Utah Cross Country Takes First Place at Roy Griak Invitational


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 Isaac Dunaway, Sports Writer


The University of Utah cross country team would not be slowed by the rain and wind in St. Paul, as they took first place in the Roy Griak Invitational. This was the second race this season for the Utes after running at the UVU Invitational back on Sept. 1.

There was some serious competition, with No. 13 Wisconsin, No. 14 Colorado State, No. 23 Michigan State, No. 25 Ohio State, No. 26 Iowa State, No. 29 Cal Baptist and others racing at the event. The weather was rainy and windy throughout the day, making the course even tougher. Despite the tough field, Utah won the competition both individually and as a team. 

“We were tough, not because we had to be, but because we wanted to be,” said head coach Kyle Kepler after the invitational. “I give all of them credit. They knew it was raining and the wind picked up. It’s a hilly course. They just decided that they were going to be tough today. We’re not 100%. We got some kids recovering from illnesses. We got a minor injury thing going on with another gal … We’re just really impressed.”

The No. 19 ranked Utes were led by senior Emily Venters, who took first overall out of over 200 racers. She won the 6k with a time of 20:33.2. Venters is in her second year at Utah after previously competing with Boise State and Colorado.

“Really impressed with the way she ran,” Kepler said. “The later stages of the race when she decided to take over, she took over. She put the pedal down and didn’t give the gal behind her a chance to stay with her. I think that’s her first ever collegiate cross country win. It’s certainly our first victory individually and as a team here at the Roy Griak Invitational. Kind of knocked out two stones, two big milestones with one race.”

Keelah Barger was not far behind, finishing with a time of 20:46.5, taking fourth at the event. Barger, similar to Venters, is a senior running her second cross country season at the U after transferring from Arizona.

Next up for the Utes was senior Ariel Keklak, who came in 17th overall with a time of 21:18.0. This marks her best 6k finish at the Division I level. Keklak is another transfer, having previously spent time at both Johns Hopkins and Wake Forest. Junior Simone Plourde came in 29th with a time of 21:37.4.

Freshmen Kylie Hartnett and Erin Vringer were the only two freshmen out of 11 runners Utah sent to the Invitational. Vringer finished with a time of 21:43.2, placing her 34th in her collegiate debut race. Hartnett made her debut earlier this season at the UVU Invitational. Her and junior Maddie Reed are the only two Utes to participate in both competitions so far this season.

The Utes come home from Minnesota with three weeks to prepare for their next race where they will travel back to Verona, Wisconsin for the Nuttycombe Invitational on Oct. 14. 


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