Junior Nephi Tyler looks to guide the men's team, which finished third in the conference last year.
This season marks the cross country program's second year under Head Coach Brian Appell. After four successful seasons with Weber State, producing nine All-Americans, he found himself continuing the success at the U. as he brought a new style of coaching to the team. "I knew the athletes would have to adjust to my coaching style, I brought new concepts that the athletes weren't familiar with," says Appell.
The concept of pack running was set as the team's new plan for cross country racing, and boy did it produce higher results. This new concept proved successful, with the team's 2001 campaign earning Appell Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year honors in his first year with the Utes. "It was a great feeling to have the acknowledgment of the other conference coaches," says Appell.
This season the Utes turn their heads, once again, towards MWC championship glory and Utah's first team berth to the NCAA Championships. "We really have a shot this year," says Appell. "We have a stronger team, even without the help of Teren Jameson."
With the graduation of All-American Teren Jameson, the Utes will have to fill the void of one of the greatest distance runners in school history. But, Appell argues in favor of the team being even more successful this year "Teren was an amazing student-athlete," says Appell. "He won most of the meets last year that he competed in, while also excelling in his academic endeavors. He was a big contributor to the program."
Appell feels that this year's top five athletes are stronger as a team. "I believe that we'll earn lower scores and better finishes this year," says Appell "We may not have that standout individual like Teren, but our returning athletes and newcomers are stronger as a pack than they were a year ago."
To prepare the athletes for the challenging season, Appell had them participate in a cross country camp over the summer to help build team unity. This helped develop their skills and established the idea of group running. "The camp was very successful," says Appell. "In order to achieve our goals, our athletes must run as a tight group. It is important that we establish a team effort this year."
In a very strong conference, the Utes will have their hands full with conference rivals BYU, Colorado State and Air Force. "We compete against some very good teams in the conference," says Appell. "We expect to finish within the top three in the league and within the top six at regionals."
Qualifying for the NCAA's will be a different process this year. The Utes scheduled important qualifying meets that will decide if the team will earn a berth to the NCAA Championships. The Utes must produce competitive team results in order to earn enough points for a chance at the NCAA's. The first qualifying meet this year will be the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn., on Sept. 28.
Appell will look to junior Colby Frazier to lead the men's team. Frazier earned all-MWC first team honors by placing seventh at the MWC Championship meet. He also earned all-region honors with a 14th-place finish in the 10K at the Mountain Regional Cross Country Championships. Appell is expecting another successful campaign from Frazier this season..
Joining Frazier on Appell's list of expectations is junior Nephi Tyler, an experienced runner who ranked 30th in the country in the 1,500 meters (3:43.48) for track and field last year. Other key returners include senior Lion Gallegos and sophomore Brent Moore.
As far as new athletes are concerned, Appell has high hopes for junior college transfer Delfino Arevalo. Arevalo was the California State Junior College Champion in the 10K and will help round out the Utes' top male distance runners.
On the women's side, Appell reshirted several athletes last year to develop their skill without the risk of injury. "It was a developmental year for the team," says Appell. "We wanted to ensure a more balanced team in the coming years."
Several of those athletes will have a significant impact this year for the women's team, including freshman Jenny Fidler. Appell will also look to juniors Tara Hall and sophomores Jennifer Brusch and Charity Vernon to provide leadership and guidance for the younger athletes.
In 2001, Hall placed 31st (22:56) at the Mountain Regional Championships and was a key competitor in the 800 meters and the 1,500 meters for indoor track. Vernon, the former Charity Catmull, competed in indoor track and field, but redshirted the cross country and outdoor track and field seasons. She garnered all-conference honors for indoor track. Brusch is ranked second on Utah's top ten list for the steeplechase (11:4.30).
In addition to the returning athletes, Appell foresees newcomers Suzanne Cooney and Stacey Grover as having immediate impacts on the Utes' success. Grover is from Bingham High School in Utah, while Cooney was the 2000 Kentucky State Champion in 3,200 meters.