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Local, international talent mix at UVSC

Track coach adds depth by recruiting outside Utah County

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UVSC track coach Scott Houle talks to runners at practice. Houle is trying to fuse elite local athletes with others from outside the state.

UVSC track coach Scott Houle talks to runners at practice. Houle is trying to fuse elite local athletes with others from outside the state.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

OREM — Perhaps more than any other athletic program at Utah Valley State, the track and field team presided over by coach Scott Houle mixes a foundation of local talent with several athletes who hail from lands far, far away.

Two weeks ago at the BYU Cougar Invitational, for instance, the Wolverines won both the men's and women's 100-meter sprints. Chris Fogt, who won the men's race for UVSC, prepped at American Fork High. Conversely, women's winner Mariama Salifu hails from Nobisco, Ghana.

Put side-by-side, the victories by juniors Fogt and Salifu can serve as microcosms for what Houle and assistant head coach Kirke Adamson are trying to accomplish with their recruiting efforts — namely, fuse elite local athletes with some similarly-gifted competitors who come from afar.


"Obviously, Utah County is going to be where we recruit most of our kids out of," Houle said. "We try hard to get some of those kids, and so it's very nice to have them join us."

In addition to Fogt, several other Utah County athletes figure prominently into the makeup of the UVSC track and field squad.

Senior sprinter Tawny Judkins-Gause (Provo High) runs the 100 meters, competes in the long jump and teams with Salifu to form a potent back end to the Utah Valley 4x100 relay.

Chris's younger brother Brent Fogt, a sophomore still in his first year back after an LDS mission, is someone Houle thinks "can be a good talent for us once he gets his mission legs out of him."

Two freshmen, Matt Williams (Lone Peak) and Shawn Carlson (Orem High), offer a lot of promise in pole vault and middle distance-running, respectively.

There are other prominent Wolverines who though not from Utah County are still in-state talent. Among these is Zach Cook, a freshman from Bingham High in South Jordan who has already broken the school record in the long jump with a winning leap of 23 feet 1.2 inches at the BYU Cougar Invitational.

From further south, St. George native Karinne Bentley is Utah Valley's most consistent female distance runner. Senior Kirsten Barney (Richfield) became the first UVSC athlete during Utah Valley's brief tenure in Division I to ever achieve a qualifying time for the NCAA Regionals when she unexpectedly shaved more than 20 seconds off her personal best in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Lands far away

"Recruiting (out-of-state kids) is not easy," Houle said. "We spend quite a bit of time finding athletes around the country and researching them, communicating a lot through the e-mail and the letters and just building a relationship on the phones. It's not the easiest, but the one thing we've found is that a lot of kids want to come here and so it's just a matter of us finding them or just paying attention to them and getting them here."

His facial hair aside, 6-foot-4 behemoth Gavin Shaw looks like he might be an offensive lineman for BYU's football team. The truth,

however, is that Shaw is one of the best hammer throwers in the state.

Although the junior and native South African scratched on all three of his hammer attempts at the Cougar Invitational, he remains one of Utah Valley State's premier track athletes. Following Barney's lead, Shaw netted a hammer throw earlier this year that would have qualified him for NCAA Regionals if not for the provisional Division I status of UVSC.

Arguably the biggest track recruit landed to date by Houle has been freshman Mary Nothum. Last year at Washington High in Missouri, Nothum was the sixth-best high school steeplechaser in the nation. At the Cougar Invitational two weeks ago, she placed second in the 1,500 meters, barely besting Barney by less than a second.