Tank Qualifies for NCAA Cross Country Championships
INDIANAPOLIS – Utah cross country senior Poppy Tank is headed to Stillwater, Okla., to compete as an individual at the 2020 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships on March 15 the governing body announced Sunday afternoon. The 6k race will air on ESPNU for the first time since 2009.
Oklahoma State will play host to the championship meet at the OSU Cross Country Course four months after its scheduled date due to Covid-19.
"Very excited and proud of Poppy," head coach Kyle Kepler said. "She returns to the NCAA Championships after a second-consecutive First-Team All-Pac-12 performance. She's running as well and consistent as she ever has in her career. Her goals for next Monday are very high and certainly well within reach reflected by the way she's run against some of the best competition in the country this year."
This will serve as Tank's third appearance at the NCAA Cross Country Championships and first as an individual after being named to the field of 38 racers not part of the 31 qualifying teams Sunday. Tank was a member of the Utah squad that had the best finish in program history (16th) in 2019 as well as in 2016. She was Utah's top finisher in Terre Haute that year, coming in with a time of 21:05.8 for 74th.
Tank had a solid 2020 season despite the season being moved to the spring. In three races, the Plymouth, England, native posted a trio of top-10 finishes – including a sixth-place finish at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships for the second-straight year. With her top-10 finish at the conference championships meet, Tank earned a spot on the All-Pac-12 First-Team as well for the second-consecutive season.
In Utah's opener at the Silver State Collegiate Challenge, she took eighth with a mark of 20:15.7 after competing for the first time in over a year. Two weeks later, Tank nearly shaved off 20 seconds at the Battle Born Collegiate Challenge with a time of 19:58.2 to grab fifth. As she did in the previous meet, Tank ran a brilliant race to cut 25 seconds off her time at the conference championships and crossed the finish line at 19:33.8 for sixth place.
Tank becomes the 10th Ute to compete at the NCAA Championships as an individual and the first since Rebekah Winterton in 2013, who finished in 89th that year with a time of 21:15.70. Since the women's race moved to a 6k course, Kepler has guided both of Utah's top-15 finishers in program history in Grayson Murphy and Amanda Mergaert. Both garnered All-America honors with Murphy finishing eighth at the championship meet in 2017 while Mergaert qualified three-consecutive years (2010-12) culminating with a 14th-place finish in 2012.