If the measurement of success for UVU athletic teams is conference championships, then the men and women of the Wolverine cross country team have set the bar high in recent years. Both the UVU men and women have built the foundations of a dynasty in WAC cross country by winning five of a possible eight conference titles between them since joining the WAC in 2013. They’re on pace to continue that legacy in the 2017 season.
The Wolverines began the season with a team sweep as hosts at the UVU Invitational in Orem. With two top-three finishes, the men edged Southern Utah by one point, 33-34. The women won more comfortably, finishing 28 points ahead of the competition with five top-10 finishes and three in the top four.
At the UC Riverside Invitational, the men earned a third-place finish in a field of 33 teams with two runners in the top 10. The women finished fourth in a field of 30, their first runner coming in with a 23rd place finish.
UVU earned its second team sweep of the season at the UNLV Invitational, where the men swept the top five finishes and the women placed four in the top five. After a brief break, the Wolverines participated in the SUU Color Country Invitational. There, the women took first with five finishers in the top eight, while the men took third.
“We started off good at our home meet with a win and then we carried on really strong going into California,” senior McKayla Walker said. “We placed really high against a lot of competitive teams and a lot of people broke records that our team had set there. That was really cool to see a number of individuals break those records.”
The best individual performance on the men’s side this season has come from senior Tyson Lambert. He’s earned first-place finishes in each of the team’s first three meets, breaking program records along the way. In the UVU Invitational, he finished the 5K with a time of 15:15.8. At the UC Riverside Invitational, Lambert set a program course record, finishing the 8K race with a time of 23:53.8. Lambert’s performance earned him a WAC athlete of the week award. He also finished first in the UNLV Invitational 6K race with a time of 18:16.
On the women’s side, Walker earned two straight WAC athlete of the week awards behind her performances at the UC Riverside and UNLV Invitationals. Walker joined Lambert in setting new program course records in Riverside with her finish of 20:42.9 in the 6K race. She also got the individual win at UNLV with a 17:32 finish in the 5K. Doing so well in her final season at UVU has meant a lot.
“It’s hit a couple times during runs that this is it,” she said. “This is the last year, so just to finish out strong is really encouraging for me to leave a good mark on the team.”
Despite the individual accolades, Walker hasn’t changed her team-first approach to the sport.
“It’s a lot more team oriented than individual. You want the gap between the first place and the fifth place to be smaller because the smaller it is the better you’ll do,” she said. “Going into it, you’re prepping every single person to run well. You never know who’s going to be top five and we want every individual to run their individual best for the team.”