UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | April 17, 2024

Cross country team continues breaking own records

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They wake up and start practice every morning at 6 a.m. with two-a-days three times a week and still have smiles on their faces.

The Dixie State College cross country team focuses every day to work its way up to the top. And it has been successful so far with the women placing fifth and men placing sixth at the George Kyte Classic held at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff, Ariz. on Sept. 1.

Head coach Justin Decker said this meet was a struggle to train for because of the change of environment, but they found a way to work through it.

“That was a tough one because it was up in 7,000 feet elevation in Flagstaff, so we couldn’t prepare for the elevation, but we did a lot of hill workouts,” Decker said. “That helped us strengthen and prepare for that steep hill of that course.”

Rodney Warr, a sophomore biology major from St. George, said the meet was a good way to evaluate the team as a whole.

“I think it gave everybody a pretty good view of where they’re at and where we can improve,” Warr said. “The first meet is always one where you can kind of gauge yourself and gauge the team as a whole and find out where your strengths are and where you can always do a little bit better.”

The team had individual runners who performed well and were top placers in the meet. 

Senior Rachel Young, who was Pacific West Conference Runner of the Year last season, beat her record by more than 30 seconds at 17:50.1 and took 12th place overall.

Freshman Celeste Gutzeman had a time of 5:58.4 and took 19th place, and freshman Brianna Decker followed with a time of 6:00.7 and took 22nd place. 

For the men, Warr had a time of 5:32.0 and took 29th place, and freshman Zach Smith trailed with a time of 5:42.1, which brought him in 39th place.

The medal honors of the meet were awarded to Shelby Houlihan from Arizona State with the time of 5:25.9 and Brian Shrader from Northern Arizona University with the time of 5:02.5.

Warr said his favorite part of running is right in the middle of the race where he’s getting tired and pushes through it in the heat of the moment. 

“The finish line is the best feeling of any race,” Warr said.

Decker said the team is expecting success for the rest of their season, and he is happy to have such a great group of people to coach.

“They’re fun to be around and I think they’re all just really great kids,” Decker said. “They all get along really well with each other, and there’s good chemistry on the team so that helps a lot. It’s a lot easier to wake up and come to practice when you enjoy the people you’re doing it with and having fun, so that’s one big thing.”

The Red Storm don’t compete again until Sept. 29 at the University of North Las Vegas Invitational and then again at Southern Utah University on Oct. 6, and Decker said he is looking forward to seeing good times at the finish line.

“Our women expect to place really well there,” Decker said. “The women’s team looks really strong this year with Rachel and the other runners we have on the team. I expect them, if not win, to place really well in that. Our men as well. We’ll be able to compete well with them and should have a good race.”

Warr also said he is looking forward to a successful year.

“If anybody wants to come out to the meets in Vegas or Cedar, we’d love the support,” Warr said. “This cross country team is doing great, and I’m really excited for it.”