Jay Drowns, UVU Marketing
Hannah Branch (right-center) competes in the NCAA Cross Country Mountain Regional in Provo on Nov. 9. She led the way for UVU's women's team by placing 51st.

Sophomore Hannah Branch led the way for the women's team and junior Kevin Lynch paced the men's team for Utah Valley University cross country on Friday afternoon at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships at East Bay Golf Course in Provo.

Branch anchored the women's team by finishing in 51st place out of 136 competitors with a 6K time of 21:16.8, while Lynch led the men's squad by running the 10K race in a time of 31:13.1 to earn a 68th-place finish out of 120 runners.

In the team score, the Wolverine women posted a 15th-place finish out of 20 teams in arguably the toughest region in the nation with a total of 377 points. The men's squad too finished 15th out of 17 squads with 427 points.

"The Mountain Region is definitely the toughest region in the country. You'll see a number of these competitors and teams go out and win nationals next week, so it was great to be out here today and be able to compete against them. We definitely gave it our all," Branch said. "I kept trying to push myself and fight in the race today. I went out hard and tried to sustain it there at the end. As a team, I felt like we performed well. We came out and fought and did our best under the circumstances. That's all you can ask for."

Savannah Neuberger too had a strong showing for the women's team by crossing the finish line in 64th with a 6K time of 21:29.8. Maggie Zwahlen was UVU's third finisher by placing 76th (21:38.5), while Kami Lynch finished 88th (21:55.0), Aisha Graham-Perez 98th (22:06.3) and Mazzie Melaney 100th (22:08.5). Abby Linford rounded out Utah Valley's women's runners by taking 122nd with a time of 22:45.8.

On the men's side, Geofrey Kemboi paced the Wolverine men for nearly half of the race and finished as the team's second runner by crossing the finish line with a 10K time of 31:19.5 in 75th place. Lamek Keditukei was next by claiming 84th (31:49.7), while Hawk Call posted a top-100 finish by taking 97th (32:25.8). Britain Reynolds was UVU's fifth-place finisher by taking 103rd (32:49.2). Adrian Jones and Anthony Ocegueda also competed for the men's squad in the competition but did not finish due to injuries.

"Our women's team got off to an extremely fast start, and I think it affected us a little bit. We also had some sickness on the team so that pulled us back a little as well. But overall I felt like they had a strong race and finished where we were supposed to in a very stacked field," head UVU coach Scott Houle said. "On the men's side, it wasn't a great race. Kevin usually finishes better, but it just wasn't his day. Out of the group, Geofrey and Lamek had our best performances. We had to pull both our No. 2 and No. 4 runners so that dramatically hurt us... There will be better days for us in the future."

The top-ranked New Mexico Lobos won the women's race with 41 points. Fourth-ranked Colorado took second (53 points) and No. 9 BYU finished third (85). Twenty-second ranked Southern Utah came in fourth (155), while Air Force took fifth (170) and No. 28 Northern Arizona sixth (214). By placing 15th, the UVU women finished ahead of WAC foe New Mexico State (408), Idaho State (424), Montana (492), Texas Tech of the Big 12 (546) and Northern Colorado (551).

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Top-ranked NAU won the men's race with 42 total points, while the host and No. 2 ranked BYU Cougars took second with 56 points. Eighth-ranked Colorado took third (71), No. 14 Colorado State fourth (114), Southern Utah fifth (146), No. 18 Wyoming sixth (149) and No. 13 Air Force seventh (167). By placing 15th, the Wolverine men finished ahead of Montana (482) and Texas Tech of the Big 12 (520).

The NCAA Mountain Region Championships conclude the 2018 season for both the UVU men's and women's cross-country teams. On Oct. 27, the Utah Valley men won their fourth WAC Championship in six seasons, while the women earned runner-up honors at the conference championship.