Cross country roundup: Ute women finish 8th in Pac-12; Aggie men win another WAC crown

Published: Saturday, Oct. 29 2011 9:00 p.m. MDT

TEMPE, Ariz. — In its first Pac-12 Conference Championships, the University of Utah women's cross country team secured eighth place with 205 points. Junior Amanda Mergaert led the way for the Utes with a 10th-place overall finish.

In her third six-kilometer race of the year, Mergaert passed four runners in the final 200 meters of the race posting a time of 20:21, which earned the 10th overall spot. Senior Alyssa Abbott was the second Utah athlete to cross the line with a personal best time of 20:46 for 25th place.

Freshman Susannah Hurst finished third for the Utes and 45th overall with a time of 21:22. Rebekah Winterton (59th place) and Hilary Troutner (81st place) rounded out the top-five finishers for the Utes, clocking times of 21:36 and 22:09.

In their first collegiate conference championships, freshmen Nikki Rietz (22:27), Macee Nielson (22:40), and Lauren Mills (23:46) earned the 87th, 91st, and 107th spots.

Battling an early season injury, sophomore AuraLea Fain earned 96th place with a time of 22:52. Katelyn Stringfellow posted a time of 23:06 earning her the 102nd spot.

Utah finished the race with 205 points, securing eighth place. The overall winner of the meet was Colorado with 50 points. Rounding out the top-five team scores are: Washington (73 points), Stanford (75 points), Oregon (89 points), and Arizona (104 points).

The Utah cross country team continues its season on Nov. 12 at the NCAA Regional Championships in Provo.

WAC: At Honolulu, Utah State men's cross country senior captain Brian McKenna claimed his second Western Athletic Conference individual title Saturday in Honolulu, crossing the finish line at 24:46.5 to lead the Aggie men to their sixth WAC championship in seven years while USU's women finished third.

McKenna was named the men's WAC Athlete of the Year for the second time in his career as he also received the accolade after winning the WAC individual title in 2009. McKenna has been Utah State's top finisher throughout the entire 2011 season. USU's veteran head coach Gregg Gensel was named the WAC Cross Country Coach of the Year for the sixth time in the last seven years.

Joining McKenna in the men's top 10 was senior Daniel Howell and sophomore Kyle McKenna who finished fourth and fifth overall with times of 25:32.5 and 25:43.8 respectively, as all three earned first-team all-WAC honors. Senior Hunter Nelson earned second-team all-WAC honors after finishing in ninth-place (26:06.8).

For the Utah State women, redshirt junior captain Ruth Hilton and junior Kaylee Campbell placed ninth (18:59.3) and 10th (19:02.6), respectively. Senior Jessie Chugg ended the day in 12th-place (19:06.6) as freshman Brittany Bushman clocked in at 19:15.3, which was good enough for 14th-place. Hilton, Campbell, Chugg and Bushman all earned second-team all-WAC honors.

"It was a great team effort on both the men and women's side," Gensel said. "Our men won the championship and our women battled hard down a runner. Our top finisher through the season, Hannah Williams was injured and didn't run so it was great to see the women do so well with what they had. As for Brian, he deserves all the accolades he gets because he works so hard and does what is best for the team. I think this was just great for our five seniors on the men's side to go out with a bang."

Other finishers for the Aggie men included senior Eric Larson in 16th-place (26:25.0), sophomore Devin Lang in 18th-place (26:36.4), freshman Austin Neuner in 24th-place (27:18.5), senior Nick Bolinder in 29th-place (27:43.9) and freshman Eric Shellhorn in 39th-place (28:35.5).

Other finishers for the Utah State women included juniors Brittany Fisher and Stephanie Burt in 15th and 33rd-place with times of 19:15.8 and 20:00.9, respectively, with sophomore Cherice Chugg finishing in 45th-place (20:44.7).

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