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No. 9 Cross Country Heads to Land of Enchantment for NCAA Regionals

Nov 10, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY – The No. 9-ranked Utah cross country team heads to the Land of Enchantment to compete in toughest NCAA Regional this Friday, Nov. 11, held at the UNM North Golf Course. The women's 6k race is set to start at 11 a.m. (MT) followed by the men.
DATE: Friday, Nov. 11
WHERE: UNM North Golf Course
WHEN: 11 a.m. (MT)
PARTICIPANTS: Air Force, #6 BYU, #8 Colorado, #20 Colorado State, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, #2 New Mexico, New Mexico State, #4 Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Southern Utah, Texas Tech, #9 Utah, Utah State, #27 Utah Valley, UTEP, Weber State, Wyoming
UTAH PARTICIPANTS: Keelah Barger, Karli Branch, Kylie Hartnett, Morgan Jensen, Lauren Peterson, Simone Plourde, Emily Venters, Erin Vringer
When the ninth-ranked Women of Utah toe the line on Friday, Nov. 11, for the NCAA Mountain Regionals, it'll do so in the arguably the toughest regional in the country with six of the top-10 programs racing at the UNM North Golf Course on the women's side. As if six of the top-10 teams in the country wasn't enough, the field will also include No. 20 Colorado State and No. 27 Utah Valley. The Mountain Region alone last year saw seven teams advance to the NCAA Championships – taking of five of the 13 available at-large spots.
Utah took fifth at least year's NCAA Mountain Regionals and was led by Bella Williams (15th) and Cara Woolnough (23rd). The Utes were anchored by Keelah Barger (30th), Simone Plourde (32nd) and Lisha van Onselen (46th) at the Timpanogos Golf Club.  
This year's regional will be the first time it's returned to the UNM North Golf Course since 2015 – where Utah took third behind a fourth-place finish from Hannah McInturff. That third-place finish is also the highest finish at a regional in the Kyle Kepler Era and ties the 1993 squad for the program's best finish a regional dating back to 1989.
The Utah cross country team ran one of its best races in program history at the 2022 Pac-12 Championships, posting just 66 points as group to tie Colorado but ultimately took second after losing the tiebreaker. Emily Venters continued her strong senior season, taking second overall with a PR time of 19:16.7 to lead the Utes while Simone Plourde secured a fifth-place finish at 19:29.7. Ariel Keklak (19:45.7) and Keelah Barger (19:48.1) were neck and neck down the final stretch to place 17th and 19th, respectively, while Morgan Jensen picked up a huge top-25 finish (23rd) with a mark of 19:58.2. Every member of the Utes team ran a new PR time that day.

For their efforts, Venters and Plourde each earned First-Team All-Pac-12 selections. Venters and Plourde earning All-Pac-12 First-Team honors marked the first time Utah has had multiple first-team recipients in consecutive years since joining the Conference of Champions. It is also the third time (2019, 2021, 2022) that Utah has had multiple all-conference honorees since 2011.

Year Finish Points Top Individual Place Time
2022 -- -- -- --  --
2015 3rd 116 Hannah McInturff 4th 21:07.3
2014 7th 246 Sarah Feeny 32nd 22:08.8
2009 19th 522 Amanda Mergaert 57th 22:29.5
2006 11th 301 Alyssa Abbott 46th 22:35.9
2002 9th 235 Charity Vernon 30th 22:14

Following all the regional races on Friday, the NCAA Men's and Women's Cross Country Selection Show will air on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 3 p.m. (MT) on The top two teams from each regional earn an automatic spot at the NCAA Championships. The selection committee will then choose 13 at-large teams to fill out the 31-team field.
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.