Last updated 11/24/17

August 28, 2017
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By Herb Brooks

Florida's men and women were both picked to finish eighth in the SEC and South Region.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Florida's men and women were picked eighth in the 2017 Southeastern Conference Cross Country Preseason Coaches' Poll. Last season both teams registered eighth-place finishes at the SEC Championships.

The United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association's (USTFCCCA) preseason regional rankings were also released this afternoon. The Gators were selected to finish eighth on the men's side and eighth on the women's side of the South Region.

With the 2017 season approaching, UF will look to improve upon results from last season with the return of a core group of student-athletes. Also, the addition of new assistant coach Chris Solinsky will be a factor for the program moving forward. Solinsky, one of the most accomplished American distance runners in history, joined the program over the summer.

On the men's side, the Gators lose key contributors Carlos Miranda, a USTFCCCA All-South Region selection, and Mac Reynolds. Miranda posted the fastest times for UF last season in the 6.4k, 8k and 10k.

Despite the departure of Miranda and Reynolds, Florida returns a trio of key competitors in Jack Guyton, Colin Schaefer and Magnus Pettersen. Schaefer earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team after he finished sixth amongst freshmen at last year's conference championship.

Matt Clark and Nick Deal, a pair of incoming freshmen, should also provide a boost to the men's side as both tallied top-five finishes at the 2016 FHSAA Class 3A Cross Championship.

For the women, All-SEC First Team and USTFCCCA All-South Region performer Elisabeth Bergh returns along with standouts Lauren Perry, Noora Wallenius and Jessica Pascoe. Bergh led the way at the NCAA South Regional with a ninth-place finish and personal record time of 20:26.1.

A trio of talented newcomers will bolster the women's roster as Abbie Harrelson, Laura Jones and Daniela Urzua each look to make an impression. Harrelson finished her prep career as the runner-up at 2016 FHSAA Class 3A Cross Country Championship while both Jones and Urzua tallied top-10 finishes in the FHSAA 4A Championship.

The Gators first meet of the season will take place Sept. 9, at the UNF Invitational in Jacksonville, Fla.

The full 2016 SEC Cross Country Coaches' Preseason Poll results, with first-place votes listed in parenthesis, are as follows:

CURTAIN CALL: Harrelson wins T&F Female AOY; All-Area team
Jul 9, 2017 at 5:05 PM
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Abbie Harrelson had reached her breaking point.

It was late in the afternoon on April 27, and to that point in the day the Niceville middle distance runner had already legged 3500 meters (2.17 miles) over almost four races and still had a fourth of the 1600-meter race to go.

Four runners, including Harrelson, huddled within a second of each other. “The last 100 meters was all heart,” she said. “I couldn’t even feel my legs.” Harrelson crossed the finish line and was told her time: 4:58.59. Her first-ever sub five-minute mile. First place. A regional championship.

“The amount of joy I think she and I both had, it was really exciting,” Niceville track and field distance coach Jamie LaFollette said.

Said Harrelson, “I was in total shock.”

It was a rewarding moment for the Niceville senior, who’s individual success in the 800 and 1600-meter races and team success in the 4x400 and 4x800 relays this season has earned her Daily News Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

“I think what makes Abbie deserving is what she contributes to the team across the board,” LaFollette said. “While Abbie was certainly in it to run and have individual success, she was also definitely determined to bring us team success.”

Harrelson, running leadoff for just the third time all season, was followed by teammates Alexis Sherwin, Erin Eubanks and anchor Hannah Schneidewind on the Eagles’ state championship-winning 4x800 relay team. The foursome’s time of 9:20.97 set a school record.

“For me to do it my senior year, it couldn’t be more special,” Harrelson said that day.

Later that day she placed second in the 800-meter (2:10.71) — finishing 42 hundredths of a second behind the state champ — and third in the 1600-meter (4:57.81), 1.77 seconds behind the winner. Both times set school records.

Harrelson — with teammates Ny’Zha Anthony, Alexis Sherwin and Ashley Frank — was also part of the Eagles’ seventh-place state finisher (3:59.36) in the 4x400 relay.

Harrelson said that coming off a cross country season in which she took home Daily News Female Cross County Athlete of the Year honors gave her confidence and raised her, and others’, expectations for her track and field season.

“That’s all I needed,” she said. “The pressure was on and I think I perform well under pressure.”

The standout performance of Harrelson’s season was the sub five-minute mile at regionals. She also broke the five-minute mark at the state meet, her 4:57.81 mark falling just 1.78 seconds of the title.

Because of the strenuous schedule, LaFollette occasionally considered pulling Harrelson from the 4x400 relay. But she wouldn’t budge.

“No,” she would say. “I’m doing it.”

At the FSU Relays on March 25, Harrelson finished 11th in the 1600-meter and then 20 minutes later raced on Niceville’s fifth-place finisher in the 4x400. At the regional meet, Harrelson began with the 800-meter, 45 minutes later ran the 1600-meter (the first time she broke five minutes) and then 30 minutes later ran in the 4x400 relay.

