Utah Storms Joe Piane Invitational and Takes Down No. 1


University of Utah freshman distance runner Sara Leonard (15), junior distance runner Jade Mulvey (10), and sophomore distance runner Ashley Licata (13) ran in the Women’s 3000 meter run in an NCAA Track and Field meet at the McCarthey Family Track and Field Complex in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday April 13, 2019.(Photo by Curtis Lin | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brayden Ramsay, Sports Writer


The University of Utah cross country team upset the first ranked Colorado Buffaloes and nine other nationally ranked teams at the Joe Piane Invitational on Friday. This win comes after a month away from racing.

South Bend, Indiana and the University of Notre Dame played host to the Joe Piane Invitational where the Utes finished as the leader for the first time this season. Utah’s Poppy Tank, Sarah Feeny, Scarlet Dale, Bella Williams, Cara Woolnough and Sarah Newton would make their season debut in this invitational, leading the Utes to their first place finish.

The Utes took part in two races, the first being the Blue Race and the second being the Women’s Open 5K Race. Feeny, Tank, Dale, Williams, Woolnough, Newton, Trina Moreno and Emma Christensen ran the Blue Race. Karli Branch, Grace Burnett, Ellie Lundgreen, Brooke Manson, Jade Mulvey, Kennedy Powell and Sara Leonard took part in the Women’s Open 5K Race.

Utah’s runners placed in 11, 16, 19, 27 and 37 to outscore the first ranked Buffaloes by six points. The Utes not only beat nine nationally ranked teams, but five within the top 10 in the nation.

“Honestly, it was very impressive and it’s awesome to win any meet, let alone a meet of this stature,” said Kyle Kepler, head coach to Utah Athletics. “Our kids got out, they were impressive, really ran it well and hung on to bring home the victory.”

Five of Utah’s runners scored within the top 40 in a race that featured over 160 racers. Six of Utah’s athletes also gained new personal records after their performances. Williams led the charge finishing in 11th place with a time of 16:31.69, Tank came in 16th place in 16:41.53 and Feeny wasn’t far behind finishing in 19th place in 16:42.50. Woolnough also got her personal record finishing in 27th in 16:51.58 and Dale rounded out the top five Utes crossing the finish line in 37th place with a time of 16:57.79. Moreno (17:28.45), Christensen (17:36.84) and Newton (18:01.81) also crossed the finish line for the Utes.

The Women’s Open 5K Race also featured some great performances from Utah’s cross country team. Powell and Lundgreen finished in 18th and 19th place with times of 17:53.20 and 17:53.34, respectively. Manson finished in 18:07.46 to come in 29th place, Burnett crossed the finish line in 18:11.86 in 33rd place, Leonard finished in 38th (18:21.31), Mulvey captured forty-third (18:30.13) and Branch finished in 60th to round out the group in 18:49.97.

All seven of Utah’s runners finished in the top 60 in a race which featured over 130 athletes. Each of these runners — except for Leonard — earned a new personal record in the Women’s Open 5K Race.

Utah was the only unranked team heading into the weekend and ended up topping the group. The Utes edged No. 1 Colorado, No. 2 New Mexico, No. 6 Washington, No. 8 North Carolina State, No. 9 Wisconsin, No. 12 Notre Dame, No. 14 Ole Miss, No. 17 Florida State and No. 29 Minnesota.

“Certainly, I am very proud of this group,” Kepler said to Utah Athletics. “They have believed in each other all season, they’ve come together and it’s just been a pleasure to coach these gals. There is still a lot of season in front of us, but we’re certainly very excited and it’s a great way to start by winning a meet like this one.”

Cedar City, Utah and the Southern Utah Thunderbirds will play host to the Color Country Invitational on Oct. 12. Catch the Utes back in action next weekend by following along on twitter (@utah_trackfield), Facebook (UtahTrackXC) and Instagram (@UtahTrackXC).

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