By SYDNEY RHODES
The Men’s Cross Country team last weekend traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina battling for ninth place out of a total of 22 teams in the southeast region. After a challenging race in Gainesville at the Mountain Dew invitational two weeks ago, the men returned Friday evening to the Queen’s Invitational, ready to put on great performance against many division one and two schools.
The Spartans bolted off the chalk starting line from the moment the gun went off, racing through the wooded areas of McAlpine park. They were able to do as their coach, Dror Vaknin instructed and packed in a group as a team.
“Our race strategy worked out exactly how we planned,” said Brent Turner, a grad student and cross country runner. “We started off really conservative and made our big move later in the race, and it paid off really big for us. The course was definitely the best chance we will have to run fast because of how flat it was, but the way we ran together was ultimately the difference maker.”
Darting through the woods, and sprinting across the finish line, Turner was Tampa’s first runner through the line, clocking a time at 25:47. Not too far from him, freshman, Mikey Wilson sprinted in at 26:04 and Stone Malick hitting 26:30. All three of them were able to set a new personal best in the 8K.
“Consistency is key,” said Malick, a freshman marketing major. “When all of us are home for the summer we train everyday, running upwards of 60 miles per week. We all depend on each other to put the work in before we meet back in Tampa in early August. We trained in the Appalachian Mountains in Boone, North Carolina for a week prior to the season starting. It was a great opportunity for us freshman to become part of the team here at UT, bond and train at altitude.”
On top of the months of hard work and training, there’s a difference in the team this season compared to the last. Coach Dror recruited many freshman to ensure the team would push forward toward their goals.
“We have a bunch of new guys that really want to be good, and they show up everyday at practice ready to work hard,” Turner said. “We all have a common goal and are willing to do whatever we have to do in order to accomplish those goals.“These guys push me to be better every day, and they are the only reason I have accomplished anything that I have over the last two seasons at UT.”
Up next, the Spartans will travel to Tallahassee, to race the Florida State Invite on Friday morning.
“We have the strength and ability to bring the team to a top five finish at this race, we just have to put it out on the course. This week we will continue to build our mileage and speed work as we continue to prepare for the main goal which is conference.” said Tyler Roberts, a sophomore cybersecurity major.
Along with this weekend, the men are on track for a great season. They also have high personal and team goals, and will continue to act upon them.
“Our team goal since the end of last track season was to come away with a conference title,which still currently is our goal. We have a very talented freshman class that are hungry and ready to work hard,”Roberts said.
Sydney Rhodes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org