Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #24- Florida

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

Head Coach: Mike Holloway (7th Season)
2012 National Finish- 23rd

Key Returners from 2012
  • Agata Strausa (Sr., 4:11, 16:09, 10:21 3k Steeple)
  • Cory McGee (Sr., 4:06.67, 9:15, 16:21)
  • Shelby Hayes (Sr., 4:19, 9:43)
  • Stephanie Strasser (Sr., 4:23, 16:59, 10:19 3k Steeple)
Season Preview

The reigning SEC champion and national-qualifying Gators return four of the their top seven for the 2013 season. The fact that Florida finished 23rd as a team in 2012 and lose their number one does not immediately scream a solid returning team for this next season, but here is how they will still be a very good team.  

The Gators do lose solid and steady no. 1 Florence Ngetich to graduation. Without her leadership, they desperately need someone to step up and fill her role as a leader and as a low-stick. 

All of the options that Florida has to become their new no. 1 runner are 1500m runners. In fact, there might not be a better 1500m crew in the country than what the Gators currently have in Gainesville. 

Here is the skinny. Agata Strausa has been one of the more consistent metric milers in all of the land for the past few years and has very good xc experience and range (see PRs above) and is the most logical person to lead the Gators. 

Shelby Hayes has good PRs and looks to have some decent range that will come in handy for the longer-than-1500m-6k that these women run. Stephanie Strasser is more suited for cross country and will need to be a solid no. 3-4 in order to keep the spread tight. Julie Macedo, a redshirt freshman and multiple time Delaware State champ, is a cross country runner who happens to run track (unlike the majority of the team) and could make a splash into the Gators top five as the season goes on. 

The real question mark lies in 1500m World Championship qualifier Cory McGee. Now, McGee did not run cross country in 2012, and has struggled a bit on the cross country course in her career. But,one thing that has been prominent recently, is that more and more metric milers have been able to step up in distance and be quality cross country runners. Amanda Mergaert of Utah finished 14th (4:13 PR) and Shelby Houlihan of Arizona State finished 31st (4:13 PR), in 2012, proving that the going from 1.5k to 6k is not all that hard.

McGee will need to be smart making her way back from the World Champs in order to be even a factor in the Gator top seven. If that is the case and she is able to return in time for the important races in cross, there is no doubt that she is capable of All-American at Nationals (similar to how Shalaya Kipp did it in 2012). 

With a very deep and tough South Regional, Florida will need to be on their game early in order to earn the credential points to be sure to qualify for the National Championships. If McGee can get back in time to help, with Strausa, Strasser, and Hayes, this team has a solid four and when a five makes it's way through their depth, the Gators are going to surprise many in Terre Haute.  

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