Take a glimpse at the great facilities and the people who make up the Utah cross country and track & field program.
Tag along with Jessica Sams to experience what a typical meet day is like for a Utah student-athlete.
The Utes had another successful cross country season in 2017. Utah placed sixth at the Pac-12 Championships with its lowest point total ever and came in fifth at NCAA Regionals, narrowly missing its third straight team appearance at the NCAA Championships.
Senior Grayson Murphy came in eighth at the NCAA Championships-the highest finish ever by a Ute-to earn All-America honors. She also garnered first-team All-Pac-12 honors with a fifth-place finish and went on to earn NCAA All-Region honors by placing second at that meet. Sophomore Poppy Tank earned all-region honors for the second straight year with a 21st-place finish at NCAA Regionals. She was 18th at the Pac-12 Championships.
Sophomore Amanda Gehrich finished 26th at regionals and 35th at the conference meet. Louise Mercer finished in 48th place at Pac-12s and 49th at NCAA Regionals. Senior Jessica Sams was 47th at the Pac-12 Championships and 52nd at regionals.
The Utah track & field team is ready to go full speed ahead with many returning faces from last season.
Three time All-American Grayson Murphy placed fifth in the 3,000 steeplechase at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track Championships and 15th in the 5,000 at the indoor meet. She ran a time of 15:44.45 in the 5,000 in December, which ranked fifth in the nation headed into the January meets.
Fifth-year senior Hannah McInturff ranks fourth all-time in the indoor 3,000 at Utah, fifth in the indoor mile and ninth in the outdoor 5,000. Sophomore Poppy Tank ranks in the top 10 all-time at Utah in both the indoor 3,000 and outdoor 5,000. Shaylen Crook who ranks in the top 10 all-time at Utah in the indoor 5,000 and outdoor 10,000. Senior Jessica Sams also ranks in the top 10 in the indoor 3,000 and outdoor 5,000. Junior Caitlin Faust ranks seventh all-time at Utah in the indoor 800 and 10th in the outdoor 800.
Fifth-year senior Alissa Atisme holds the Utah school records in the outdoor 100 and 200, and indoor 55 and 200. She placed eighth in the 400 at the 2016 Pac-12 Championships. Senior Raynee Helm Wheelock ranks in the top 10 all-time at Utah in the outdoor 100, and indoor 55 and 60. Fifth-year senior Grace Englund ranks in the top 10 all-time at Utah in the indoor 400 and 800, and was part of the school-record setting indoor 4x400 relay team. Senior Rhianna Williams holds the Utah school record in the indoor 400 and ranks in the top five all-time in the indoor 200, and outdoor 200 and 400.
Senior Madison Lanford ranks 10th all-time at Utah in the heptathlon. Lauren McCluskey has had strong results in the multi-events during her two years at Utah, ranking 10th all-time in the pentathlon.
Kyle Kepler is in his 13th year as the head coach of the Utah women's cross country and track & field programs. Kepler's organization and attention to detail have allowed him to develop a solid foundation and create a competitive program that has steadily improved each year.
Kepler has coached five athletes to All-America honors at Utah. Ten athletes have combined for 16 appearances at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Cross country qualified for the NCAA Championships as a team for the first time in 2015 and repeated that feat in 2016 with a 20th-place finish-setting a program-best mark. He has also sent individuals to the NCAA Cross Country Championships six times. The Utes have had 11 runners combine for 17 all-region honors while six have earned nine All-Pac-12 accolades in cross country.
During Utah's six years in the Mountain West Conference under Kepler, the Utes won nine individual outdoor conference titles and two indoor titles.
Kepler is in his 19th year coaching at the NCAA Division I level. Prior to coming to Utah, Kepler served as Northern Iowa's head men's and women's cross country coach and assistant track and field coach for two seasons. He was on staff at UNI for a total of seven years, serving as an assistant cross country coach for five years prior to being named head coach in 2003.
Kepler is married to Hannah Vickery and the couple has a daughter Cora.
Mackenzie Wartenberger, the former head cross country and assistant track coach at Radford University, is in her fourth season working with Utah's distance runners. She helped Ute cross country qualify for the NCAA Championships as a team for the first time in 2015 and again in 2016, when it had a 20th-place finish. In 2017, she helped Grayson Murphy earn three All-America citations in the 5,000 meters indoors, the 3,000-meter steeplechase outdoors, and cross country.
In two years at Radford, women's cross country placed third at the 2014 Big South Championships for its best finish since 1990. The men's squad finished fourth for its best placing since 2007. In track, the women's distance runners won six conference titles.
She was also an assistant distance coach at UNC Charlotte from 2009-13, coaching three NCAA Outdoor Championships qualifiers.
The North Carolina native is married to husband Marc.
Chad Colwell is in his first season as an assistant coach for the Utes, overseeing the sprints, hurdles, jumps and multi-event athletes.
Colwell previously served as assistant women's track and field coach at San Diego State. The Aztecs were ranked 16th in the final 2017 USTFCCA poll. While working at SDSU, Colwell was a volunteer assistant coach at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center (formerly the Olympic Training Center), working with respected jumps coach Jeremy Fischer.
