The Utah track & field team looks to get out of the blocks with a strong start in 2021.
The Utes set five new school records, had 15 student-athletes enter or move up on the all-time performance list, and recorded a plethora of personal-bests in 2020. Chad Colwell, who was recently elevated to associate head track & field coach, has spearheaded Utah's continued progression and rise on the track & field side since his arrival four years ago.
Utah will have the majority of runners back from last season's team, including everyone who was a part of the school-record breaking 4x400 team in Lauren O'Banion, Skyler Blair, Oneillia Fuller and Jackie Martin. The quartet set the new record at last year's MPSF Championships with a mark of 3:40.39—which was good for fifth place. In addition, Sophie Ryan notched a new PR in the mile as well, registering a time of 4:45.51 that moved her into fourth on the all-time performance list.
Other notable returners for the upcoming season include Whitney Hessler, Brooklyn James, Maya LeBar, Ellie Lundgreen, Ruby Jane Mathewson, Taylor Watson and Jasie York. On the distance side, the Utes will have the services of Anna Busatto, Emma Christensen, Astrid Lindgren, Brooke Manson, Trina Moreno, Sarah Newton, Natalie Platil, Kennedy Powell, Poppy Tank and Bella Williams in addition to the newcomers.
Joining the Utes for the 2021 season on the track will be Kelise Davis, Delaney Gates, Bailey Kealamakia, Makenna McCloy and Annie Murdock. Davis, a transfer from Nevada, will be competing in sprints for Utah while Gates will see action in jumping events along with events on the track. The Utes also welcome a trio of locals in Kealamakia (hurdles), McCloy (sprints) and Murdock (sprints). Kealamakia hails from Kaysville and competed at Davis High School. McCloy ran at Tooele High School while Murdock attended Highland High School.
TUtah placed fifth at the 2021 Spring Pac-12 Cross Country Championships, led by All-Pac-12 first-team performer Poppy Tank, who placed sixth in the 6K event. Tank also earned All-America honors by placing 28th at the NCAA Championships.
Tank, a senior from Plymouth, England, is the eighth Ute cross country runner to earn All-America honors. She was also named first-team all-conference a year ago, becoming the only Ute named to the All-Pac-12 first-team twice. She is one of three Utes to to earn multiple All-Pac-12 honors, joining Amanda Mergaert (2011 and 2012) and Grayson Murphy (2016 and 2017).
The next five Utah runners finished with new personal bests. Freshman Morgan Jensen was the second Ute to cross the finish line behind Tank, placing 34th. Sarah Newton crushed her previous PR by nearly 20 seconds and placed 37th. Sophie Ryan was the fourth-best Utah finisher (44th) and surpassed her previous personal best by over 10 seconds. Natalie Platil was the fifth scoring runner for Utah (45th place), beating her previous persona best time by over 30 seconds.
Karli Branch, Sara Leonard, Kennedy Powell and Astrid Lindgren rounded out the runners for Utah at the Pac-12 meet.
Kyle Kepler is in his 16th 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 six athletes to All-America honors at Utah. Distance runners Amanda Mergaert and Grayson Murphy were both five-time All-Americans. Mergaert earned first-team honors in 2013 in the indoor mile and the outdoor 1,500m, as well as in cross country in 2012. Murphy garnered first-team honors twice in the 3,000 steeplechase. Most recently, Sarah Feeny earned All-American honors in the indoor mile after placing eighth overall at the 2019 NCAA Indoor Championships. Langley Iverson (2011, indoor high jump), Brianna LeRoy (2012, outdoor high jump), and Rosalie Waller (2014, outdoor 800m) also earned All-America honors at Utah under Kepler.
In cross country, the Utes qualified for the NCAA Championships as a team for the first time in their history in 2015. Utah returned in 2016 and made its most recent appearance in 2019, earning its highest finish ever of 16th. The Utes also recorded their highest finish at the Pac-12 Championships in 2019, placing third. Utah has appeared in the national polls in each of the last six years, earning rankings as high as No. 6 in 2019. Kepler has had athletes qualify individually for the NCAA cross country championship six times. Murphy's eighth-place finish at the 2017 championships is the best finish for a Utah runner. The Utes have had 11 runners combine for 21 all-region honors while eight runners have earned nine All-Pac-12 accolades.
Under Kepler, 51 athletes have posted 99 NCAA Outdoor preliminary qualifying marks, and 10 athletes have advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Utah has set 32 of the 40 indoor and outdoor track & field school records—some numerous times—since 2006.
Kepler is in his 23rd 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 they have two daughters, Cora and Arielle.
Chad Colwell is in his fourth season on the Ute coaching staff, overseeing the sprints, hurdles, jumps and multi-event athletes. He brings over 10 years of experience to Utah, coaching at the Division I, Division II and NAIA levels throughout his career.
