The No. 20 Utah women’s cross country team is preparing for the NCAA Regional Championships on Friday at the Steve and Donna Reeder Cross Country Course in Logan. The six kilometer race will begin at 11 a.m. The 20 team field boasts five nationally ranked teams including the No. 1 Colorado Buffs, No. 6 New Mexico Lobos, No. 18 BYU and No. 29 Airforce.
The top five runners from each team receive a score based on their individual finish position. For example, at the Pac 12 Championship, Grayson Murphy finished in 12th place and that finish gave 12 points to the Utes. The points of the top five runners are added together to give the final team score. Just like golf, cross country meets are about the lowest score, meaning in order to win, the Utes must have their top five close to the top of the pack at the finish line.
“The biggest thing for us this week is just to go back on focusing on us and not worrying so much about everyone else,” said head coach Kyle Kepler in a recent press release for Utah Athletics. “Just making sure we do our thing and keep our top five very close and have our six and seven not too far behind. If we can pack it back up and do what we did a little bit earlier in the year and keep our spread in that 30 to 40 second range, I think we will do just fine.”
In that same release, Kepler commented on the team’s historic run to the NCAA Championships last season.
“This year is this year and last year is last year,” Kepler said. “We have to make sure we do the jobs that we need to do this week and on Friday morning.”
Staying focused shouldn’t be a problem for this Ute squad. They bring a strong mix of experience and youth to Logan. The runners slated to compete on Friday include seniors Giselle Slothboom and Dana Snell, juniors Grayson Murphey and Hannah McInturff, and freshmen Amanda Gehrich, Poppy Tank and Ashley Licata. McInturff.
The Utes enter this week’s regional meet after a somewhat disappointing 5th place finish at the Pac 12 Championships.
“We were a little disappointed with 5th place,” junior Grayson Murphy said. “Going into this week we are all ready to go out and not be comfortable sitting back. We need to start working hard and keep working hard. We have some unfinished business this Friday.”
The stakes are high this week for the Utes. A good showing at regionals will give them the opportunity for the second year in a row to compete at the NCAA Championships. They are projected to finish in third at this week’s meet, but according to Murphy, the goal is to qualify.
“Colorado and New Mexico are ahead of us in the projections, and honestly we don’t need to catch them,” Murphey said. “With our at large points we need to finish fifth or better to qualify, which is definitely within our reach. We don’t need to do anything special, we just need to execute and we will be fine. If anything, we are the team that everyone at the meet is gunning for.”