Utes finish weekend with successful outing at the Weber State Invitational.
Event will take place at the University of Texas next weekend
Utes enter week with highest ranking in the program's history.
Destanae Howerton-Davis breaks her own record in the discus.
Amanda Mergaert finishes third in the 1500m.
Kyle Kepler is heading into his ninth year as the head coach of the Utah women's cross country and track & field programs. Kepler's organization and attention to detail have allowed him to develop a solid foundation and create a competitive program that has steadily improved each year. In 15 years of coaching at the NCAA Division I level, Kepler has seen 33 conference champions, 149 all-conference athletes, 60 NCAA qualifiers, 31 NCAA finals qualifiers, and 12 NCAA All-Americans. Kepler's influence on his student-athletes is not just visible on the track, but also in the classroom. The women's cross country squad has been honored by USTFCCCA as an All-Academic team seven out of the previous eight seasons with the 2012 team posting a GPA of 3.317. The track and field team has been a USTFCCCA All-Academic team during six of the previous eight seasons with the 2013 team posting a GPA of 3.171.
During the 2013 cross country season, Kepler helped junior Rebekah Winterton to her first NCAA Cross Country Championships bid. Winterton finished 89th overall, marking the fifth time under Kepler's reign that a Utah cross country student-athlete has finished in the top 90 at the NCAA Championships. The Utes also finished eighth as a team at both the Pac-12 Conference and Mountain Regional Championships.
Under Kepler's direction, the 2012 women's cross country team posted a monumental season. Senior Amanda Mergaert qualified for her third-consecutive NCAA Championships and became the first All-American from Utah in 25 years. Kepler also coached the Utes to a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Mountain Regional, which marked the second-highest finish for the Utes in school history, as well as the first time in program history that Utah defeated in-state rival BYU at the regional meet.
The team continued its success into the indoor season. At the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships, the Utes earned 10th place, and were again led by the resilience of Mergaert, who capped off the outdoor season with an All-American fifth-place performance in the mile.
The team continued to succeed as it moved outdoors and into Pac-12 Conference competition. In the second season as a member of the conference, Utah captured 11th place and qualified 10 athletes for the NCAA West Preliminary Round. The season again concluded with Mergaert eclipsing her own school record to earn All-American honors. Off the track, Kepler saw 19 student-athletes receive Pac-12 academic honors.
In the inaugural Pac-12 season, Kepler led Utah into the most elite cross country conference in the nation. During the year, the Utes outperformed expectations and finished eighth at the NCAA Mountain Regionals. Kepler also coached Mergaert to her second consecutive NCAA qualifying performance, becoming the first Utah cross country athlete to earn All-Pac-12 accolades. Not only did Kepler's attention focus on the athletic sphere, but his persistence for achievement in the classroom helped the Utes earn the second-highest GPA in the conference (3.308).
During the 2012 indoor track and field season, Kepler coached Mergaert to the school's first MPSF individual title in the mile, shattering her own school-record performance with a time of 4:39.29. Kepler also oversaw the development of the distance medley relay, which finished the season ranked 15th and set a new school-record time (11:05.78) for the second consecutive year.
The Utes found a great deal of success in its inaugural Pac-12 outdoor track and field season, which ended in a 10th-place finish with 21 points. Earning the 21 team points were seven different individuals and one relay team. Senior Brianna LeRoy became the first Utah track athlete to earn All-Pac-12 honors with her performance in the high jump. LeRoy went on to qualify for the NCAA Championships, finishing 22nd overall to earn third-team All-America accolades. Kepler also helped Mergaert to a 14th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, earning second-team All-America honors in the 1,500 after breaking the school record and missing the finals by .15 of a second. Kepler coached nine athletes to NCAA qualifier marks (six were first-time qualifiers). The six first-time qualifiers featured one junior, two sophomores and three true freshmen, all of whom finished in the top 50 at the NCAA Championships in their respective events. Mergaert also finished the year meeting the U.S. Olympic Trials `B' qualifying standard.
In the 2010 cross country season, Kepler led a very young Ute squad to a fifth-place finish at the Mountain West Conference Championships. Kepler served as meet director when the Utes hosted the 2010 NCAA West Regional, which received great reviews from critics and coaches from around the region. Under Kepler's guidance, Mergaert took advantage of her home course and ran to a ninth-place finish and qualified for the NCAA Championships, where she finished 45th overall.
