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No. 14 Cross Country Headed to Tallahassee for NCAA Championships

Nov 17, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY – The 14th-ranked Utah cross country team will put it all on the line this Saturday, Nov. 20, as it competes against the nation's best at the NCAA Cross Country Championships hosted by Florida State at Apalachee Regional Park. Live coverage of the women's 6k race begins at 8 a.m. (MT) on ESPNU with the women's race set to begin at 8:20 a.m. / 10:20 a.m. (ET) local.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 20
Time: 8:20 a.m. (MT) / 10:20 a.m. (ET) local
Where: Apalachee Regional Park (Course Map)
Participants: #15 Alabama, #7 Arkansas, #30 Butler, #4 BYU, #3 Colorado, #18 Colorado State, #12 Florida State, #22 Georgetown, #24 Harvard, #10 Iowa State, #17 Michigan, #19 Michigan State, #5 Minnesota, #1 NC State, #2 New Mexico, #8 North Carolina, #21 Northern Arizona, #10 Notre Dame, #6 Oklahoma State, #9 Ole Miss, #26 Oregon, #25 Providence, Rice, #16 Stanford, #20 Syracuse, #14 Utah, #27 Utah State, #RV Villanova, #23 Washington, #28 West Virginia, #13 Wisconsin
Utah Line Up: Keelah Barger, Morgan Jensen, Ariel Keklak, Lauren Peterson, Simone Plourde, Sophie Ryan, Lisha van Onselen, Emily Venters, Bella Williams, Cara Woolnough
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Of the 31 teams competing, only Villanova isn't ranked in the latest USTFCCCA Coaches Poll – but the Wildcats are receiving votes. In addition, seven of the teams that qualified for the championships hail from the Mountain Region. New Mexico, Colorado and BYU rank 2-3-4, respectively, while Utah checks in at No. 14. Colorado State sits at No. 18 while Northern Arizona (No. 21) and Utah State (No. 27) rounds it out for the teams ranked in the top-30 from the Mountain Region.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 is tied with the ACC for the most teams ranked in the top-30 at five teams apiece. The Big Ten and SEC are tied for the second-most teams ranked, checking in at four apiece. Rounding things out are the Big 12, Big East and Mountain West with three teams ranked while the Big Sky, Ivy League and WCC each have one team ranked in the top-30.

The Utes will once again take the same group to the NCAA Championships as it did for the conference championship and mountain regional race in Keelah Barger, Morgan Jensen, Ariel Keklak, Lauren Peterson, Simone Plourde, Sophie Ryan, Lisha van Onselen, Emily Venters, Bella Williams and Cara Woolnough.
Of the 10 the Utes are taking, only Keklak (2019), Venters (2017, 2018), Williams (2019) and Woolnough (2019) have competed at the NCAA Championships. Keklak took 23rd overall (21:59.4) in 2019 at the DIII Championships when she ran at Johns Hopkins while Venters took 39th (20:35.8) in 2018 and 53rd (20:22.1) in 2017 at Arizona. Meanwhile, Williams and Woolnough each finished in 107th (21:17.4) and 117th (21:20.7), respectively, back in 2019 to help the Utes come in 16th as a team.
Competing in arguably the hardest region in the country, Utah came away with a fifth-place finish without Emily Venters and Ariel Keklak in the line-up. The Utes saw Bella Williams (15th) and Cara Woolnough (23rd) take home All-Region honors after the two finished in the top-25 to help Utah's total score of 15-23-30-32-46—146.
Keelah Barger was the third Utah runner to complete the race, placing 30th with a time of 21:10.4 while Simone Plourde was right behind her at 21:13.3 for 32nd. Lisha van Onselen rounded out the group of scorers for Utah, checking in at 46th (21:32.1) while Morgan Jensen (22:03.1) and Lauren Peterson closed things out for the Utes at 66th and 107th, respectively.
As a team, the Women of Utah have qualified for the NCAA Championships three times as a team – all under the direction of 17th year head coach Kyle Kepler. The Utes made their first appearance as a team in 2015 where they finished in 26th before returning in 2016 to place 20th overall. After a two year hiatus, Utah returned to the big dance in 2019 on the heels of what was arguably then the best season in program history before finishing 16th overall.
The Utes have also had individuals compete at the championships 12 different times – the most recent being the 2020 season that was pushed to the spring of 2021 due to COVID-19. Poppy Tank claimed Second-Team All-America honors after finishing in 27th with a time of 20:45.9 in the 6k at the Oklahoma State Cross Country Course.
Grayson Murphy still holds the best individual finish finish in program history (as part of a team or individual) when she took eighth at the 2017 NCAA Championships with a mark of 19:36.27 – which is also the fastest time by any Ute at the championships.
For the latest news and information on the Utah cross country and track & field programs, fans can stay connected online at and on social media by following on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.