By placing eighth in a stacked NCAA Mountain Regional meet on Friday, freshman Summer Harper qualified for the NCAA National Championship meet on Saturday, November 23, in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“I felt like I raced it smart,” Harper said. “It was exciting just being up towards the front and trying to hold it. It got really hard towards the end but I did as good as I could and that’s what matters.”
Harper finished with a time of 20:45.5 at the course at Schneiter’s Riverside Golf Course in Riverdale, Utah. The meet was hosted by Weber State University with the top two teams in both the men’s and women’s races qualifying for the NCAA National Championships.
“There were a lot of really good runners she beat,” head coach Paul Pilkington said. “It’s a little bit of a surprise but half way through the season I thought to myself ‘man she could be good, very good, good enough to make it (to nationals).”
The Weber State women’s team finished fourth in its races while the young men’s team finished 14th in its race.
“I was really pleased with our top four women,” head coach Paul Pilkington said. “To be fourth in the same regional we won last year with almost a completely new team is something to be very proud of.”
Senior Amber Henry finished with the second-best time for the Wildcats at 21:14.4. Henry placed third in the regional last year and has been hampered by a foot injury and her time earned her the 23rd best in the regional.
“It’s hard for (Amber) because a year ago, she was third in this race and it’s hard to get beat people you know you’re better than,” Pilkington said.
Sophomore Jamie Stokes finished 28th with a time of 21:22.6 and freshman Hailey Ricks finished 30th with a time of 21:24.0. Junior Amanda Ward clocked in at 22:05.5 to place 71st overall while freshman Ellie Child rounded out the Wildcats’ tope six with a time of 22:48.3.
The men’s team was led by junior Trevor Ricks who finished 48th with a time of 30:40.7. Ricks was followed by Thomas “Tip” Worob who placed 65th at 31:19.1.
Neither the men’s nor the women’s team will qualify for the national meet, but dealing with injuries and youth, that is about what Pilkington expected. The men’s team had to redshirt leader Mike Hardy while the women’s team couldn’t race sophomore Kelsey Braithwaite due to illness.
“I think the men ran about what they are capable of,” Pilkington said. “I thought if (the women’s team) had a fantastic race, we’d finish third and when we lost Kelsey we are back a ways to our fifth, but I was very pleased with our front four.”
Harper will run at the national meet on Saturday in Indiana while the rest of the team gets ready for indoor track and field season.
“I just want to do the best that I can because I don’t know what to expect,” Harper said. “So I’m just going to give it everything.”