Beating out multiple ranked teams, the No. 27 ranked University of Utah cross country team finished fifth at last weekend’s Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational. The Utes raced in New Bend, Indiana, and they placed one spot higher than last year’s sixth place finish. Leading the way for Utah was Grayson Murphy, who finished fourth overall with a time of 16:17.9.
Behind Murphy was Amanda Gehrich and Poppy Tank, who placed 29th and 30th respectively. The last two top five scorers for Utah included Jessica Sams in 59th place, and Louise Mercer, who finished in 71st place.
It was Murphy’s first race back since finishing fifth at the NCAA championships in the 3000-meter steeplechase this past track season. And even though she said her nerves were present, her transition from track season to cross country seemed effortless based on her result.
“Instead of 10 people in your race, there’s suddenly 200 people and that’s kind of crazy,” Murphy said. “This year, what really helped, was finally learning how to race in track and then bringing that to cross country.”
Despite the jitters that Murphy felt, she said she goes out with the mindset that she is going to try her best to win. She doesn’t understand why a person would want to race if they aren’t shooting for the top.
“There’s a mentality in your racing that you kind of have to get over any fears you might have or hang ups,” Murphy said. “But once you get past that, you can kind of get into race mode.”
Murphy and the Utes used that winning mentality to reach the goal that they had set going into the race, which was to place where they did last year or leave being ranked higher. They accomplished that goal by beating out teams like No. 12 Notre Dame and No. 26 Ohio State.
“We went in knowing there was some teams that were ranked ahead of us, but that we thought we could beat or at least compete with, and I think we did that,” Murphy said. “We definitely have some kinks to work out, it wasn’t perfect, and I don’t think everyone had an ‘A’ day, but that’s something to look forward to.”
Head coach Kyle Kepler saw positive things from the weekend, but he still sees areas that need improvement.
“I think we got the outcome that we wanted in terms of placing, but we have some work to do,” Kepler said. “The gaps between our runners is too big, we have to shrink those down.”
Utah is back in action on Friday, Oct. 13 for the Wisconsin Invitational. This will be the teams last meet before the Pac-12 championships get underway at the end of October.