Freshman leads cross-country to finish in the upper half of the tourney

By Bubba Brown , Staff Writer

Amanda Mergaert led the Utah cross-country team to a No. 13 finish among 37 teams at the Chile Pepper Invitational on Saturday.

Mergaert paced the Utes for the second race in a row, and finished with a time of 22 minutes 7.47 seconds, good enough for 37th out of 217 runners.

Head coach Kyle Kepler heaped praise on the freshmen after the race.

“I don’t think I could say enough about Amanda Mergaert,” Kepler said. “That’s one of the fastest times in the four times we’ve come here (Chile Pepper Invitational) that I’ve ever seen. She was focused and energized, which is pretty incredible since she has been in bed sick for the majority of the week. She never panicked and the rest of the group kind of followed as well.”

Jenny McCune finished second for Utah in 62nd place overall with a time of 22 minutes 46.95 seconds. McCune was followed by Lucy Yates, who ended the race in 95th place with a time of 23 minutes 18.76 seconds. Rounding out Utah’s top-100 finishers was Megan Combe, who used a time of 23 minutes 19.73 seconds to earn 98th place. Sydney Osmun finished just outside the top 100, in 102nd place with a time of 23 minutes 22.76 seconds. Finishing the race in 117th was Alexis Davis with a time of 23 minutes 31.92 seconds. Rachel Schmalzle crossed the finish line in 134th place, in 23 minutes 49.86 seconds time. Chantel Hunt was the last of Utah’s runners and ended with a time of 24 minutes 25.06 seconds.

Kepler said he was pleased with his team’s performance.

“This was definitely the biggest and best race of the season,” Kepler said. “This is encouraging considering how big the meet was and being a part of a festival and competing against over 200 runners. I thought our kids responded well. I was impressed that they were all focused and had goals, which they worked extremely hard to achieve. I think we all ran a good race. TCU nipped us by a few points, but we have a better idea of where we stand in the conference and what we will have to do finish in the upper half of our division. It was a positive step for us and comes at a great time as we head into the conference championships in two weeks.”

Utah does not have a race next weekend and will use the time to prepare for the Mountain West Conference Championships on Oct. 31 at BYU.

[email protected]