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 17th 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 seven athletes to All-America honors at Utah. Amanda Mergaert was a five-time All-American, with her career culminating in first-team honors in 2013 in the indoor mile and the outdoor 1,500 to go with her cross country honors in 2012. Grayson Murphy was also a five-time All-American, including two first-team All-America honors in the 3,000 steeplechase, two second-team All-America honors in the indoor 5,000 and a 2017 cross country All-America distinction. 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.
Most recently, Sarah Feeny earned All-America honors in the indoor mile. She was a first-team honoree finishing eighth overall at the 2019 NCAA Indoor Championships. Poppy Tank was the latest distance runner under Kepler to earn All-America distinction by garnering All-American honors in cross country and in the outdoor 10k – both were first time honors for the Plymouth, Devon, England native. Tank closed out her collegiate career holding the program record in the 10k (32:50.57, outdoors), second in the 5k (15:45.07, outdoors) and third in the 3k (9:16.22, indoors).
Under Kepler, the Utes have had 58 athletes post 103 NCAA Outdoor preliminary qualifying marks, and sent 11 athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. 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 NCAA's as a senior in 2013. She was the 2011 USTFCCCA Mountain Region Women's Track Athlete of the Year. Kepler increased Utah's NCAA Outdoor Regional Championships attendees from five in 2006 to 10 in 2013. Tank, who qualified for both the 5k and 10k at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2021, became just the second Ute to keep in both distance races at the championships besides Jill Molen (1982).
The Utes have also sent three athletes to the NCAA Indoor Championships under Kepler, including Murphy twice in the 5,000 (2017-18). Mergaert (2012, mile) and Rebekah Winterton (2014, 5,000) have both won Mountain Pacific Sports Federation indoor track championships. Utah has set 18 outdoor and 15 indoor school records since 2006.
In cross country, Utah qualified for the NCAA Championships as a team for the first time in program history in 2015 and repeated the feat in 2016 and 2019. Kepler and the Utes earned their highest finish of 16th at the NCAA Championships in 2019, improving four spots from 2016's finish and placed 26th in 2015. In 2019, the Utes came in with their highest ranking in program history at No. 6. At the conference championships, the women of Utah had a huge day recording their highest finish of third since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. Hosting the regional championships in 2019, Utah earned an at-large bid, securing fifth against arguably the toughest region in the nation. The Utes finished third in the region in 2015, their highest regional finish under Kepler.
He’s also had athletes qualify individually for the NCAA cross country championship seven times. Murphy’s eighth-place finish at the 2017 championships is the best finish for a Utah runner. Mergaert was a three-time cross country NCAA qualifier in addition to Tank’s berth in 2021. The Utes have had 13 runners combine for 20 all-region honors while seven runners have earned 10 All-Pac-12 accolades.
During Utah's six years in the Mountain West Conference under Kepler, Utah student-athletes won nine outdoor conference titles and two indoor titles. Shapard was a three-time 400 hurdles outdoor champion. Utah earned 23 outdoor and 20 indoor All-MWC honors.
Kepler's influence on his student-athletes is not just visible on the track, but also in the classroom. His cross country teams have earned USTFCCCA All-Academic Team honors 12 years while his track teams have earned honors eight times. His athletes have combined for 67 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 Waller earned honors in 2014.
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 was named the Missouri Valley Conference Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003 after leading the Panthers to a MVC title. The Panthers won 12 MVC titles among cross country and indoor and outdoor track during his tenure with the Panthers. He coached nine All-Americans at UNI, and 15 athletes qualified for the NCAA Championships between track and cross country.
At UNI, he served as the meet manager for the 2003 NCAA Cross Country Championships and Pre-Nationals meet. Kepler was also named the meet director of the annual A. D. Dickinson Relays, one of the largest high school indoor meets in the nation.
Kepler competed at Northern Iowa, taking part in both cross country and track and field for the Panthers and serving as a team captain during the 1997-98 school year. As an athlete, Kepler was a member of five MVC championship teams. He earned all-conference honors nine times during his collegiate career, was a two-time all-region cross country selection and a six-time Academic All-MVC honoree.
Kepler holds both master's and bachelor's degrees from Northern Iowa. He earned his master's degree in physical education in 2004 and graduated with a bachelor's in secondary education (geography) in 1998.
Kepler is married to Hannah Vickery and they have two daughters, five-year old Cora and two-year old Arielle.
Kelsey Quinn enters her third year with the Utah cross country and track & field teams after being hired in September of 2019.
