Tank Leads Utah Cross Country in Strong Showing at Pac-12 Championships
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – The Utah cross country team had a strong showing on a cold blustering and at times rainy on Friday at Chambers Creek Park as senior Poppy Tank once again led the Women of Utah with a sixth-place finish at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships while the Utes finished in fifth as a team.
"I think everyone ran their best races of the year," said head coach Kyle Kepler. "Poppy finished sixth again and got first-team all-conference for the second time, and there aren't a lot of those. It was just a heck of a run. I know she didn't feel perfect yesterday, but I thought she ran a heck of a race to hold on do a great job for us. She was seventh heading into the final stretch and was able to pass one more girl to get every point she could for the team and get that spot in the NCAA Championships, which we think she's done."
Just shy of her personal best, Tank once again garnered a top-10 finish at the Pac-12 Championships on Friday – clocking in at 19:33.80. The Plymouth, England, native did not let up all race and ran with the front pack throughout the 6k course.
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"Morgan was a top-40 finisher in this league, and for a freshman that is a heck of a run. Sophie ran hard and led us for most of the race. Even though she didn't finish where she wanted to, she was still one of our scorers. Natalie and Sara did a great job like they have all year and it was great to see Karli have a breakout race at the end of the season after struggling a little bit earlier in the year."
Freshman Morgan Jensen was once again the second Ute to cross the finish line behind Tank as the Sandy, Utah, product narrowly edged her previous PR in the 6k with a time of 20:49.70. Starting with Jensen, the next five Utah runners all finished with new personal bests.
Sarah Newton crossed shortly after Jensen, crushing her previous PR by nearly 20 seconds at 20:55.30 for her best finish at the Pac-12 Championships and any 6k race (42nd). Sophie Ryan also ran a great race, beating out previous personal best by over 10 second with a mark of 21:08.40. Natalie Platil was seconds behind Ryan and wrapped up the five scoring runners for Utah clocking in at 21:11.90 to destroy her PR time set two weeks ago in Las Vegas (21:45.4).
Karli Branch ran her best collegiate race to date and nearly bested her previous 6k (22:21.9) PR by a full minute, finishing at 21:33.60. Sara Leonard also had a great showing as the junior polished off nearly 50 seconds from her previous record when she crossed the finish line at 21:47.20. Kennedy Powell (21:52.50) and Astrid Lindgren (22:26.80) rounded out the runners for Utah.
"I am just pleased with the efforts there. Those kids came in and ran their guts out. They were all in and committed to each other. They did what good programs do, even in a year where maybe we aren't our best, they still fight to finish as high as we can. Those guys will get a little breather over the weekend, cheer on Poppy at the NCAA Championships and then that next weekend we head to USC with a big group and will be ready to go."
The Utes will now wait to see if their name is called on the NCAA Division I Cross Country Selection Show this Sunday, March 7, at 11 a.m. (MT) – which will air on NCAA.com.