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Having already made some program history, Utah’s cross country team heads to Pac-12 championships with confidence

Utah's Sarah Feeny will be among the Utes participating in the Pac-12 Track and Field Championship.

Utah’s Sarah Feeny will be among the Utes participating in the Pac-12 Track and Field Championship. | Utah Athletics

SALT LAKE CITY — Heading into the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships on Friday, the Utah cross country program has already made history this season.

Earlier in October, the Utes took home the top prize at the Joe Piane Invitational at Notre Dame, beating Colorado, who was at that time the top-ranked team in the country. That win vaulted Utah to No. 6 in the country, which was the highest ranking in program history.

Since then, Utah has dropped to No. 16 after finishing third at SUU, 11th at the Nuttycombe Invitational at Wisconsin and third at the Utah Open, but it is still the highest the Utes have ever been ranked heading into the Pac-12 championships

“Overall, we’ve been great. Highest program ranking ever in the history of the program. We’re still ranked 16th and that’s still higher than any ranking we’ve had previously. I think overall, we’re rolling and feeling good,” head coach Kyle Kepler said.

Utah has found success this season by running as a group and having runners finish seconds apart. In the upset win at Notre Dame, no Utes finished in the top 10 individually. Instead, Utah’s scoring runners placed 11th, 16th, 19th, 27thand 37th, good for 110 points — coming in at first, ahead of Colorado’s 116 points.

“The thing we talked about going into Notre Dame and earlier in the season was, ‘Let’s just run the race how we’ve been practicing. We practiced in groups that run well together and maintaining that contact within the groups has been important,” Kepler said. “When your whole group is finishing within 15, 20, 25 seconds of each other, at least the scoring runners, that’s usually a pretty good sign that you’re having a pretty good meet.”

Another big difference this year is that the team is relatively healthy and that the group, which was relatively young last year, has a year together under their belt. Also helping is that a lot of the group also competed in track and field for the team.

“We had a lot of success in track season and I think that’s just kind of rolled into cross country,” senior Sarah Feeny said.

The Pac-12 meet will happen just over a week after the one-year anniversary of the murder of track and field athlete Lauren McCluskey.

Kepler said that there has been an “individual approach” while remembering the anniversary.

“It’s been an individual approach. We haven’t tried to have anything be mandatory or have a certain way to approach that anniversary. I think that situation and any situation like that is always individual to each person and how to deal with it,” Kepler said. “We’ve tried to provide things, provide opportunities, but certainly not tried to force anybody’s hand.”

Feeny has been remembering McCluskey in her own way.

“At this point, we’re all just mourning, handling it in our own way — the way that’s best for us. It’s just been important to …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

      

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