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Strong Season Continues for No. 10 Cross Country with Runner-Up Finish at Pre-Nationals

Oct 15, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The 10th-ranked Utah cross country team's strong season continued Friday morning against a loaded field at the FSU Invite/Pre-Nationals meet as it navigated Apalachee Regional Park, host site of the 2021 NCAA Cross Country Championships, and took second overall in the women's 6k race on the heels of Bella Williams and Emily Venters.
"Another great day!" head coach Kyle Kepler noted postrace. "The gals showed up and ran very well. I thought that we handled the challenge of the course well. Incredible facility. Congratulations to Coach Braman and the staff here at Florida State. It is an absolutely fantastic course, and I know our gals were excited to run. Certainly, hope to be back here in November to run."
Williams did a great job throughout the race, maneuvering herself throughout the pack and jumped 19 spots before being the first Ute to cross the finish line at 20:11.6 for 12th. Venters, who had a great showing at the Dellinger Invite after not competing in a cross country race since nationals in 2018, stayed with top-6 for a majority of the race and at one point leading the pack at the 4k mark before finishing nearly side-by-side with Williams for 13th overall (20:11.9).
"I thought our gals did a great job, followed the race place as perfectly as they could and moved up through the field in the later stages of the race. If you look at the chart from the timing mats throughout the race, we just slowly kept progressing and kind of exactly what we were hoping to do."
Simone Plourde checked in with a mark of 20:30.3 in the 6k race and finished 34th overall while Ariel Keklak registered a time of 20:35.8 for 42nd. Cara Woolnough came in 48th overall to round out the list of scorers for the Women of Utah with a time of 20:39.3.
Keelah Barger (21:02.1), Lisha van Onselen (21.44.9 and Lauren Peterson (22:12.7) closed out the group of competing Utes on Friday at Apalachee Regional Park.
"A lot of race savvy with this group. Really impressed. A lot of race savvy with this group and a lot of belief in each other and in themselves. That's exciting in a meet like this. You know, we still got work to do. We have to get ourselves freshened up. We obviously have championships season starting up in two weeks and we'll certainly be ready for that with this group."

In the Women's Open 6k race, Utah's second group took fifth led by Sophie Ryan's PR time of 21:02.9 – which was 20 seconds better than her previous mark set back at the Dellinger Invite. Morgan Jensen was the next Ute to cross the finish line, posting a time of 21:56.6. Brooke Manson followed with a time of 21:10.6 after the junior moved up 28 spots.
Hannah Butler and Claire Rusovick were just .3 seconds from each other with Butler finishing at 22:36.5 while Rusovick checked in at 22:36.8 with Karli Branch (23:04.2) rounding out Utah's racers.
The Utes now return home to first host the annual Utah Open at Sunnyside Park on Thursday, Oct. 21, at 1 p.m. (MT) before kicking off postseason play with the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships, which they will host for the first time ever on Friday, Oct. 29, at the Regional Athletic Complex. The men's race is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. with the men's 8k race followed by the women's 6k race at 11 a.m. on Pac-12 Networks. For more information about the meet, click here.