Florida XC misses automatic berth

Florida’s cross country squads emerged out of the 2012 NCAA South Region Championship Friday morning at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee with third and fourth-place finishes on the men’s and women’s sides, respectively, the men with 67 points and the women with 122. After falling shy of top-two NCAA automatic qualifying bids, both Gator squads will await potential team and/or individual at-large bids to the 2012 NCAA Championship Nov. 17, to be announced on NCAA.com by noon Saturday.

A total of 10 points separated the second, third and fourth-place team finishers on the women’s side in an extremely tight race, with Vandy eventually being tabbed second (112), Georgia third (115) and Florida fourth (122) behind host squad FSU in first (24). On the men’s side, the Seminoles earned the team victory (27), while SEC institutions Georgia (48) and Florida (67) rounded out the top three team squads.

For Florida’s men, the finish was the Gators’ third consecutive top-three regional finish, while the women were top-five at the South Regional for the eighth straight season. On the men’s side, the Orange and Blue will anxiously await a potential second-straight nationals bid, while the women also hope to be an at-large squad Saturday following the NCAAs at-large announcements, which would send them to nationals for the sixth time in the last seven seasons as a team.

Seven Florida runners were tabbed USTFCCCA All-South Region performers for their race results Friday, while the Gators collaboratively eclipsed nine personal-best marks, five on the women’s side and four on the men’s at the South Region Championship in Tallahassee.

Jumping from its season mainstay 8K to a 10K at the regional championship, the men’s team rallied to place all five scorers within the top 25 of the 177-athlete men’s South Region field, as junior Mark Parrish (Tampa,Fla.) led the way in fifth, followed by sophomores Jimmy Clark (St. Johns, Fla.), Eddie Garcia (Jacksonville, Fla.), JL Hines (Orlando, Fla.) and junior Matt Mizereck (Tallahassee, Fla.) in 13th, 14th, 16th and 19th, respectively. For Parrish, Mizereck and Clark, the top-25 All-South Region accolades marked their second-consecutive from the meet, while Garcia and Hines picked up the first regional honors of their Gator careers. Mizereck, the Tallahassee native and Leon product, made it three-straight All-South Region accolades for the Orange and Blue – one for each year of his Florida career.

Clark (30:51.0), Garcia (30:51.3), Hines (30:56.5) and redshirt freshman Harsha Torke (Viera, Fla.) (32:41.4) all clocked personal-best 10K races for the Gators. Senior Josh Izewski (Doylestown, Pa.) finished sixth for UF, while Torke crossed the finish line seventh for Florida.

In women’s action, senior veteran and leader Florence Ngetich (Eldama Ravine, Kenya) led the way on the women’s side with a fifth-place finish (20:16.8) to shatter her lifetime best and score first for the Gators, while fellow classmate Callie Cooper (St. Augustine, Fla.) checked in 22nd in the field for Florida with a personal-best of her own in 20:41.4 as UF’s second scorer. Both Ngetich and Cooper picked up USTFCCCA All-South Region honors as top-25 finishers, marking Ngetich’s second consecutive All-South Region honor, while the honor for Cooper was the first regional accolade in her four-year Gator career.

Ngetich and Cooper were two of five Gators with personal-best marks on the afternoon, as UF’s third and fourth scorers in juniors Shelby Hayes (Winter Park, Fla.) and Steph Strasser (Fernandina Beach, Fla.) each turned in career-bests one right after the other, placing 29th (20:50.6) and 31st (20:54.6) in the 205-runner women’s field.

Junior Agata Strausa (Riga, Latvia) scored fifth for the Gators in 35th (21:02.0), while senior Mandy Perkins (Ormond Beach, Fla.) capped off regionals with a lifetime best 6K (21:14.3) in 47th and first-year Gator Shelby Davidson (Melbourne, Fla.) rounded out UF’s regionals competitors in 78th (21:46.8), just two seconds off her career-best.

Visit GatorZone.com Saturday following the NCAA’s at-large announcement – no later than noon Nov. 10 – for more information on the remainder of the Gators’ 2012 cross country season.

Louisville will play host to the 2012 NCAA Championships Nov. 17. 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.

Courtesy of UF Communications