The women’s and men’s cross country team shook off the rust from a long summer of training as they ran in the Utah Open Invite this past Friday.
Both teams were instructed by the coaches to treat the race as a workout and be patient throughout. The women’s team entered the season ranked 28th in the preseason U.S. Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) rankings, but will be without last season’s Big Sky individual champion, Summer Harper. While the men’s team is expected to compete in the talented Mountain region with the return of Mike Hardy and a handful of runners who recently returned from LDS missions.
Workout or not, the Utah Open was going to be a stepping stone for a team looking to continue to build on their legacy.
The women’s team finished third behind Boise State, who won with 35 and the University of Utah with 47. The individual champion, Emma Bates, is also the reigning NCAA 10,000 meter champion and is highly favored to win her first cross country title later on this season.
For the Wildcats, Ellie Child was the top finisher in 10th place as she narrowly edged teammates Hailey Ricks and Jamie Stokes who finished 11th and 12th respectively.
“Today’s goal was to have a controlled hard work out,” head coach Paul Pilkington said. “I didn’t let them race at all and I am really happy with the effort that they put in. I think it just goes to show how coachable these girls are as they held back from racing which is hard to do.”
Right behind the top three was a new addition to the team, Taylor Cox, who came in 15th place. Cox may be a name that loyal cross country and track fans remember as her mother currently holds the school record in the mile run.
On the men’s side, the Wildcats weren’t just going up against some of the best runners in the state but also in the nation. Brigham Young came into the season ranked eighth in the nation but that didn’t scare the veteran Wildcat squad. BYU won with 34 points by placing four runners in the top 10. The Wildcats tied with Boise State for second but won on a tie-breaker.
“I am really happy with how close we were to BYU today,” Pilkington said. “They came into the meet highly ranked and ran most of their team. The men did exactly what I wanted them to do.”
Hardy finished in second place by mere inches while Ricks finished in sixth. Tyler Robinson finished 13th, Tip Worob was 18th and Jason Nance was 19th.
The Wildcats will head to the BYU Invitational on Saturday in Provo, Utah.