Shorthanded team places 19th in NCAA regionials

By By Bubba Brown, Staff Writer

By Bubba Brown, Staff Writer

In the last race of the season, the Utah cross-country team finished 19th Saturday at the 2009 NCAA Mountain Region Championships.

Freshman Amanda Mergaert led the Utes for the fourth race in a row with a time of 22 minutes 29.5 seconds.

The Utes ran only five runners because of injury, something that has plagued them all season.

“It was a disappointing day for our team,” said head coach Kyle Kepler. “I thought they ran hard, but our undermanned squad couldn’t overcome some illness and injuries at the end of the season. We were too young and inexperienced of a team to overcome those issues. We will take next week to get some rest and evaluate the things we need to do to avoid these setbacks in the future. We have a talented, young bunch that will rebound from this and be better for it in years to come. We’re going to find out how resilient this group is as they move forward to the track season. We have to put this day behind us and look forward to better ones that lie ahead, and we will.”

Freshman Jenny McCune finished second for the Utes with a time of 23 minutes 13.5 seconds for 92nd place. Senior Sydney Osmun closed out her college career at 119th with a time of 24 minutes 16.4 seconds. Two freshmen, Rachel Schmalzle and Hilary Troutner rounded out Utah’s runners. Schmalzle finished in 125th place with a time of 24 minutes 38.2 seconds, and Troutner ended the day with a time of 24 minutes 57.5 seconds for 129th place.

Although the Utes were unable to win a race all season, Kepler said they have made progress throughout the season.

“I think our squad learned a ton about running at this level this season,” Kepler said. “Everyone in Division I is talented. Everyone is a state champion, all-state or a state qualifier. This level is all about working as a team and having the patience to grow steadily. Trying to skip steps at this level will cost you dearly. I know our team understands this and is doing their best to learn consistency in and out of training. As they mature, this process will become easier and their training will be more optimal regardless of what level they are at. Most importantly, we will get to do it together, which will make the future success even more enjoyable.”

[email protected]