In just three seasons at the U, Colwell guided the Utes to 13 indoor and 17 outdoor new all-time top-10 times/marks, which includes an overall total of nine that rank among the school's top-three times and marks.
He was instrumental in helping guide Utah athletes to set three new all-time school records, which included Taylor Watson setting new all-time indoor times in both the 55 and 60-meter dashes. Colwell was also instrumental in the 4x400 team setting a new record at the MPSF Indoor Championships in 2020. Earlier in the season, Kolbi Sims broke the pentathlon record held by Amanda Feigt for nearly 13 years after compiling 3,891 points at the Texas Tech Invite.
In 2019, he helped guide Skyler Blair run a sub-minute 400-meter hurdles time (59.72), which ranked as the fastest time for a freshman in the Pac-12 and was named a regional qualifier. Sims also set a new school record in the heptathlon – a record that had been intact for nearly 12 full years.
During his first season in 2018, Colwell had great success in the sprints area as Alissa Atisme set a then-new school record in the 60-meter dash (indoor), while also helping guide Utah's 4x100-meter relay team set a new program record. The 2019 4x100-meter relay squad would go onto break that record, twice in the same season, giving the Utes three new record times in a matter of just two years.
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.
Quinn enters her second year with the Utah cross country and track & field teams after being hired in 2019.
In her first season with the Utes, Quinn worked primarily with those competing in cross country and distance group. The Utes saw great success on the courses her first year during the cross country season with Utah claiming the Joe Piane Invitational and earning its highest ranking ever in program history at No. 6. The Women of Utah went to make their third NCAA Championships appearance and had the best finish in program history at 16th – four spots higher than the previous high.
Quinn comes to Salt Lake City after spending 2018-19 year as the assistant coach of the cross country/track & field teams at the University of Portland. The Marion, Iowa native assisted in leading the Portland men's cross country team to a third place finish at the 2018 NCAA Cross Country Championships, while seeing the women's cross country team record their best ever finish at the meet placing 12th. Between the two programs, Quinn coached five cross country All-Americans this past year, which was a school record.
Quinn also brings Pac-12 experience to Utah after serving as the director of operations for the Washington track & field/cross country teams. Quinn was the head coach at Warner Pacific College from the fall of 2015 through the spring of 2017. Her first full-time coaching position was at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.
Before beginning her coaching career, Quinn was a member of the track and field team at Iowa, where she qualified for the NCAA West Preliminary Championships in the 400m hurdles and as a member of the 4x400m relay team. Quinn worked as an intern in both Iowa and Iowa State strength and conditioning departments. She designed and implemented conditioning workouts and learned sport-specific lifting techniques.
The Marion, Iowa, native graduated with a bachelor's degree in interdepartmental studies from the University of Iowa, where she was a two-time Big Ten All-Academic selection. She completed a master's degree in kinesiology at Iowa State.
Michael Tamayo is in his second year after joining the Utah staff in the fall of 2019 as the Director of Operations.
Tamayo joins the University of Utah from Charlotte, N.C., where he competed at UNC Charlotte (2011-2016) as a member of the Track and Field program. Post collegiately, Tamayo was a volunteer coach at UNC Charlotte, as well as co-managing the top local running specialty store in the city.
Competing at UNC Charlotte, Tamayo was the school-record holder in the 600m, 800m, 100m and the 1500m events, which two records still stand today. In 2017, Tamayo competed in the 1000m semifinals of the USA Championships, after finishing his collegiate career at the first round of the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 800 meters. Tamayo's career-best time of 1:48.94 in the 800m event, still stands as the school's all-time record at UNC Charlotte.
Michael is one of three children belonging to David and Sheliah Tamayo, who currently reside in central North Carolina. His sister, Claire, is a proud middle-school social studies teacher, and his brother, David, currently attends UNC Charlotte seeking his bachelor's degree.
Grace Englund serves at Utah's volunteer track & field director of operations.
Englund joins the Utah staff after previously spending five years within the Utah track and field program as a student-athlete. Englund's main events as a Ute were the 400m, 800m, and as a member of many successful 4x400-meter relay teams.
The Issaquah, Wash. native ranked ninth all-time at Utah in the indoor 800 (2:11.17) at the time, as well as ninth all-time at Utah in the indoor 400 (56.54). Along with her individual success, Englund was instrumental in the 4x400-meter relay squads, one of which holds the indoor school record (3:43.93). Englund also was a member of the indoor relay teams that hold the second and third spots all-time, as well.
During her freshman season, Englund's 4x400 relay team broke the school record twice during the 2014 indoor season. The squad's best time of 3:43.93 secured an eighth-place finish at the MPSF Championships. Englund was a member of many relay teams throughout her career and was a solid and consistent leg for the Utes.