The 2011 indoor track and field season saw the Utes finish fifth at the MWC Indoor Championships. Junior Langley Iverson finished second in the high jump at the conference championships to qualify for the NCAA Championships with a mark just shy of a school record. Iverson cleared the six-foot barrier twice throughout the season en-route to a 17th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. The distance medley relay team comprised of Alyssa Abbott, Alyssa Johnson, Lucy Yates, and Mergaert ran a new school-record time of 11:11.71 and earned a second-place finish at the Alex Wilson Invitational. That quartet was 13th in the country and just missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships. Throughout the indoor season, the Utes broke three school records, including the mile three different times by Mergaert.
The success the Utes experienced during the indoor season carried over to the outdoor season where Kepler saw his athletes break three more school records, including the five-kilometer (Abbott), which had not been touched in over 23 years, as well as Angela Kaplar (100 hurdles), and Abbott and Mergaert (1,500). Mergaert qualified for the NCAA Championships and finished 14th in the 1,500. At the Drake Relays, the Utah distance medley relay won the event with a school-record time of 11:17.09. Abbott and Mergaert finished second and third in the 1,500 with Abbott's time (4:19.73) breaking the 30-year-old school record. Mergaert would go on to break that record with her winning performance of 4:16.57 at the NCAA Regional Championships. LeRoy scored in five events (heptathlon, 100 hurdles, long jump, javelin, and high jump) at the conference meet to lead the Utah effort in its final appearance at the MWC Outdoor Championships.
During the 2009 cross country season, Kepler guided one of the youngest teams in the country to a sixth-place finish at the MWC Championships, with two freshmen finishing in the top 30. At the NCAA Mountain Regional meet, four of Utah's five scoring runners were freshmen. Kepler not only coached the young athletes with a high level of performance, but emphasized the importance of academics with five of his cross country athletes achieving academic all-conference honors.
At the MWC Indoor Championships, the Utes finished fourth overall for the second consecutive year. In outdoor track and field, Utah finished sixth overall at the conference meet, but scored 70 or more points for the second-straight year.
At the MWC Indoor Championships, Utah's distance medley team comprised of Mergaert, Chelsey Kaplar, Lucy Yates, and Alyssa Abbott set a new school record and won their first conference title with a time of 11:38.59. The distance medley team finished nearly 11.5 seconds faster than second-place BYU, who had won the event nine of the 10 previous years prior to Utah's victory. Abbott went on to win her first individual conference title in the 3,000 (9:55.54) the next day. As a freshman, Mergaert claimed the runner-up spot in the mile run in a new school record time (4:51.21). Sophomore Iverson claimed all conference honors in the high jump with clearance of 5-8.75 feet that gave her a runner-up finish as well. Sarah Grimm (weight throw) and the 4x400 relay team were third-place finishers and earned all-MWC honors. Utah's DMR ended the season ranked 14th in the country after running a school-record 11:13.77 at the Notre Dame Last Chance qualifying meet.
The outdoor season saw Abbott run to Utah's first-ever Drake Relays championship in the 1,500 with a time of 4:23.48. She was also the conference champion in that event with a time of 4:29.98. Grimm broke the school record in the hammer throw with her toss of 207-1.75 feet at the Mark Faldmo Invitational. Grimm (hammer throw), Kaplar (400 hurdles), Iverson (high jump), and the 4x400 relay earned all-MWC honors. Yates qualified for the NCAA Championships for the first time in her career, where she finished 23rd overall in the 800. Her time (2:06.21) in the preliminary round at the NCAA West Regional Championships set a new Utah school record.
Between indoor and outdoor track and field, Kepler guided his athletes to 16 all-MWC honors. Grimm qualified for the NCAA West Region Championships and was ranked in the top 10 in the nation for the hammer throw during the last half of the season. Kepler saw eight athletes qualify for regionals under the new qualifying system. Twenty athletes from the track and field team also earned academic all-conference honors.
The 2008 season was a banner year for Coach Kepler and the Utes. He coached the cross country team to a third-place finish at the MWC Championships, which is the highest finish in school history. En route to that third-place finish, the Utes defeated defending conference champion Colorado State. The team also had a top-10 finish at the NCAA Regional Meet, placing sixth overall. Abbott (9th) and Chelsea DiGrazia (21st) were named to the NCAA All-Mountain Region team. Abbott advanced to the 2008 NCAA Cross Country Championships where she placed 76th with a time of 21:00.5, missing all-American status by 19 seconds.
