NEW ORLEANS – After a historic season, the Utah cross country and track & field program finished the season No. 9 in the final USTFCCCA Program of the Year standings – the highest finish in program history.
The Women of Utah were one of four Pac-12 programs listed in the top-15 and was also the highest-ranked program in the state of Utah. The program of the year
Head coach Kyle Kepler‘s crew opened the 2022-23 season with bang, sweeping the Roy Griak Invitational winning both the team title and individual behind Emily Venters’ first collegiate victory in cross country. It then followed up with an eighth-place finish against a stacked line-up at the Nuttycombe Invitational.
The Utes then took second at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships after being on the wrong side the tiebreaker ruling, despite all five scorers for Utah finishing in the top-25. The Women of Utah then earned their first automatic qualifier into the NCAA Cross Country Championships two weeks later when it finished in second at the NCAA Mountain Regionals – which is considered the toughest region in the country. Ironically, the tiebreaker rule worked in favor of Utah this time around.
Venters, who was Utah’s top finisher all season, earned All-America honors after finishing 12th-overall at the NCAA Championships and helped Utah take 12th as a team – which was its highest-finish in program history.
Like the cross country season, the indoor track season also saw a ton of success with six new school records and 14 new entries into all-time list. Utah finished 21st-overall with nine points at the NCAA Indoor Championships behind All-America performances from Venters and Simone Plourde. Venters took fifth in the 5000m race on the first day, which was the highest-finish by a Ute at the indoor championships. However, Plourde went out the next day and bested her teammate with a fourth-place finish in the 3000m race to be Utah’s best finisher at the indoor championships.
The outdoor season only built on the two seasons prior with 10 new records set and 16 new entries into the record book. Venters then made a splash from coast-to-coast when she ran the sixth-fastest 10k in collegiate history at the Stanford Invitational (31:48.35). That time would end up being the top time in the NCAA for the remainder of the 2023 outdoor season.
Kepler and the Utes then had a great homecoming at the Drake Relays with the Women of Utah taking home their first-ever Relays Cup Title.
Plourde and Venters continued to thrive in the championships season, starting at the Pac-12 Championships. Venters became the program’s first Pac-12 individual champion when she captured the 10000m title just a day before Plourde was crowned the 1500m champion.
Utah had 12 qualifiers for the NCAA West Preliminaries, which was the most in program history while its 4x400m relay team qualified for the second-straight season – also a first for the program. Venters was the first to earn a spot at the NCAA Championships in the 10000m before Plourde earned her spot in the 1500m race. Dinedye Denis then earned the final qualifying position out of the west in the 400m hurdles ahead of Plourde and Venters closed out the meet qualifying for the 5000m as well.
The three participants at the NCAA Championships for Utah was a first in program history. The trio of Denis, Venters and Plourde represented the Utes well on the oval for their final races of the season, earning four All-America honors and one honorable mention distinction.
Venters further cemented her accolades into the Utah history books when she earned national runner-up honors in the 10000m race. Two days later on a hot and humid night in Austin, Venters (third) and Plourde (seventh) both registered top-eight finishes to garner first-team honors in the 5000m race. Like her teammates, Denis also competed at the NCAA Championships for the first time in her career and earned herself Honorable Mention distinction after placing 18th-overall in the 400m hurdles.
The 16 points earned by Utah tied it for 15th overall in the team standings with USC – which was the highest total and finish in program history. Additionally, the Utes were tied for the second-highest finisher among Pac-12 teams with the Trojans at the championships.
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