The University of Utah women’s cross-country team took fifth place during the NCAA Mountain Region Championship. The Utes hosted the meet at the Rose Park Golf Course early Friday morning. The Utes, who were ranked no. 9 heading into the meet, were led by redshirt junior Poppy Tank.
Head coach Kyle Kepler was happy with the outcome of the event for the Utes, especially given the importance of the day. This was the first time the Utes hosted the NCAA Mountain Region Championship, and finishing middle of the pack against the stacked competition was just what the Utes needed.
“I think overall from a team perspective I thought we ran really well, especially up front. The trio of Poppy and Sarah [Feeny] and Bella [Williams] did their thing and most likely ran us into the NCAA Championships,” Kepler said.
While the team didn’t start the race out the way the coaching staff would have hoped, the team still had a good turnout.
“I thought the race went out really fast and our kids started out further up than we wanted them to be, but they dealt with it and handled it well. We certainly would have liked to have placed a little bit higher, but 6 teams ranked in the top 16 in the country is tough competition.”
Kepler is hopeful that the Utes will be able to compete in nationals following their successful season and the results they gathered on Friday. He said that they’ll need to be prepared, however, because nationals are a completely different race that’s twice as big. He said that it’s a chance for them to go down as the best team in Utah history, and that’s the goal heading into the future.
The top three runners for the Utes were Tank, who finished in 20:19.4 earning 12th place, Feeny, who finished 13th with a time of 20:2.2, and Williams, who rounded out the top 20, finishing in 17th with a time of 20:27.1. These three earned all-region honors for finishing in the top 25.
It’s been a very successful year for the team as a whole, as Williams mentioned after the meet.
“Its been a great season honestly, certainly not just in terms of results, but also with how much fun it is and how the team has come together, I have not had as good a time as this season,” Williams said. “The results have come because of how well we’ve bonded and how well we’ve trained and how relaxed and happy we’ve been. I couldn’t have asked for a better season.”
The great camaraderie found within the team is something that many teammates have mentioned, and their chemistry has certainly helped them reach this point in their season. The hopeful Utes now wait to hear from the NCAA whether they will be competing in Nationals. Regardless of whether or not they do, no one can deny that this has been a terrific season for them, potentially the greatest the program has ever seen.