The successful momentum transferred into the track and field season as Kepler coached his athletes to 135 new personal bests between the indoor and outdoor seasons. The team finished fifth at the MWC Outdoor Championships. Senior Chelsea Shapard won the 400 hurdles for the third consecutive year, while Grimm and Iverson won the hammer throw and high jump titles, respectively. Seven Utes were named to the all-conference team in four events.
Kepler and his staff coached two athletes (Shapard and Grimm) to the NCAA Track and Field Championships. Shapard went on to qualify and compete at the 2009 USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, finishing 21st overall. Iverson also qualified and competed at the 2009 USA Track and Field Junior National Championships.
In 2007, Kepler coached the cross country team to an improved fifth-place finish at the MWC Championships, including three top-25 finishers. At the NCAA Mountain Region Championships, Abbott finished 24th overall and was named to the NCAA All-Mountain Region team as a sophomore. Kellie Anderson and Lauren Endersen also garnered top-50 finishes at the NCAA Regional Championships.
On the track, Shapard broke her own school record in the 400 hurdles with a time of 58.07 at the Arkansas Twilight. She also went on to win her second-consecutive MWC 400 hurdle title. Shapard was named to the All-West Region Team after a third-place finish at the NCAA West Region Championships. At the NCAA Championships, she advanced to the semifinals and finished 15th overall.
Josefin Berg had a podium finish at the MWC Championships where she was an all-MWC performer after placing third with a hammer throw of 182-3. She qualified for the NCAA West Regional Championships and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Track and Field Championships, where she placed 22nd overall with a throw of 185-10 feet.
The Utes finished sixth in the outdoor MWC Championships and seventh at the indoor MWC Championships.
During the 2006 cross country season, Kepler guided freshman Abbott to a top-25 finish at the MWC Championships (23rd) and a top-50 finish at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships (46th). After only a year under Kepler's coaching, the Utes improved to sixth place in the team standings.
During the track season, Kepler saw seven all-MWC performers between the indoor and outdoor seasons, and coached two MWC outdoor champions: Shapard and Amanda Feigt. Both qualified for regionals along with Abbott, Mandie Rowell and Susan Atwater. Shapard and Feigt were also NCAA qualifiers during the 2007 outdoor season.
Feigt was a USA Track and Field national qualifier in the 400 hurdles where she was a semi-finalist. Abbott was junior national qualifier in the 800.
The 2005 cross country runners also thrived under Kepler's direction. While the Utes finished seventh at the MWC championships, he saw three personal-best performances from his team at the 6-km conference championship meet.
Kepler also guided two athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2006. Vanessa Mortensen qualified in the hammer throw and just missed All-America accolades with a 10th-place finish (190-7 feet), while Feigt was a first-time qualifier in the 400m hurdles (1:00.7). In addition to the four new school marks in 2006, Kepler, a Webster City, Iowa native, also helped his athletes set 144 new personal bests.
When 2006 was all said and done, he saw four of his athletes (Feigt twice, AJ Roby and Mortensen) garner all-conference accolades, upping his career total of all-conference athletes to 80. In addition to the all-conference honors, Kepler mentored another 19 conference champions.
In his first season, Kepler saw three athletes and his 4x100 relay team all set new school marks. Among the top performances in school history were Feigt's 3,880-point performance in the pentathlon, Mortensen's 205-foot throw in the hammer and Roby's 47-3.5 effort in the shot put.
Prior to coming to Utah, Kepler served as Northern Iowa's head men's and women's cross country coach and assistant track and field coach for two seasons.
He was on staff at UNI for a total of seven years, serving as an assistant cross country coach for five years prior to being named head coach in 2003. Kepler was named the Missouri Valley Conference Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003 after leading the Panthers to a MVC title. The Panthers won 12 MVC titles among cross country and indoor and outdoor track during his tenure with the Panthers.
At UNI, he served as the meet manager for the 2003 NCAA Cross Country Championships and Pre-Nationals meet. Kepler was also named the meet director of the annual A. D. Dickinson Relays, one of the largest high school indoor meets in the nation.
Kepler competed at Northern Iowa, taking part in both cross country and track and field for the Panthers and serving as a team captain during the 1997-98 school year. As an athlete, Kepler was a member of five MVC championship teams. He earned all-conference honors nine times during his collegiate career, was a two-time all-region cross country selection and a six-time Academic All-MVC honoree.
Kepler holds both master's and bachelor's degrees from Northern Iowa. He earned his master's degree in physical education in 2004 and graduated with a bachelor's in secondary education (geography) in 1998.