Utah Cross Country Finishes Second in Pac-12 Championships


Event signage during the Women’s 5K run at the Utah Open in an NCAA Cross Country Meet at Sunnyside Park in Salt Lake City, UT on Friday October 25, 2019.(Photo by Curtis Lin | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Blake Wittwer


On Friday afternoon, the University of Utah cross country team looked scary good as they rolled to a second-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships. This was the highest ever for Utah in program history at the Pac-12 championship. This incredible performance was spearheaded by Emily Venters’ third-place finish.

The Utes have already had an impressive season as they came into the match ranked 8th. The previous best performance from the Utes was in 2017 when the team finished third overall with a 5th place finish in the conference championships. The former best individual performance was from Grayson Murphy with a 5th place finish back in 2017.

This incredible runner-up performance was not only thanks to the third-place finish from Venters but due to the fact that all five scorers placed in the top 16. Utah had runners finish in 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th and 16th for a total of 67 points.

Individual Performances

It would only be fair to recognize Venters first as her record finish led the Utes on this spectacular day. At one point, Venters led the race outright at the 4k split with a time of 13:47.6. The final result was not much worse as Venters finished in 3rd with a final time of 20:40.7.

Second for the Utes, Cara Woolnough finished 7th overall after overtaking a couple of runners in the final 800m. Her final time of 20:55.0 was her second-best at the Pac-12 Championships.

Simone Plourde kicked in the afterburners during the final two kilometers to pass seven runners en route to an 11th place finish. Plourde’s final time was 21.11.0 in her first Pac-12 Championship.

Next for the Utes, Bella Williams finished in 15th place with a time of 21.11.0. Incredibly, Keelah Barger finished with an identical time in 16th after jumping 20 spots. Barger was in 36th after the first split and climbed seven spots for 29th after the next. Finishing 16th was no small feat considering the tough start.

Rounding out the team, Morgan Jensen and Lisha van Onselen placed in 40th and 43rd respectively. Jensen posted a final time of 21.58.8 and van Onselen ran a 22.01.7

Not far behind, Ariel Keklak and Lauren Peterson came in 47th and 49th place. Their final times were 22:16.2 and 22.21.5 respectively.

Coach’s Thoughts

“I am really proud of how we performed today,” said Coach Kyle Kepler. “I thought our kids came out. You know sometimes when you are home there is more pressure than when you are on the road. I thought we did what we needed to do, we came and challenged for the win. We talked about that, and it was certainly part of our goals. This team has believed in each other and stayed together all year long. We’ve had a little bit of a mix in our scoring 5 all year long. And I mean 5 in the top 16 and you don’t win? What do you do, you know? Congratulations to Colorado, they ran a hell of a race, and you move on to regionals.”

Up Next

The next meet for the cross-country team is the NCAA Regionals Tournament. It will start around 11 a.m. MDT at Timpanogos golf course and BYU will be the host. Hopefully, the team can keep the momentum heading into this matchup as the competition will certainly be stiff. After a historic day, it is hard to imagine the team could do much more, but the sky certainly seems to be the limit.


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