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Utah Utes track star Amanda Mergaert ending her career at NCAA championships in Oregon

SALT LAKE CITY — One of the more prominent athletic careers in University of Utah history will come to an end this week at the NCAA track and field championships in Eugene, Ore.

Senior Amanda Mergaert, an All-American in cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track, is among the field of 24 competitors seeking top honors in the 1,500-meter run. The semifinals are Thursday and the finals are set for Saturday.

Either way, it’ll be the final time Mergaert runs for the Utes.

“It really hasn’t hit me and I’m glad that it hasn’t because if it did I think I’d be freaking out,” she said. “I’m just pretending like I still have another season after this.”

In reality, though, Utah coach Kyle Kepler acknowledges that it’ll be a bittersweet weekend. He considers Mergaert the best middle-distance runner in program history.

“We are ending it where we want to end it — here at the NCAA championships,” Kepler said. “But it’s got to end, unfortunately.”

Although Mergaert is making her third consecutive appearance at nationals, she’s not taking anything for granted — especially this time around.

“I’m never just glad to be here,” Mergaert said. “I have some big goals for this meet. I definitely want to make it into the final round.”

Mergaert noted that the field includes a lot of seniors that she has competed against over the past four years and she really wants to beat them. Mergaert ran the fastest time (4:19.08) in the NCAA Preliminary trials and placed seventh overall in the quarterfinals with a season-best time of 4:15.19.

“I’m feeling really good,” said Mergaert, who added that she’s been fortunate to avoid major injuries this season. “I’m ready to go.”

In order to reach Saturday’s finals, Mergaert needs to finish in the top five of her heat Thursday or clock one of the top two times outside of the automatic qualifiers. Kepler believes her past experience and success will be beneficial in what is expected to be a tightly contested competition.

Regardless of what happens, Kepler said that making All-American squads in cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track in the same year is exceptionally rare.

Mergaert, however, isn’t thinking about that just yet, even if it is something to look back on someday and wonder how the heck she did it.

“Right now I’m just focused on this weekend,” Mergaert said. “And I’m not really going to reflect on everything until it’s all in the books.”


Twitter: @DirkFacer