don’t have to walk more than 100 feet to kind of see a lot of it and you can see things kind of unfold. The one thing about cross country is that, the whole thing for the college portion of it will be over in an hour.”
“It will be a lot of cross country excitement,” Morgan said.
Gator Country reporter Darby Underwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/darbyunderwood.