Utah Cross Country Takes Second at Pac-12 Championships


University of Utah junior Astrid Lindgren (27) 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 traveled to Riverside, California for the Pac-12 Championships on Friday morning. It was an incredible day for Utah as they tied Colorado for first with 66 points. After losing the tiebreaker, the Utes finished second.

It has been a great season for Utah cross country up to this point. They won the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 23. The Utes also placed eighth overall among an incredibly stacked field at the Nuttycombe Invitational two weeks ago. These performances earned Utah a No. 10 ranking in the most recent national Coaches Poll.

The Pac-12 Championships are no easy task with half the conference being ranked alongside Utah. These opponents include No. 9 Stanford, No. 11 Colorado, No. 13 Oregon, No. 19 Washington and No. 30 Oregon State.

Utah head coach Kyle Kepler sent 10 runners to the Pac-12 Championships and all 10 of them set new personal records. The Utes were once again led by senior Emily Venters, who finished second overall with a time of 19:16.7, just seconds behind first. Venters continued her fantastic 2022 season on Friday, previously having won the Roy Griak Invitational and finishing sixth at the Nuttycombe Invitational.

“In our sport we call it a low stick. Someone who is usually a top runner, but not only a top runner, but they’re one of the best runners in the entire race,” Kepler said about Venters this season. “She’s our highest finisher ever, here is an individual at the Pac-12 meet … She’s really come into her own. She’s had to come back and persevere after some challenging times in her career with injuries and different things. She’s back running at a high level.”

Another of Utah’s many standout performers at the Pac-12 Championships was Simone Plourde. Plourde, a junior from Montreal, Canada, shattered her previous 6k personal record of 20:17.1. She crossed the finish line on Friday with a time of 19:29.7, placing her fifth overall for the race. Plourde gained 11 spots in the final two kilometers of the race, vaulting her to a top-five finish.

Also coming up big for the Utes were Ariel Keklak and Keelah Barger, who finished 17th and 19th respectively. Keklak finished with a time of 19:46.7 and Barger finished with a time of 19:48.1. Morgan Jensen was not far behind, coming in at 19:58.2, earning her 23rd overall. This time for Jensen is almost a full minute below her previous 6k personal record.

“It’s a team effort and that’s what we talked about. No matter what happens, whether we do something amazing or we don’t have a great day, it’s all done together. It’s all done as a team,” Kepler said.

This result for Utah is tied with last year’s team for their best ever performance at the Pac-12 Championships. In 2021, the Utes finished second at the Pac-12 championships, being led by Emily Venters’ third-place finish.

Next up for the Utes cross country team is the NCAA Mountain Regionals in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The regional will be on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. The Mountain Region might just be the toughest region in the country this year, with three of the top five teams in the national rankings coming from this region. Overall, seven teams from the Mountain Region are nationally ranked.


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