Utah colleges to be well represented at NCAA cross championships
By Rich Winter
When the guns go off for the starts of this weekend's NCAA Division 1 cross-country championships in Louisville, the state of Utah should step back and be extremely proud of the pipeline of prep athletes that are taking collegiate cross-country to the next level.
Utah colleges qualifying for NCAA championships (Men's)
* BYU - ranked No. 2 in the country behind Northern Arizona
* Southern Utah - ranked No. 12 in the country
* Utah State - First time ever qualifying for NCAA championships as a team.
Utah colleges qualifying for NCAA championships (women's)
* BYU No. 18 in the country, finished 3rd at Regional competition
* Utah State - First time ever qualifying for NCAA meet.
With rosters that are littered with Utah prep athletes, the strong prep success in the Beehive state will be well represented at these NCAA championships.
Some Headlines to keep an eye on:
1. Utah's Grayson Murphy eyes all-american status: While the Ute women might have been snubbed by the NCAA selection committee, there was no holding back Murphy who has had a program altering season for the Utes.
Murphy has finished in the top five in every race she has competed this season. She is coming off a second-place finish at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships. Murphy finished fifth at the Pac-12 Championships, second at the Wisconsin Invitational and fourth at the Notre Dame Invitational. Last season (her first at Utah), Murphy finished 53rd at the NCAA Championships.
2. BYU men to make a run at National title: While the Cougars held out a few of their runners at the midwest regional on their way to a second place finish, the Cougars have a legitimate shot at dethroning Northern Arizona for a National title for longtime coach Ed Eyestone. That BYU roster is loaded with Utah prep runner with Herriman's Rory Linkletter and a ton of athletes from Timo Mostert's American Fork PROGRAM.
3. Southern Utah hoping to crack top-10: While Eric Houle's SUU team finished 6th at the Regional qualifier, several of the teams runners were sick and did not compete - SUU junior Joshua Collins was the top finisher for the men, running the 10K in 30:41.9.
"All of their hard work this season payed off and because of their success at Notre Dame and Wisconsin we had a cushion going into this race in regards to qualifying for nationals," Houle said. "With two of our top guys sick I thought the spread between our first and our fifth runner was great. This was a good race for them and I look forward to everyone being healthy for nationals".
4. UTAH STATE gets both teams into NCAA championships for first-time in school history - (From the Utah State cross-country media) -
All season long, Utah State cross country's motto has been to "Be The First." On Saturday afternoon, they officially became the first.
Utah State has never sent a full team to the NCAA Cross Country National Championships, but this year, both the men's and women's teams are making their first appearances at the biggest race of the season.
"It's extremely special," said acting head cross country coach . "We talked a little bit yesterday that this has been the goal since we started. Two years ago the men were last in the conference and last in the region. The ladies were a little better than that, but nowhere near where we are now. To have them both achieve this is pretty special."
At the NCAA Mountain Regional Championships on Friday, the women placed fourth and the men took seventh. Members of the staff and the team were confident the women had done enough this season to earn an at-large bid, but there was still a sense of nervousness for the men's team.
"For the women, there weren't (any doubts)," said assistant coach . "I felt pretty confident with the women. For the men, a little bit. Being seventh in the region, that's a lot of teams to go from one region. I just wasn't sure. I didn't rest completely easy last night, but I felt pretty confident they were both going to get in."
Buckle up Utah....this show is going to get interesting!