Utah starts slow, picks up speed in Husky Classic

Rebekah Winterton runs in the Utah Spring Classic last season. — Erin Burns Colby Patterson
Rebekah Winterton competes in the Utah Spring Classic last season. Photo by Erin Burns.

Rebekah Winterton competes in the Utah Spring Classic last season. Photo by Erin Burns.

Over the weekend, the Utah women’s track and field team traveled to Seattle to compete in the Husky Classic, a meet that attracts teams from all over the West Coast.

“I thought our kids really made strong efforts and competed well in a very competitive environment,” said head coach Kyle Kepler. “That’s one of the best meets in the entire country, other than maybe the NCAA championships. We had some really good performances — some high level, national-caliber performances.”

On the first day, Utah got off to a slow start before seeing one of its more experienced runners, Rebekah Winterton, set a personal record in the 5,000-meter run. Winterton beat her previous best by 57 seconds, just missing the school record by three-tenths of a second.

Freshman Alissa Atisme closed out the first day of competition by barely missing her PR in the 200-meter dash with a time of 25.04.

Unlike the previous day, the Utes got off to a good start on day two as freshman Courtney Jost grabbed a ninth-place finish in the long jump with a jump of 17 feet, 8 inches. Jost also placed in the triple jump, finishing in eighth place overall with a jump of 37 feet, 3 inches.

Adding to the team success was senior Stephanie Jolley, who clocked a personal best of 55.21 in the 400-meter invitational race, and Jessica Sams in the open 3,000-meter run with a PR of 10:06.21.

“I wasn’t expecting to run that fast,” Sams said. “It surprised me that I stacked up that well against the rest of the competition even though I was in the slowest heat.”

Despite the positives that came from the weekend, Kepler knows Utah has to remain hungry if it is going to compete with the rest of the conference.

“It’s about consistently doing things right on a daily basis,” Kepler said. “That’s what this sport is all about. It’s not often real pretty. It’s just going out day after day in whatever the conditions are. They just work hard on a daily basis.”

One attribute for which Kepler commends his team is the mentality of the athletes. Kepler said despite the recent change to the Pac-12, the runners who experienced that transition and the ones coming into the program are ready for the challenge.

“We have kids that like to compete,” Kepler said. “We have kids that aren’t afraid to mix it up and get in and compete hard. At this level, you have to be willing to compete and put yourself out there. If you’re not aggressive, someone else is going to be the aggressor.”

Utah will wrap up its regular season Feb. 21 at the Weber State Open in Odgen.

d.bunting@chronicle.utah.edu