Englund tabbed personal-bests in the 800, both indoor and outdoor, during her senior year. Englund recorded her personal-best time in the indoor 800 at the Jackson's Open to win the event, while notching an outdoor-best time at the Sacramento State Open where she finished fourth overall. Both of Englund's top 400m times came during her freshman season for the Utes.
Aside from her success on the track, Englund was committed to success in the classroom and graduated with a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Utah and also completed the positive psychology certificate. Englund was a three-time honorable mention Pac-12 All-Academic team selection (2015-16, 2018), as well as a three-time MPSF All-Acadmic honoree (2015, 2017-18).
Atisme returns to the U for her first season as a volunteer coach with the Utah track & field team this season.
A standout student-athlete during her time on The Hill, Atisma still holds the school outdoor records in the 100m (11.78) and 200m (23.99) and ranks third in the 400m (54.69). In addition, she was a member of the 4x100 and 4x400 relay squads that rank in the top-5. She was also a part of the distance medley team that set the school record of 11:12.10 at the Drake Relays in 2016.
Atisme was also a rock star in the classroom, earning multiple Pac-12 All-Academic and MPSF All-Academic honors.
The Layton, Utah, native graduated with a degree in kinesiology in 2018 and currently working on her master’s in occupational therapy at the U.
Three appearances at the NCAA Championships since 2015. Utah earned its first invitation as a team in 2015, finished 20th in 2016, and had its best finish ever of 16th in 2019.
Earned its highest all-time finish at the 2019 Pac-12 Championships, coming in third. Utah also placed fifth in 2015, 2016 and 2021 (Spring). The Utes' best NCAA Regional finish was third in 2015. Utah was fourth in 2016, and fifth in both 2017 and 2019.
Seven individual NCAA qualifiers in the last 11 seasons, all of them finishing in the top 90 at the NCAA Championships.
Achieved the highest ranking in school history of No. 6 in 2019. Utah has been ranked in each of the last six years.
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.
Poppy Tank was 28th at the 2021 (Spring) NCAA Championships to earn All-America honors.
Eight Utes have earned All-Pac-12 Conference honors since joining the league in 2011. Poppy Tank placed fifth in 2021 (Spring) to become one of three Utes to be named All-Pac-12 twice. Amanda Mergaert (2011-Second Team, 2012-First Team) and Grayson Murphy (2016-Second Team, 2017-First Team) are the other two.
In 2019, Tank (6th), Bella Williams (7th) and Sarah Feeny (10th) all placed in the top 10. Other top Pac-12 finishers in recent years include Hannah McInturff (10th place in 2015) and Grayson Murphy (12th place in 2016, 5th place in 2017).
Under Kyle Kepler, 44 athletes have posted 91 NCAA Outdoor preliminary qualifying marks and 10 athletes have advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. 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 during that time.
Grayson Murphy was a four-time NCAA qualifier (indoor 5,000 and outdoor 3,000 steeplechase in both 2017 and 2018) during her two-year career. She recorded three top-10 finishes, including fifth in the steeplechase in 2017 and six in 2018.
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 seven years in the Pac-12, Utah had six podium finishes and 33 top-eight finishes at the outdoor championships. Grayson Murphy was the 2018 Pac-12 runnner-up in the steeplechase.
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 one U.S. Senior Nationals qualifier, one U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier, and eight U.S. Junior National qualifiers. Of the eight Utes who competed at U.S. Junior Nationals, six have medaled (finishing in the top six).
Grayson Murphy was the top collegiate finisher with seventh-place finish at the 2018 USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships.
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.
32 of the 40 indoor and outdoor track & field school records have been broken—some numerous times—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 five-time All-American (twice in both the indoor 5,000 and the outdoor 3,000 steeplechase, and once in cross country) from 2016-18.
Langley Iverson (2011, indoor high jump), Brianna LeRoy (2012, outdoor high jump), Rosalie Waller (2014, outdoor 800) and Sarah Feeney (2019, indoor mile) have also earned All-America honors at Utah under Kepler.
Kyle Kepler's cross country teams have earned USTFCCCA All-Academic Team honors 14 years while his track teams have earned honors 13 times. His athletes have combined for 52 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 league all-academic cross country and 113 league all-academic track accolades, in addition to 98 MPSF all-academic honors.
Alyssa Abbott and Grace Englund have earned Pac-12 Post Graduate Scholarships.
16 women have claimed 31 All-America awards all-time at Utah, with 23 coming in track & field and eight in cross country.
Utah athletes have earned 14 All-America citations since 2010
Grayson Murphy, who transferred to Utah for her final two seasons, is the program's second five-time All-American. She is the first Ute to become a four-time All-American in track & field (indoor 5,000 and outdoor 3,000 steeplechase, 2017-18), and she earned All-America honors in cross country in 2017.
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).