Colwell was an assistant coach at Portland (2013-16), head coach at St. Martin's (2012-13) and head coach at Great Falls (2011-12). While working towards his master's degree, Colwell was a two-year volunteer assistant at Duke University. He was also an assistant coach at Cal Poly Pomona (2007-08) and Eastern Oregon University (2004-06), where he earned his bachelor's degree.
Back-to-back appearances at the NCAA Championships in 2015 and 2016. Utah qualified as a team for the first time in 2015 and returned to record their all-time best finish of 20th in 2016.
Placed fifth at both the 2015 and 2016 Pac-12 Championships, then came in sixth with the program's lowest point total in 2017. Utah finished third at NCAA Regionals in 2015, came in fourth in 2016 and fifth in 2017.
Six individual NCAA qualifiers in the last 10 seasons, all of them finishing in the top 90 at the NCAA Championships.
Achieved the highest ranking in school history of No. 17 in 2016. Utah was ranked in the top 30 all year in 2017.
Grayson Murphy placed eighth at the 2017 NCAA Championships-the highest finish ever by a Ute-to earn All-America honors.
Amanda Mergaert placed 14th at the 2012 NCAA Championships and was named an All-America.
Five Utes have earned All-Pac-12 Conference honors since 2011, including Hannah McInturff (10th place in 2015) and Grayson Murphy (12th place in 2016, 5th place in 2017).
Utah's first ever All-Pac-12 Conference honoree in any sport was Amanda Mergaert, who earned second-team honors in 2012.
41 athletes have posted 86 NCAA Outdoor preliminary qualifying marks and 10 athletes have advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships under Kyle Kepler. Utah's NCAA Regional Championships attendees increased from five in 2006 to as many as 10 in 2013. The Utes have also sent three athletes to the NCAA Indoor Championships under Kepler.
Amanda Mergaert (2011-13, 1,500) and Chelsea Shapard (2007-09, 400 hurdles) were both three-time NCAA attendees. Mergaert finished third in the 1,500 at NCAAs as a senior in 2013. She was the 2011 USTFCCCA Mountain Region Women's Track Athlete of the Year.
In its first six years in the Pac-12 Conference, Utah had five podium finishes and 30 top-eight finishes at the outdoor championships.
Two Utes have won Mountain Pacific Sports Federation indoor track championships: Amanda Mergaert (Mile in 2012) and Rebekah Winterton (5000m in 2014).
Since 2010, Utah has had eight U.S. Junior National qualifiers and one U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier. Of the eight qualifiers for U.S. Junior Nationals, six have medaled (finishing in the top six).
Sarah Feeny was a bronze medalist at the 2015 Pan American Juniors and a silver medalist at the U.S. Juniors in the 1500 meters. In 2016, Chrissy Glasmann finished sixth in the javelin at U.S. Junior Championships.
Over the last eight years, Utah athletes recorded over 500 new all-time top-10 performances. Utah has set 18 outdoor and 15 indoor school records since 2006.
Kyle Kepler has coached five athletes to All-America honors at Utah.
Amanda Mergaert was a five-time All-American with her career culminating in first-team honors in cross country in 2012 and the indoor mile and the outdoor 1,500 in 2013.
Grayson Murphy was a three-time All-American in 2017 (indoor 5,000 meters, outdoor 3,000-meter steeplechase, cross country).
Langley Iverson (2011, indoor high jump), Brianna LeRoy (2012, outdoor high jump), and Rosalie Waller (2014, outdoor 800) have also earned All-America honors at Utah under Kepler.
Kyle Kepler's cross country teams have earned USTFCCCA All-Academic Team honors 10 years while his track teams have been recognized seven times. Ute athletes have combined for 50 individual honors from the USTFCCCA between track and cross country.
Lauren Endersen was a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American in 2008 and 2009, while Rosalie Waller was honored in 2014.
Since Utah joined the Pac-12 in 2011-12, the Utes have earned 60 all-academic cross country and 96 all-academic track accolades, in addition to 85 MPSF all-academic honors.
Fourteen women have claimed 27 All-America awards all-time at Utah, with 20 coming in track & field and seven in cross country.
Utah athletes have earned 11 All-America citations since 2010.
Amanda Mergaert became the school’s first five-time All-American. She was an All-American three times in the 1,500m—she placed third in the event in 2013 to earned first-team honors and was a second-team honoree in 2011 and ’12. Mergaert was also an All-American in indoor track by placing fifth in the mile 2013. In cross country, Mergaert placed 14th at the 2012 NCAA Championships, which is the highest finish ever by a Ute.
Jill Molen was a four-time All-American, earning honors in cross country in 1981 and three times in track in 1982 (3 Mile, 5000m, 10000m). She was the 1982 national champion in the 10,000 meters.
Carla Pittelkow was an All-American in cross country in 1981 and twice in track 1982 (1500m, 5000m).
Brenda Alcorn was a two-time All-American in the high jump (1989 and ’91).
Grayson Murphy earned All-America honors in the 5,000m indoors, the 3,000m steeplechase outdoors, and cross country in 2017.