The Pac-12 cross country championships get underway on Friday, Oct. 27, and the No. 27 ranked Utes are eager to compete. Utah will race along side six other Pac-12 teams that are ranked in the top 30 heading into the meet. Grayson Murphy, who finished 12th overall at the championships in 2016, said Utah hasn’t prepared differently for this meet than others this season, even though it’s the championships.
“I think keeping in routine is pretty important to me and doing things the right way. We haven’t changed any training so I think we are just kind of like chugging along,” Murphy said. “Everything’s been working up to this point, so I don’t want to change anything right now.”
Head coach Kyle Kepler said Utah is trying to stay in a routine, but with a little added rest as the Utes have had the past two weeks to gear up for this event.
“Overall we haven’t changed a lot, and we have a system that works and our kids have been trying to focus on staying healthy and continuing to get better day by day,” Kepler said. “They just got to rest up and prepare themselves for championship time and season.”
Utah finished in fifth place last year, and it hopes to improve on that number on Friday. Murphy believes that the Utes have a chance to pull off upsets against some of the top teams in the league.
“We have Oregon in our conference and Colorado and they are ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the nation, so obviously they are big competitors,” Murphy said. “We’ve got Washington, which we can totally beat. And I think that is who we are trying to knock off to get to fourth place. And Stanford, on a good day we might beat Stanford. I think Colorado and Oregon are a little bit out of our reach, but Washington and Stanford are the two we might be able to sneak in on.”
While the whole team itself would like to finish on a high note, “I finished 12th so I would like to be top five this year,” Murphy said. “Obviously it would be really cool to be in contention for a conference title. I’ve never been in a place to win them and now I am, so it’s a little uncomfortable when you are suddenly at the front of 300 people and you are supposed to just think you belong there, it’s kind of scary. Getting over that has been my challenge. I think I am slowly getting better at.”
Eyes will again be on Murphy this season, but Kepler expects sophomore Poppy Tank to be one of the lead racers for Utah after her breakout performance in Wisconsin where she was the second Ute to place, right behind Murphy.
Kepler believes this is the most competitive meet and he knows his team has its hands full, but he understands that nothing is set in stone and there are no guarantees who will win or lose.
“Oregon was fourth at this meet last year and then won the national title three weeks later. Anything can happen and anything does happen,” Kepler said. “We are just going to have to prepare to go do what we do, run our race and we’ll think that’ll be good enough to help us move on.”