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No. 8 Cross Country Sets Eyes on Pac-12 Championship Friday

Oct 27, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY – All eyes are set on the eighth-ranked Utah cross country team as it plays host to Pac-12 Championships this Friday, Oct. 29, at the Regional Athletic Complex. The men's race will kick things off at 10 a.m. (MT) on Pac-12 Network while the women are set to start at 11 a.m. with the awards ceremony tentatively starting at Noon.
Friday's meet will be Utah's first time hosting the conference championships race since joining the league in 2011.
Date:  Friday, Oct. 29
Time: Men: 10 a.m. / Women: 11 a.m.
Where: Regional Athletic Complex (Course Map)
MEN: Arizona, Arizona State, California, #3 Colorado, #12 Oregon, #4 Stanford, UCLA, #26 Washington, Washington State
WOMEN: Arizona, Arizona State, California, #4 Colorado, #RV Oregon, #RV Oregon State, #23 Stanford, UCLA, USC, #8 Utah, #18 Washington, Washington State
Meet Central: Click Here
Live Results: Click Here
Fans are encouraged to arrive early and enjoy the Fan Plaza, which will open at 9 a.m. and includes food trucks, games, music and other amenities.
While admission is free for all fans, parking will cost $10 per car inside the Regional Athletic Complex. Cash or credit card is accepted at all parking entrances. Parking for fans can be found by entering either the North or South complex entrances, off of Rose Park Lane. The West Lot on Rose Park Lane is designated for team and staff parking only and requires a parking pass.
Utah will send a veteran group to the starts box on Friday in Keelah Barger, Morgan Jensen, Ariel Keklak, Lauren Peterson, Simone Plourde, Sophie Ryan, Lisha van Onselen, Emily Venters, Bella Williams and Cara Woolnough as it competes at the Pac-12 Championships. This main group for the Utes have had a solid showing this season, winning the Dellinger Invitational and recently taking second at the FSU Invite / Pre-Nats race.
Of the 10, nine ran in the garnet race at the FSU Invite / Pre-Nats race with Jensen running in the open race. In addition, nine of the 10 competing have experience running in a conference championship meet – five of which have ran in at least one Pac-12 Championship meet.
With it's great performance at the FSU Invite / Pre-Nats, Utah heads into conference championship week ranked No. 8 in the USTFCCCA National Poll and No. 4 in a very loaded Mountain Region of the USTFCCCA Polls.
Heading into Friday's race, four teams are ranked on the women's side while both Oregon schools are receiving votes in the national poll. Colorado paces the group of ranked teams checking in at No. 4 followed by No. 8 Utah, No. 18 Washington and No. 23 Stanford.
On the men's side, four of the nine teams competing are nationally ranked in the latest USTFCCCA Polls. Colorado paces the group checking in at No. 3 and followed by No. 4 Stanford, No. 12 Oregon and No. 26 Washington.   
Utah wrapped up the regular-season last Thursday at Sunnyside Park with the annual Utah Open. Karli Branch paced the Utes for the second time this season with a time of 19:07.5 (seventh) in the 5k race while Maddie Reed was the second runner to cross for Utah. Reed's time of 19:38.0 was a new PR for the Highlands Ranch, Colo., native.
Natalie Platil and Emma Earl wrapped up their collegiate careers last Thursday posting times of 19:56.9 and 20:50.2, respectively. Freshman Maren Busath wasn't far off from Earl and clocked in at 20:52.5 with Kaitlyn Mercer rounding things out at 22:06.7.
Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah's best finish came during its historic season in 2019 with a third-place finish. In 10 total races at the Pac-12 Championships, the Women of Utah have finished in the top-half five times.
Former Ute and current volunteer coach Grayson Murphy still has the best individual finish in program history at the conference championship. Murphy's fifth-place finish and time of 19:03.8 are both best marks for the Utes since joining the Pac-12.
Stanford will look to defend its titles on both the men and women's side and become the first school to sweep the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships on both sides since Colorado did it in 2015 and 2016.
Since realignment, Washington is the only school to have an individual win on the same year it has hosted on the women's side with Haley Herberg winning the 2020 title while Stanford checks in as the only team on the men's side with an individual winner the same year it hosted in Grant Fisher back in 2018. The Cardinal men are also the only team to claim a team title the same year it hosted the championships.
The Women of Utah won't have to travel very far for the NCAA Mountain Regionals with it being hosted in Provo, Utah, at Timpanogos Golf Club on Friday, Nov. 12. The women's race is schedule to start at 11 a.m. (MT) followed by men at Noon.  Heading into championship week, 7-of-15 teams in the mountain region on the women's side are ranked.