UVU Athletics
UVU juniors Trac Norris (left) and Chris Brower (right) run past their competitors. They look to lead the Wolverines to their second straight WAC Cross-Country Championship this fall.

A year removed from winning Utah Valley University's first Western Athletic Conference championship, the UVU's men's cross-country team has its sights set on repeating again in 2014, while the women's team strives to earn its first WAC title.

The reigning WAC champion men's team, along with an improved women's team, which placed fifth at the WAC Championships a year ago, open the 2014 season at the USU Invitational in Logan, Utah, on Saturday. The women are slated for a 5K race beginning at 9 a.m., while the men follow with a 4-mile run at 9:40. Both races take place at the Innovation Campus Wellness Park in Logan.

Of the six men who helped UVU win its inaugural WAC championship in its first year in the league last season, five of them are back in 2014. First team All-WAC performers Chris Brower, Jason Lynch and Josh Monsen return for coach Scott Houle — the 2013 WAC Men's Coach of the Year — as well as second team all-conference selections Seth Gutzwiller and Trac Norris. Norris, who enters his junior campaign, as well as the sophomore Monsen, are team captains for Houle's men's team.

Besides returning five all-conference performers from a year ago, the men's squad also welcomes back seniors Macy Butterfield, Nelson Orton and Trevor Sharp, as well as sophomores Taylor Charles, Alexander Dutton, Colton Henrie, Zachary Peterson and Logan Petty from serving LDS Church missions the past couple of years. Brenden Emery, Tyson Lambert and Rush Mills are coming off redshirt seasons for UVU as well this year.

On the women's side, senior Ivie Gonsalves looks to anchor the Wolverines, along with second team all-conference performer Darian Sharp. Gonsalves, who is back for her final season in a Wolverine uniform after redshirting a year ago, will be a 2014 team captain along with Harley Murray. Murray and Bridget Hazel are planning on redshirting the 2014 cross-country campaign for UVU, however.

Other than Gonsalves, Taylor Gomez is the only other senior on the Utah Valley women's roster. Gomez placed 34th at the WAC Championships last season and 119th at the NCAA Regional.

With a young women's roster, Houle looks for big contributions from sophomore transfer Jasmine Nesbitt (Idaho State), and freshmen McKayla Morgan (Riverton HS) and Makayla Stepp (American Fork HS). Houle also expects big things from freshmen Alex Pearson (Saugus HS, California) and Dillon Emery (Great Oak HS, California) on the men's side.

Following the opening season meet this weekend in Logan, the Wolverines head to Southern California on Sept. 13, for the UC Riverside Invitational. A week later, UVU will be in Las Vegas for the UNLV Invitational (Sept. 20), followed by a trip to Cedar City, Utah, for Southern Utah's Color Country Invitational on Oct. 3. The Wolverines' then head to California's Bay Area for the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational on Oct. 18, prior to heading to Edinburg, Texas, for the 2014 WAC Championships on Nov. 1.

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The University of New Mexico will host the NCAA Mountain Regional this year on Nov. 15 in Albuquerque, while the NCAA Championships are slated to take place in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Nov. 22.

UVU enters the season with the men ranked 14th in the Mountain Region by the U.S. Track and Field Cross-Country Coaches Association preseason poll. The Wolverines' men's team is the lone cross-country squad in the WAC to be ranked.

UVU cross country: 2014 season preview

Utah Valley cross-country coach Scott Houle, as well as senior Ivie Gonsalves and junior Trac Norris, talk about the upcoming season.

James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.