Said Harrelson, “I just didn’t want to let anyone down.”

That last race at regionals, the 4x400, was neck and neck. Five teams jockeyed for positions two through six within six seconds of one another.

Niceville was a little bit behind when Harrelson took the baton.

And it didn’t start well. Harrelson began at a standstill because she collided with another runner.

?(But) she gutted it out and ended up surging that last 100 meters,” LaFollette said.

Harrelson gave her team and fourth-place finish by 28 hundredths of a second, edging a Creekside team that ended up not qualifying for the state meet.

“It was one of those she wasn’t going to be denied races,” LaFollette said. “She brings a competitive spirit that is just ... amazing.”

“That’s the best word for it. She works really, really hard. It’s really a perfect combination of the type of attitude you need to be a successful middle-distance runner.”

She even improved throughout the season. Harrelson began the year with a time of 2:17 in the 800-meter and then throughout had times around 2:14. Her time at the state meet: 2:10.71.

“This season was everything I could have asked for,” Harrelson said in a phone conversation from Gainesville, where she’s now a member of the University of Florida cross country and track teams.

Harrelson began classes in Gainesville on June 26.

“It’s been great. I really like everyone and all my roommates are really nice,” she said. “I haven’t met the whole team because not a lot of people are here yet, but I’m really excited.”

So should Gators fans.

Niceville's Harrelson signs with University of Florida
December 7, 2016
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NICEVILLE - Sitting in the Niceville High School media center at 1:57 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon - surrounded by about 150 teammates, friends, family and coaches - Eagles' senior Abbie Harrelson opened a peach-colored folder, picked up a blue pen and made her college commitment official.

"I was super nervous how my senior year would go, sports and school," Harrelson, who moved to Niceville from Texas in July, read aloud in a prepared statement. "But as soon as I got here, coach (Jamie) LaFollette, coach (Lisa) Lewis and coach (Todd) Brigman opened their arms and I knew this year would be great. I'm so thankful for the Niceville cross country and track and field community.

"With that being said, high school has been great to me and I can't wait to further my education at the University of Florida."

After her announcement, Harrelson spoke about her journey to Niceville and why the distance runner chose UF and head coach Mike Holloway.

"Florida has been my dream school since sophomore year," Harrelson said, adding she and best friend Paige Kimball fell in love with UF when they saw the Gators run at the Texas Relays. "So this is super exciting. All these friends were so sweet to come (to the signing)."

For the past five months, Harrelson has gone through - in her words - a "long, hard" recruiting process with Florida that started on Aug. 1 and included 30-minute phone calls, emails and numerous sales pitches. Harrelson then took an official visit to Gainesville in late October, when the Gators made an official offer.

The Niceville senior accepted the offer on Nov. 16.

"We're just thrilled to have Abbie be another great Niceville representative going on to the next level," Eagles' cross country head coach Jamie LaFollette said. "I think she's going to do tremendous things. I think she's an outstanding talent."

Almost immediately after moving to the area, Harrelson proved she would be a force to be reckoned with. She won the season's opening meet, the Pace Patriot Invitational, with a time of 19:06.85. After sitting out the team's second meet, she returned and won the Wildcat Invitational (19:23). She placed second (19:04.30) at the Gulf Coast XC Stampede, first (18:54.12) at the District 2-3A meet, ninth (19:01.20) at the 3A regional meet and 13th at the (18:46.78) at the state meet.

She recorded a season-best time (18:40.80) at the Nike Cross Country Southeast Nationals.

Said LaFollette, "For our program, this is a reflection on the type of program we've been developing for the past three years. I think this is just what we're trying to do with cross country and track and field, make our program the perennial (power) turning out high-quality athletes."

Meet Florida's 2017 Signing Class
Gators Ink 11 to National Letters of Intent During Early Signing Period
November 18, 2016
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Come summer 2017, the University of Florida track and field program will once again welcome one of the nation’s top signing classes, as it inked 11 high school student-athletes to National Letters of Intent during this year’s early signing period, Gators head coach Mike Holloway announced Friday (Nov. 18).

“Very excited about the class as a whole,” Holloway said. “I want to give a big shout-out to Coach (Mellanee) Welty, Coach (Adrain) Mann, Coach (Steve) Lemke, Coach (Nic) Petersen, and Coach (Paul) Spangler for all their hard work in putting the class together.

“What I see in this class is a lot of diversity. We covered most of the event areas. This group has a chance to make an immediate impact on the program. They don’t have to come in here and carry the program, so that will give them some time to grow and get better as young student-athletes.


Personal Bests: 4:40 (1,500 meters)

2016 FHSAA Class 3A State Championships 5,000 meters qualifier

Scored second for Niceville’s 2016 FHSAA Class 3A Cross Country State Championships-winning team