Gators women’s XC earns at-large bid

The 2012 SEC Champion Florida women’s cross country squad was one of 13 teams across the country to pick up an at-large bid to the 2012 NCAA Championship meet Saturday morning, while sophomore Jimmy Clark (St. Johns, Fla.) and junior Mark Parrish (Tampa, Fla.) will represent the Gator men after being selected as at-large individual competitors for NCAAs Nov. 17 in Louisville, Ky.

Thirty-one teams were selected to participate in each championship. The top two, seven-person teams automatically qualified from each of the nine regions, for a total of 18 teams following Friday’s Region Championships. Thirteen additional teams were selected at large Saturday.

Thirty-eight individuals were selected to participate in each championship through an automatic qualifier and at-large selection process. All individual qualifiers finished top-25 in their respective regions. Parrish and Clark were UF’s top two scorers at regionals, Parrish in fifth, Clark in 13th as both picked up USTFCCCA All-South Region honors for the second consecutive season following Friday competition at Apalachee Regional Park.

On the men’s side, UF placed third at the NCAA South Region Championship Friday in Tallahassee for the Gators’ third consecutive top-three regional finish, while the women checked in fourth overall, recording a top-five finish for the eighth straight season. With individual bids for Clark and Parrish, the men’s program will have representation at NCAAs for the third straight season, last qualifying as a team in 2011 and sending an individual in 2010.

Florida’s team bid on the women’s side sends the Gators to nationals for the sixth time in the last seven seasons as a team – last in 2010.

The University of Louisville will play host to the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Nov. 17 at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park. The women’s race is slated for a 12 p.m. ET start, followed by the men’s race at 1:15 p.m. ET.

For the first time since World War II, The NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships will be held on a Saturday instead of a Monday – and for just the second time in a BIG EAST Conference City. With the new date formula prescribing the national meet be held on Saturday before Thanksgiving, and by virtue of the calendar having the earliest possible Thanksgiving this year, the meet will be the earliest in Division I history.

Florida’s women placed the highest in history at NCAAs in 2009 (seventh), while the men were sixth in 1990 for the men’s program’s best NCAA finish. Last time out at NCAAs, Parrish ran the sixth-fastest NCAA time for a Gator at the 2011 national meet, finishing 68th in the field, while Clark scored second for the Orange and Blue in 191st. Of UF’s women’s squad, four Gators have nationals experience: junior Steph Strasser (Fernandina Beach, Fla.) and seniors Callie Cooper (St. Augustine, Fla.), Florence Ngetich (Eldama Ravine, Kenya) and Mandy Perkins (Ormond Beach, Fla.), with Ngetich participating as an individual in 2011.

Courtesy of UF Communications