Go Utes!
Go Utes!
Utah Cross Country Heads to Desert for Pac-12 Championships

Amanda Mergaert will lead the Utes at Pac-12 Conference Championships.

Amanda Mergaert will lead the Utes at Pac-12 Conference Championships.

Oct. 25, 2011

SALT LAKE CITY - The University of Utah women's cross country team heads to the desert for its first appearance at the Pac-12 Conference Championships on Saturday. The six-kilometer race is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. MST, and will be held at the Wigwam Golf Resort in Tempe, Ariz.

"We have competed against many of the Pac-12 teams and runners on a regular basis over the last five years, so our team understands the challenge that this league and championship meet will present," Utah head coach Kyle Kepler said. "A Pac-12 school has won eight out of the last 10 NCAA championships and in six of those years the Pac-12 finished first and second places, if you include Colorado. Our goal will be to finish first out of the teams who are not ranked nationally. We aspire to compete at that level in the very near future, but I think to expect that in our first year in the league would not be realistic."

The Utes will be led by a veteran group in senior Alyssa Abbott and junior Amanda Mergaert. Abbott enters the meet with three top-20 finishes this season and adds experience as a 2008 NCAA Championships qualifier. Mergaert has had a strong 2011 season, posting two fourth-place finishes at the Stanford and Chile Pepper Invitationals. Mergaert was a 2010 NCAA Championships qualifier and will add much-needed depth and talent to the Utah squad.

"Abbott and Mergaerts' ability to train together allows them to share the required energy necessary to train at that level," Kepler commented. "It's kind of like NASCAR, where cars draft each other to split the wind resistance. Physically and mentally, they can keep each other going on a daily basis. I expect them to get out well and work their way into the lead group. From there, they will have to cover every move and be mentally tough, especially over the last three-kilometers."



Sophomore Rebekah Winterton and freshman Susannah Hurst will compete for the three and four spots for the Utes. Hurst is having a breakout season, including three top-three finishes this year.

"Our three thru four and the five thru 10 runners have done a better job of training as a group the past two weeks," Kepler said. " Hopefully, we can make that pay off."

Also slated to compete for the Utes will be: Hilary Troutner, Katelyn Stringfellow, AuraLea Fain, Nicole Rietz, and Lauren Mills.

"Ultimately, our expectations will be to run our best race of the year to this point," Kepler stated. "If we do that and don't try too hard, we will be satisfied with the place we are able to finish. We want to continue to build on what we have done so far this season."

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