The goal for any sports team is to continually get better and better until it can eventually win a championship. The goal is to get to the top of the mountain, but it doesn’t always happen over night — it sometimes takes incremental progress year after year. For the University of Utah track and field team, that hard work and improvement is finally paying off.
Head coach Kyle Kepler believes his team is getting better and he thinks this year’s squad is performing at a higher level than the same time last year.
“It’s kind of a hard measure to quantify because track is such an individual sport,” Kepler said. “You have a team, but you rely more on your own individual performance. It isn’t like football or basketball where you win as a team, but I think it certainly looks that way. I think we are doing better now than we were at this point last year. That’s especially impressive when you consider that we have such a young group this year.”
Kepler noted that a couple of the team’s goals this year are to have more qualifiers for the NCAA meet and to be able to score more points at the Pac-12 Championship meet.
So far, Kepler’s claim seems to be true. The Utes have posted strong performances all season long and they have won many events throughout the course of the year. In the UC Riverside Invitational a couple of weeks ago, the Utes posted 11 top five finishes. At the Stanford Invitational, junior Grayson Murphy broke the school record in the 5000 meter run, meaning that Murphy now holds the school record for both the indoor and outdoor 5000 meter events. Just two weekends ago, the Utes competed in the Utah/Weber State Spring Classic and they won four of the events.
In the Utes’ first outdoor meet of the season in Tempe, Ariz., freshman Ann Wingeleth placed first overall in the long jump event.
“Our kids [have] competed very hard [this season] and finished off a great meet to open the outdoor season,” Kepler said after the team’s first outdoor meet. “We had mixed results [at the Utah/Weber State Spring Classic] and certainly wish we had done the race plans better, but we will improve as the season moves forward.”
But it isn’t just the coach who is optimistic about this team. Several of the athletes have mentioned how they think this team is better this year.
“I think we’ve been doing well,” said junior Dakota Grossman. “We have some strong runners and people are still getting better. We’ve got a long season to go still, but I think everybody is enjoying themselves so far.”
Grossman also believes that while it is hard to say where the team is at this year, there is more potential since there has been a solid influx of talented freshmen.
Another junior, Hannah McInturff, directly attributes some of the team’s improvement to Kepler’s guidance.
“One of the biggest reasons why I’ve improved and had so much success is because [Kepler] was willing to let me cross-train and let me do other things to build strength,” McInturff said.