By VINCENT PERSTAD
While some UT athletic teams are just beginning their long season, the girls cross country/track team is almost midseason, yet they feel stronger than ever.
“I would say that we are slowly getting better and better,” said freshman distance runner Jasmine Garrett. “Our big rival is Saint Leo University so one of our goals is to definitely beat that team.”
Morning workouts for the cross country and track team are every weekday and start at 6:00 a.m. and end at 8:00 a.m. “Besides getting up at 5:20 every morning it’s kind of nice to get it out of the way,” Garrett said.
The team typically has two eight-mile runs per week, starting from campus and heading down to Davis Island, according to Garrett. Garrett left with six other runners Friday, Oct. 1, for a meet in Louisville, Kentucky, where she and her teammates will not only be competing against Division II schools, but maybe even against DI schools.
This will be Garrett’s first out of state meet and as of right now she does not know what to expect. “I have no idea what our competition is like but I feel that we will stick together as a pack for the most part,” Garrett said.
“There will be roughly 30 other schools from each division with us in Louisville but sometimes if a Division II team has a high ranking, they get to run against the division one schools,” said senior distance runner Claudia Cancello.
A few years ago, Cancello got this very chance of running with the DI schools and this year that is also one of the goals. “It would be nice to race them because that is a whole other level of competition and we won’t race DI girls at the National Championships so it would be a good challenge,” Cancello said.
Cancello is the no. 1 runner for the cross country team this year and is only four seconds shy of one of the 1500 meter records with a time of 4:44.44.
While runners like Garrett prefer to run in groups to push one another, Cancello has another idea up her sleeve. The starting lines are so big due to the amount of people that when the cross country race begins, there is so little space that it may be easier to just push as far ahead of the pack as possible.
“It is really good to have your team mates keeping up with you, like Jasmine does, because that way we encourage and motivate each other to keep passing people,” Cancello said. “But for these big meets, I just kind of like to go for the top right off the start.”
Cancello hopes that by the end of the meet she will be well into the top 20 finishers.
With temperatures in Tampa hovering in the 90s, it is a hot environment to do any kind of sport. This weekend, temperatures in Louisville will stay in the upper 50s at the time of the meet.
“I actually prefer the cold weather over the hot weather when I’m running,” Cancello said. “And when you really think about it, we are lucky since the Nationals this year will be held at Saint Leo University and that gives us an advantage because we are used to these environmental conditions.”
Vincent Perstad can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org