In her first season with the Utes, Utah cross country claimed the Joe Piane Invitational and earned 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.
The shortened 2020 cross country season, which was moved to the spring of 2021, culminated with Poppy Tank earning All-America honors at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Tank also garnered her second-straight First-Team All-Pac-12 honor after placing sixth for the second-straight year at the conference championships. Out on the track, the 10K program record was broken twice by Bella Williams and Tank. Tank competed in two events at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, earning Second-Team All-America honors in the 10K with a ninth-place finish and honorable mention All-American in the 5K. Five-time All-American Grayson Murphy begins her second season with the Utes as a volunteer coach with the cross country and track & field program.
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.
Rebecca Rhodes is in her first season at Utah. Rhodes competed in track & field student-athlete at Oregon from 2008-12 before joining the coaching ranks immediately afterwards.
Rhodes spent the previous four seasons (2017-21) at Eastern Oregon, where she served as an assistant track & field/cross country coach. Her student-athletes set numerous indoor and outdoor records – including 20 new school records for a total of 123 top-10 program marks. Rhodes also coached 10 All-Americans with 47 student-athletes qualifying for the national meet. She helped guide athletes to runner-up finishes in the 600 and pentathlon.
Rhodes was named the USTFCCCA Indoor West Region Assistant Women’s Coach of the Year three-consecutive seasons (2018-21) by her peers. She also swept the award in 2019-20, earning west region assistant coach of the year on both the men’s and women’s side.
Prior to her stint at EOU, Rhodes had two successful seasons at Misericordia University (2015-17) where she saw 11 of her student-athletes earn All-America honors while also breaking 21 school records (sprints and hurdles). Under Rhodes’ guidance, Juwan Pettis-Jackson captured the NCAA Indoor 200m title.
Before Misericordia, Rhodes served as an assistant track & field coach at Moravian College (2014-15) for a season. She coached one record holder, a national qualifier and seven conference champions.
Rhodes got her coaching start immediately after graduating at nearby Lane Community College for two seasons (2012-14) as the assistant track & field coach. Her impact was immediately with the Titans winning four conference championships in track & field during her time there.
During her time as a student-athlete with the Ducks, Rhodes was a two-time Pac-12 scorer and qualified for the NCAA West Region meet as a senior in the long jump and 100m hurdles. Her time of 8.62 in the 60m hurdles (indoor) still stands in the Women of Oregon record books sitting in a tie for 10th.
In addition, Rhodes is USATF Level Two certified in jumps, USTAFCCA Level Two certified in multi-events and USTAFCCCA Strength and Conditioning certified.
Rhodes earned her bachelor’s degree at Oregon in 2012 and later obtained her MBA with a specialization in sports management from Misericordia University in 2017.
Arguably, one of Utah’s most decorated athlete in program history, Grayson Murphy has also seen success on the pro circuit. She defended her USATF Mountain Racing Championship crown in August of 2021 after breaking the course record by nearly nine minutes at the Skibowl Ski Resort. Back in 2019, Murphy captured her first USATF Mountain Racing Championship title and earned a spot on Team USA at the World Mountain Running Championships. She then turned around and captured the World Mountain Running Championship title two months later in Argentina.
In just two years, Murphy left her mark on the Utah program in the record books and still holds the school record in the outdoor 3000m steeplechase (9:48.57) and indoor 5k (15:44.45). She is also third in the outdoor 5k (15:58.29), third in the outdoor 10k (33:17.85) and sixth in the indoor 3k (9:29.71).
Murphy also racked up the awards during her time at the U, garnering back-to-back first-team All-America honors in the outdoor 3000m steeplechase (2017 & 2018), consecutive second-team All-America honors in the indoor 5000m (2017 & 2018) and All-America honors in cross country (2017). Additionally, she earned all-region honors in cross country back-to-back season (2016 & 2017) and was a two-time All-Pac-12 honoree in cross country – including first-team honors in 2017.
A standout in the classroom, Murphy was also a two-time USTFCCCA All-Academic honoree in cross country (2016 & 2017) and a 2017 USTFCCCA All-Academic recipient in track.
Murphy started her career at Santa Clara, where she competed her first two collegiate seasons. Her 6k time of 20:46 is still second-best in program history for the Broncos in cross country. Meanwhile, she’s still the program leader in the outdoor 1500m and 3000m steeplechase.
Murphy graduated summa cum laude from Utah with a degree in civil engineering in 2018.
Michael Tamayo is in his third 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.
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).