Utah Cross Country Look to Defend First Place Finish at CSI Classic


By Brayden Ramsay, Sports Writer


The University of Utah Cross Country team started the 2019 season with a bang last week at the UVU Invitational, taking third place in the competition.

Three of Utah’s freshman — Grace Burnett, Karli Branch and Ellie Lundgreen — became the highlight of the meet, exceeding expectations in their collegiate debuts. Burnett led the way in the 5k race finishing in seventh place with a time of 19:10.3. Branch and Lundgreen weren’t far behind, finishing in 11th and 12th place respectively. Branch finished the race in 19:13.5 while Lundgreen finished in 19:14.8.

Post-meet on Saturday, Head Coach Kyle Kepler said, “I was really pleased with our effort. I thought we ran hard, competed well, ran smart and obviously we held out our top kids but our three true freshmen led us and that was really phenomenal to see,” Kepler said. “I’m really proud of those gals, they ran really hard on a fairly challenging course that kind of keeps you going up or down the whole time so I thought for their first college experience they started out steady and just keep moving up the whole way, and I feel really good about those three and how they competed.”

After their third-place finish at the UVU Invitational, the Utes will now look ahead to the CSI Classic.

Last season, the Utes topped the leaderboard in the first CSI Classic since 1999. College of Southern Idaho, Eastern Oregon, Northwest Nazarene and Weber State were the opposing competition during the meet. This year, Utah will take part again in the CSI Classic hoping for a similar result in the second week of the regular season.

In last week’s meet at Utah Valley, Utah raced Branch, Burnett, Lundgreen, Anna Busatto, Ashley Licata, Astrid Lindgren, Brooke Manson, Kaitlyn Mercer and Jade Mulvey. Heading into Twin Falls, it isn’t likely that you will see this same lineup of runners, but with the team performing well, don’t be surprised if the Utes stick to something close to this.

For the Utes, keep your eyes on veterans Sarah Feeny and Poppy Tank. It is still unclear if they will be racing at CSI, but if so, these two will be among the top leaders for Utah this season. Feeny will be competing again after a twenty-fifth-place finish at the NCAA Mountain Regionals in 2018, and Tank will be returning from a redshirt season looking to make a mark for Utah Cross Country in 2019.

In a season preview by Utah Athletics, Kepler said, “We think we have a pretty darn good group of returners headlined by Sarah Feeny and Poppy Tank, but right behind them is junior Bella Williams, sophomore Cara Woolnough and sophomore Scarlet Dale,” Kepler continued. “After that I think we have some pretty good depth this year, you know I’ve mentioned Sarah Newton, our 800-meter middle-distance star on the track, who had a great spring and set a lifetime best and third-best time in school history so we’ll be relying on her to stretch herself out a bit in her second year of cross country.”

In the CSI Classic, Madison Flippence will be one to watch for from the College of Southern Idaho. The Utah native took part in most competitions last season for the Golden Eagles as a freshman and is looking to help lead the team once again this year.

The CSI Classic will take place on Friday, Sept. 6 in Twin Falls, Idaho.


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