The Utes made necessary strides for a young track and field team on the rise at the Mountain Sports Federation Championships in Seattle, Wash., over this last weekend. The two-day event comprised of some of the best track and field teams in the nation, as well as plenty of fellow Pac-12 women’s track and field teams.
The Utes finished the MPSF Championships in 16th place, with a combined total of six points, three each from Sarah Feeny and Ali Eisenbeiss. Oregon won overall with 68 points. USC and Washington State followed with 47 and 38.5, respectively.
“I thought overall we had some really good results — certainly we would’ve liked to finish a little higher in the team standings,” said head coach Kyle Kepler. “It’s a really challenging meet, we took a lot of young kids, some of them getting their first experience at that level of a meet.”
Friday, Feb. 26 was the first day of the two-day event, where the Utes’ distance medley relay team finished in ninth place, just behind Pac-12 foe Arizona. The relay team consisted of Sadie Wassum, Mesa Weidle, Caitie Faust and Dakota Grossman, finishing with a time of 11:47.93.
Junior Alissa Atisme recorded a new season-best time of 7.78 seconds, placing 27th overall in the 60-meter dash. In the pentathlon, true freshman Lauren McCluskey competed in five events, earning a score of 3,159 points, good for 14th place overall. Madison Lanford finished three spots behind in the 17th overall slot with 2,880 points.
McCluskey would return to represent Utah in the long jump, claiming 18th with a distance of 16 feet, 8.5 inches.
After the first day of competition the University of Oregon led the meet with 32 team points, followed by fellow Pac-12 schools Arizona State and USC, tied for 2nd with 23 points.
On Saturday, the Utes returned, eager to score some team points in a highly competitive meet featuring many national powerhouses. The Utes finished in ninth place three times during the weekend, just short of scoring points (the top 8 finishers score points). The goal was merely to put numbers on the scoreboard for the young Utes team still gaining valuable experience at the MSFC.
The highlight of the afternoon came in the mile race, when Feeny continued her stellar sophomore season by capturing third place with a time of 4:39.48. Feeny, who has run herself into Utah track and field record books, will be facing an uphill battle to qualify for the NCAA Championships. She is, however, qualified for the U.S. Indoor Championships in Portland, Ore., two weeks from now.
Three other Utah runners competed in the mile-run: Sadie Wassum (4:52.92), Nikki Rietz (5:02.57) and Dakota Grossman (5:02.64). Wassum’s time was five seconds better than her personal record, one of eight personal bests on the weekend for the Utes.
Feeny said she believes if she had kept the same pace, there was a good possibility she could’ve set a personal record.
“We went out slow at the beginning, but for me it was kind of a bummer because I know I could’ve [set a PR], but it’s okay, I still ran according to how I needed to run in those conditions, and I am happy to score for the team,” Feeny said.
Feeny would also compete in the 3,000-meter run after a quick hour and a half rest, falling just short of scoring points for the second time, taking ninth place with a time of 9:24.55. Hannah McInturff followed Feeny with a time of 9:38.01 in 19th place. Becky Sarmiento set a six-second personal best with a time of 9:53.69 finishing in 31st. Four other fellow Utes competed in the 3,000 meter-run: Jocelyn Todd (39th), Shaylen Crook (40th), Kate Stringfellow (48th) and Dana Snell (51st).
“If [Feeny] doesn’t qualify for the NCAA championships, she’s going to go run the 3K in Portland with the professionals against some of the big names that we all know in U.S. track and field,” Kepler said. “Either way she’s going to get a great experience … as I told her, [the U.S. Indoor Track and Field Championships is] not a bad consolation prize.”
In the 800-meter run, redshirt senior Eisenbeiss recorded a personal-best time of 2:07.12 to earn sixth place in the event. Alison Aafedt claimed 21st with a time of 2:13.38, followed by Christine Van Brocklin placing in 25th (2:14.54). True freshman Caitie Faust finished in 30th, followed by Mackenzie Clark in 33rd.
In the final event of the weekend, the 4×400 relay race, the Utes team featuring Atisme, Van Brocklin, Aafedt and Eisenbeiss finished with a time of 3:46.97, falling just short of receiving points finishing in ninth place.
Overall, despite a lower team finish, Kepler is pleased with what he saw from his team over the weekend.
“We had a total of eight lifetime bests … If kids are running lifetime bests at championship meets you know that you’re doing something right,” Kepler said.