BYU and the University of Utah featured prominently in the Deseret News 10K races Friday morning. Two former All-American runners from those Utah colleges took home the men’s and women’s division titles.
Rory Linkletter, a former All-America distance runner for BYU, won the men’s race, while former Ute Grayson Murphy, who recently finished sixth in the steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic trials, won the women’s race. Murphy also won the Deseret News 10K in 2019.
Another BYU runner, Jared Ward, who finished sixth in the 2016 Olympic marathon, was second behind Linkletter on the men’s side. Weber State’s Lexie Thompson finished second in the women’s division.
After a heavy thunderstorm Thursday night cleared the area, the competitors started the race in near perfect weather conditions, leading to some insanely fast times. Linkletter finished with a time of 28:05, and Ward clocked in 10 seconds later. Sean O’Connor finished in third place at 28:55.
About a half-dozen runners grouped together for the first half of the race, but as the event crossed the halfway point, Linkletter and Ward separated themselves from the pack. With just over a mile to go, Ward had about a five-second lead on Linkletter that quickly vanished as he picked up the win over his longtime mentor.
“It was fun to race Jared. He was my hero in running since I was a freshman at BYU and then he took me under his wing,” said Linkletter. “It was special to have your idol become your rival for a short while.”
Ward finished with a time of 28:15 and was very impressed with Linkletter’s performance and the growth he had made over the last half-decade.
“I used to call Rory ‘The Boy’ when he was a freshman and I was older. But he always had that ‘it’ factor and was always trying to figure out what he could do to get to that next level. He is just going to keep getting better, he has that fire and he wants it. He is no longer a boy,” said Ward.
Murphy topped the women’s leaderboard with a time of 31:13, beating her personal record on the course by over 90 seconds. Thompson (31:35) and Angie Nickerson (33:42) followed. Murphy is the defending World Mountain Running Champion, winning her debut race in the event in Argentina in 2019. With the event canceled in 2020, she will look to defend her title in Thailand this fall. Winning the 10K race was good preparation for that. The event started above the University of Utah and wound its way through Salt Lake City, ending at Liberty Park.
“This race is pretty downhill, that is a unique factor of this course,” Murphy said. “It has a little bit more technique than a normal flat 10K race. If you aren’t prepared for that aggressive downhill, it can be a detriment. It is fast, but you have to be ready to be fast.”
One constant theme from the event was how much the runners enjoyed being home. A lot of the participants have competed all over the world after spending their high school and college days in Utah. The opportunity to return to where it all began and compete against others at a high-level event is a unique opportunity.
Linkletter was especially ecstatic to be home.
“It was the first time I had run this since 2013 when I was still in high school,” he said. “Being from Utah but now living in Flagstaff, Arizona, made it a really cool opportunity to run in front of my family and friends while getting to see my old high school and college teammates.”