The University of Utah cross country team ran at Nevada in the Reno Chase Race this past Friday night, and the Utes finished second of the two teams. Freshman Poppy Tank, a true freshman from Devon, England, surprised herself and her teammates as she took the first overall spot with a time of 22:06.
“I was really nervous right before the race.” Tank said. “I didn’t know what to expect, and races here are much different than races back home, so I wasn’t sure how I would do.”
Count head coach Kyle Kepler as one who wasn’t surprised.
“We have a lot of really good runners on this team,” Kepler said. “This race was a different way to evaluate some of our runners, because we don’t get the chance to do very many of these chase races. Overall, I was pleased with how our girls did. They stuck together and pushed each other, they motivated each other very well. Overall, I think a lot of our runners exceeded any expectations that I or they had about themselves.”
The team had more strong performances from freshmen Jade Mulvey and Nicole Griffiths, who finished in seventh and 12th place, respectively. Mulvey posted a time of 23:14.8, while Griffiths finished with a time of 23:39.6.
“Nicole, I think is one of our runners who has improved significantly,” Kepler said. “She and Jade Mulvey have worked so hard to get where they are right now. They are great athletes, great kids, and we can’t wait to see what they will be able to do in the future for us.”
Finishing up the scoring for the ladies in red were sophomore Megan Spehar and freshman Anna Busatto, who took 15th and 16th place, respectively. Spehar ended the race with a time of 24:21.4, while Busatto posted a time of 24:22.7. Sophomore Caitlin Faust finished 18th overall, while posting a time of 24:35.1.
“Overall I was very pleased with the results.” Kepler went on. “A lot of these girls are younger athletes, and for many this was their first race. You always get nervous taking athletes on the road for the first time, but our girls were excellent. They are very mature, more so than you might think a college freshman would be. They worked really hard and it showed.”
Tank says that in spite of the difficulties involved with training and running, she is enjoying her college experience.
“It can be a little tough at times adjusting to college life. It isn’t easy to stay on top of homework and tests, especially when we train almost everyday for three hours straight. But this team has great coaches and people. One of the reasons I decided to come here to the U was because the coaches were very approachable.”
Next up for the Utes is the Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend on Sept. 30. Notre Dame will be the first big race of the year for the Utes. Kepler said one of the keys to performing well at that race will be to have an aggressive mentality.
“Notre Dame is one of those races where there are going to be 14 of the top 40 teams in the nation there,” Kepler said. “It is a race where we have to start out strong and go hard because there isn’t a lot of margin of error. We hope to be able to duplicate the performance we had at Montana State, where we had four girls finish together. We want to build on our strong performances that we’ve already had this season.”