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Utah runners eyeing NCAA titles this weekend

Three Utes will be among those participating at NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas

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Utah’s Emily Venters and Simone Plourde pose for photos at the University of Utah track in Salt Lake City, April 25, 2023.

Utah runners Emily Venters and Simone Plourde pose for photos at the University of Utah track in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. Both runners, along with teammate Dinedye Denis, will be competing at the NCAA championships this weekend in Austin, Texas.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

This article was first published in the Ute Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Wednesday night.

Utah softball saw its magical season come to an end last weekend in Oklahoma City while Utah’s distance duo of Simone Plourde and Emily Venters will be among those vying for titles in the NCAA’s track and field championships this week in Austin, Texas. Also competing for the Utes in Austin will be Dinedye Denis, who qualified in the 400-meter hurdles after posting a PR time of 57.12 in the NCAA prelims. This marks the first time since the turn of the century that Utah has sent three athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

“We are excited to advance Dinedye, Emily and Simone in four different events,” said Utah coach Kyle Kepler after the NCAA prelims. “They all ran superb races. The doubles by Em and Sim were among the best races in the country this weekend.”

Meanwhile, the college football season is still a few months away, but Pac-12 media day is coming — July 21 in Las Vegas.

This week, The Athletic published a story by Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman in which they put “the majority of Power Five (quarterbacks) as well as the top Group of Five players” in one of five tiers.

Utah’s Cam Rising made Tier 4, while BYU’s Kedon Slovis is in Tier 5. Tier 1 included just USC’s Caleb Williams, and Tier 2 was just North Carolina’s Drake Maye and Washington’s Michael Penix, while the other three tiers were larger.

Meanwhile, realignment rumors and speculation continue to swirl. The latest involves the University of Colorado. And everyone continues to wait for the Pac-12’s media rights deal to be finalized and announced.

Programming note: Ute Insiders will be on hiatus for a couple of weeks and will return June 28.

In case you missed it

The Runnin’ Utes received great news when Branden Carlson announced on social media that he is returning to the Runnin’ Utes program for the upcoming season. The 7-foot star center previously declared for the NBA draft.

“This year, the NBA process has taught me a lot and showed me the level I aspire to be, but I’m not done here — not yet,” Carlson said in a video announcing his return to Utah. “Legacy, that’s what’s on my mind — my legacy as a Ute, as a player and as a teammate.” 

From the archives

BYU, Utah, Utah State announce early-season TV and kickoff details for 2023 football season

Is this the year these former Utah greats gain entry into the College Football Hall of Fame?

WCWS softball: Utes’ dream season ends quickly with pair of tough losses Friday in OKC

Extra points

  • Kalani Sitake’s team edges Kyle Whittingham’s team in annual charity scramble golf tournament (Deseret News)
  • Are the San Diego State Aztecs Pac-12 bound? (Deseret News)
  • Utah men’s basketball was in the running for RayJ Dennis. Where’s he headed? (Deseret News)
  • Storylines and subplots heading into this week’s NCAA track and field championships (Deseret News)


Best of luck to the Utes, but they will need a relief for (Mariah) Lopez, starter on the mound, with the 2.2 ERA with the next best with an 4+ ERA. She was just impressive and carries the team.

The first and second games (Friday) demonstrate the huge step down between Lopez and the rest. One led the Utes to a good loss (stranding too many batters) to a fifth inning slaughter (really done in second inning).

The Utes are one-deep in the most important position and no one on the team is even close to replacing her. She can’t play every game, especially back-to-back. Without a good relief, or alternative starter, the Utes are topped out.

Wish the ladies well, and hope will be successful in stealing some good pitching.

— majmajor

Mandel & Feldman have it about right with (Cam) Rising and (Kedon) Slovis. Neither has big-time arm talent, but both are good QBs. Of the two, Rising is more mobile and has been more productive. (Zach) Wilson has more actual arm talent than either. The irony for me is that both Slovis and Rising can make the short and intermediate throws routinely, something Wilson has been unable to do for the Jets, much to the puzzlement of his teammates and coaches. Defenses in the NFL are better, not because the schemes are more complicated, but because defenders are all elite. You don’t get deep matchups you can win very often. You have to complete the garden variety underneath throws to keep the chains moving. I don’t expect Rising (or Slovis) will be a high draft selection next year, but either would be more serviceable for a team than Wilson at this point.

— atkins

Up next

June 7-8 | TBA | Track and field | NCAA championships | @Austin, Texas


Utah coach Amy Hogue, left, talks to her players during Women’s College World Series game against Washington, Friday, June 2, 2023, in Oklahoma City. The Utes’ trip to the World Series was short-lived, but their stellar season bodes well for the future of the program.

Nate Billings, Associated Press