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Utah schools send large contingent to regionals

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Utah colleges will be well represented at this weekend's NCAA Western Regional Championships held on the campus of Cal State Northridge.

Utah State University will send 13 student athletes, including five women and eight men. John Strang headlines the group after winning his second-straight WAC decathlon championship, but several other Aggies will look to steal the spotlight.

USU coach Gregg Gensel praised junior Katie Thatcher for her 400-meter hurdles championship. Thatcher competed for two seasons before serving an LDS Church mission. This is her first season back and she hasn't missed a step due to the lapse in training.

"She's actually running faster since she's been back," Gensel said of Thatcher, who won the WAC title with a career-best time of 59.47.

Weber State is sending 11 student athletes to regionals, including three women and eight men, headlined by walk-on freshmen Eric Bailey. Bailey won the Big Sky 400-meter hurdles title and also competes on the 4x400-meter team.

"He's been a terrific member of our team," said WSU coach Dan Walker. "He completely deserved a scholarship when he came here, but by the time he was targeted I didn't have anything to offer him."

The Thunderbirds of Southern Utah are shipping 11 standouts to Northridge. Greg Watson, who is ranked No. 13 in the nation in the hammer throw, leads a group of 10 men and one woman. Freshman Christina Day from Las Vegas qualified for the 400 meters.

The University of Utah will have five representatives, all women, in this weekend's competition. Most notably are a pair of Chelseas. Chelsea Shapard earned her second-straight 400-meter hurdles championship, while Chelsea DiGrazia will compete in the 1,500 meters.

UVSC is not competing this weekend, as the school is still on NCAA provisional status.

E-mail: jwilliams@desnews.com