By: David Drucker/Contributing Writer
The men’s and women’s cross country teams will travel to Gainesville this weekend to compete in the Mountain Dew Invitational. The athletes will get off to an early start (warm-ups begin at 6:30 a.m.) on Sept. 20 to run alongside other colleges and high schools in the region. The team is coming off of an impressive performance at the University of Central Florida Cross Country Invitational and hopes to build on that success at their third meet of the season.
The men’s team should have some momentum heading into this event. Last weekend in Orlando, four of the top nine finishers in the men’s 8K run were Panthers. That included another first overall finish by freshman Ronny Greenup with a time of 25:11.71. This time was almost a full minute less than his time at the University of South Florida Invitational, which was also fast enough to win that event. Head Coach Ryan Heberling is “looking forward to Ronny going sub-25 soon,” according to a recent interview with FIUSports.com.
Other quality performances by the men included freshman Leonel Pozo’s 26:24.38 (sixth place), senior Eli Monzon’s 27:06.13 (eighth place), freshman Andres Magliano’s 27:09.61 (ninth place) and senior Daniel Puentes’ 29:01.37 (fourteenth place). None of the men from the University exceeded Puentes’s time, which serves as quite an achievement — 21 out of the 35 total participants at the event were slower than that mark.
In total, the Panther’s average time in the men’s 8K was a whole 54.14 seconds better than the second-best team’s average.
The women’s team will likely seek to improve upon their performance in Orlando. In the 5K, Catherine Venture had the best finish on the team with a time of 20:19.40. Isolada Montiel ran a 21:45.87. Brittany Wasserback completed the course in 23:01.88 and Katrina Rodriguez finished in 23:24.69.
The size of the event the Panthers are running this week, however, is much larger than anything they have competed in so far this season. Instead of events like the UCF Invitational, where the team faced only two other Division I schools and two non-Division I schools, the Mountain Dew Invitational beckons participation from all around the state.
High schools are given their own closed 5K and 8K competitions. Universities from around the state, typically including the University of Florida and the University of Miami, gather in open competitions, where athletes that do not represent a school can register to compete.
The University’s contestants will be running on the UF golf course. The 8K and 5K races both consist of tracks that span the entirety of the course. Essentially everything but the tee boxes, greens and bunkers will be used in the race.
The last time the Panthers participated in the Mountain Dew Invitational was 2011. Sebastian Castillo was the top runner for the men with a time of 26:23.77 in the 8K. That mark was good for twenty-ninth place in the event.
Greenup’s time at the UCF Cross Country Invitational was more than a minute better than Castillo’s in 2011, so the Panthers should be better represented in this event than ever before. The top performer for the women in their last Mountain Dew Invitational debut was Daniela Espino, with a time of 19:05.01 in the 5K. Her time was thirty-fourth best in the event.
The men and women should be able to represent the Panthers well in the festivities this weekend. Even though Greenup may be denied his third straight first-place finish on the season, the weekend should provide enough action to satisfy the University’s cross country fans.