Cross country: Utah finishes 5th at Pac-12 Championships

Utah Cross Country  Poppy Tank Kamryn Broschinsky

The Utah cross country team competed this past weekend at the Pac-12 championships in Tucson, Ariz. In the heat of the Arizona desert, the Utes finished in fifth place overall.

“It definitely was not the prettiest race we’ve ever run,” said head coach Kyle Kepler. “But I thought our kids did really well in this race. It was a little hotter than maybe we were thinking it would be, and us being a little unfamiliar with the course didn’t help, but overall I was really proud of how our girls raced. They hung tough and fought through everything.”

Junior Grayson Murphy led the team, and she finished 12th overall, which was good enough to land her a spot on the All Pac-12 Second Team. She ended up finishing the six kilometer race with a time of 20:55.2.

“The Pac-12 is one of the most competitive conferences in the country, so it was great to be out there to compete with the best teams in the country,” Murphy said. “I’m proud of the achievement I made, but I also thought I could have done a little better. I went in focused on making the top 10, so I know I still have some room for improvement.”

Murphy says she also looks forward to the region championship in Logan.

“My main goal is to qualify individually if the team doesn’t make it, but our track record is pretty great,” Murphy continued. “We’ve already got four at large bids in the past, which is pretty impressive. I think we have a really good shot at qualifying for the national championship.”

Senior Giselle Slotboom finished in 33rd place, posting a time of 21:34.2. The two true freshmen on this team, Amanda Gehrich and Poppy Tank, finished in 39th and 40th place, respectively. Gerich finished with a time of 21:39.2, while Tank posted a final time of 21:39.5.

“I thought our two, three and four runners all did well — they stuck together and competed really well,” Kepler said. “Even though it was a really tough day for us and difficult for some of our kids, I am really excited for this group. To finish fifth at this event for the second year in a row shows how far we’ve come and how much better we are getting every year.”

Rounding out the team score was junior runner Hannah McInturff, who finished 54th at the event with a final time of 22:06.6.

Colorado, the No. 1 team in the nation, came away with the title after the Buffs had four runners finish in the top 10. No. 4 Washington finished in second place, while No. 11 Stanford took home the third. In fourth was No. 5 Oregon.

The No. 17 Utes will be back in action on Nov. 5 in Logan, Utah, for the regional championships. Kepler has some high expectations for his group as this race comes closer.

“I think we will have something of a home field advantage here,” Kepler said. “We’re glad that it is in Logan the next couple of years, because we are familiar with the course and we don’t have to travel as far. The top two teams will automatically qualify for the NCAA championship race, and there are 13 at-large bids that will also qualify. I think with how far we’ve come the last two seasons, we are in a great position to do really well at this race.”

j.walch@dailyutahchronicle.com