Cross Country and Track and Field Make History in 2020 Season


By Ryker Jackson, Sports Writer


The University of Utah cross country team recently finished their best season in school history, placing highly in the Pac-12 Championships as well as nationally. Now, with the start of the track and field season, many of the same student athletes will compete in similar sports, and working to continue improving.

“What a year,” head coach Kyle Kepler said. “It was a 103-day season and that’s the way you like it. That means you are at the NCAA Championships, and it was just a thrill the whole season that was full of some amazing accomplishments. We had a ton of gals grow, and not just the seven that got to race at the NCAA Championships, but all up and down the entire lineup and roster. As far as the season recap goes its simple, this was the best season in the history of Utah women’s cross country. There’s no denying that and it was just an awful lot of fun to be a part of.”

The Utes beat 10 ranked teams at the Joe Piane Invitational, boosting the team to No. 6 in the nation, and sparked a race to the best finish in program history. The Utes continued, beating eight ranked opponents at the Nuttycombe Invitational and further solidifying their place among the nation’s best. This carried over into the Pac-12 Championships, where Poppy Tank, Sarah Feeny and Bella Williams all finished within the top 10 and gave the Utes third place at the event.

“It was a huge step forward for the program,” Kepler continued when asked about the team’s finish at the NCAA Championships. “It was our third time in five years that we have competed in the NCAA Championships. It was one of those situations where we are pleased, but we are not satisfied. They still want more and they still think they can achieve more.”

“I think we have completely raised the bar. It’s not just getting to the NCAA Championships, but it’s a top-20 or top-10 finish.”

Kepler’s year is not finished with the conclusion of the cross country season. He is also the coach of the track and field team and is anxious to see that program excel as well.

“You really have to switch gears with track and field, it’s a totally different surface and a totally different atmosphere. For the group as a whole it’s about utilizing the momentum we gained from cross country and trying to seize that. As individual as track and field can be, its important to work together and support each other. Just trying to develop, improve, and get better.”

“We’re focusing on competing and getting into the groove,” senior Caitlin Faust said. “The mental aspect is the hardest. Getting used to racing a lot and being mentally sharp for that, it can take a bit of adjustment for that.” She said that while everyone on the team is very physically ready and in good shape, it is usually harder at the start of the season to get prepared mentally and to be prepared for large amounts of racing and balancing different responsibilities.

Thus far into the season, track and field has had a couple of meets, and much like during the cross country season, records have already been broken, and it looks to be a spectacular year for the team.

The Utes last competed in the Jackson Open in Boise, Idaho on Saturday. It was an impressive showing, with sophomore Taylor Watson breaking the school record for the 60-meter dash. Junior Whitney Hessler and Caitlin Faust competed in the 600-meter race. Hessler took second with a time of 1:33.16, while Faust took third with a time of 1:34.25.

“Another excellent day of performances,” Kepler said of the event. “Winning events, a school record, all-time top performances in school history and PRs always make up a successful meet. Now we have about a month without competition due to the holiday break. We will need to continue to work hard while enjoying some time away for the holidays. We have a very motivated group of women so I don’t expect anything less than for them to be ready to go when we return with a much larger group in mid-January. Both December meets have added up to a great start to the indoor season so kudos to these gals and coach Colwell for their effort.”

With such a great start, its no surprise that expectations are high, and players and coaches alike are hopeful. It was a historic season for the Utes in cross country, and if current indicators are any preview of what the future holds, we may well be looking toward a historic season in track and field as well.


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