University of Florida's Parker Valby, a 2020 high school graduate from East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs, Florida, won the NCAA Division 1 women's cross country individual title on Saturday morning at Panorama Farms in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Valby was the NCAA national runner-up last year after being caught late in the race by NC State's Katelyn Tuohy, but would not be denied a title this season as she took over the lead in the first K of the race and continued to build her lead en route to a winning time of 18:55 on the 5K course.
After being unable to win an individual state title in Florida as high school runner at East Lake High, the redshirt junior Valby for the first time ever culminates a cross country season as the champion in the end.
Valby had to deal with coaching changes over the past year when Chris Solinsky left the program and Will Palmer stepped in to replace him and has now won two NCAA titles under Palmer's guidance as she also claimed the outdoor 5000 meter title this past spring.
Last year, Valby competed as an individual at NCAA's, but this year was joined by her University of Florida women's squad as team qualifiers and they showed out as well with a fifth place team showing of 268 points after coming into the meet ranked #8 in the country. Lina Winborn was one of two former Florida high school runners with Valby in the Florida women's racing lineup as the team's sixth finisher in 202nd place with a time of 21:34.
Several Florida high school alumni competed and faired well in the race including Alyson Churchill, racing for Florida State University as a junior, joining Valby as an NCAA All-American in 22nd place with a time of 19:53. Churchill was a former 3A state cross country champion while at Chiles High School in Tallahassee.
Recent Bolles graduate and University of Tennessee freshman Jillian Candelino in 72nd place with a time of 20:29. She was the fifth highest finishing American born freshmen in the entire race, which is an impressive leap even for Candelino as a multiple state champion in cross country and track at Bolles.
Mary Ellen Eudaly, one of the state's fastest all-time milers at Cambridge Christian, finished in 139th place with a time of 20:56 for the University of Arkansas.
The Florida State men were the lone Florida university or college competing as a full squad qualifier and finished 27th out of the 31 team field, but there were no Florida high school alumni in their lineup.