Off and running: In its 3rd year, Utah Tech women’s track and field hosts meet as program gains speed

ST. GEORGE — If the inaugural Utah Tech Invitational is any indication of what’s to come, then track and field athletes, coaches and fans in Southern Utah have much to look forward to.

Utah Tech’s Lexi Larsen, third from left, prepares to cut in at the 100-meter mark of the women’s 800-meter run during the Utah Tech Invitational track and field meet at Greater Zion Stadium Saturday, March 11, 2023 | Photo by Vin Cappiello, St. George News

Runners, jumpers and throwers from several universities converged on Greater Zion Stadium Friday and Saturday, braving rain, hail and wind at the start of the meet and the finish but also enjoying some favorable weather in between.

Trailblazers Head Track and Field Coach Derrick Atkins told St. George News after Saturday’s events that while a mid-afternoon thunderstorm forced the cancellation of the final event — the much anticipated 4×400-meter relay — the two-day meet brought nothing but good vibes.

“It really came off well, and I’m really thankful that the weather cooperated,” Atkins said after the storm ended. “We almost made it all the way through with the 4×4, but hey, that was the last event. Nevertheless, I’m pretty happy with the way it went.”

Participating in the meet were Utah Tech, Southern Utah University, Utah Valley University, University of Utah and University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Atkins said with time, this meet hopefully will be an attractive draw.

“It was our first meet,” he said. “I look forward to the future and growing the meet from here. Hopefully, we can build it out and have a little bit more of the northern schools come south.”

Utah Tech Head Track and Field Coach Derrick Atkins helps keep the events running on schedule at the Utah Tech Invitational track and field meet at Greater Zion Stadium Saturday, March 11, 2023 | Photo by Vin Cappiello, St. George News

Utah Tech University added the women’s track and field program three years ago. Atkins said he feels very good about the current state of the program, as performances continue to improve.

Middle distance/distance specialist Lexi Larsen said she, like her teammates, takes great pride in being part of a relatively new program.

“It’s really exciting to see all these new records being broken and running with my teammates,” Larsen, a Utah Tech sophomore, said. “It’s been a great experience so far.”

Her personal-record (PR) of 2 minutes, 16.43 seconds, in the 800-meter run is also a school record, and Larsen said while she’s relatively new to the event, she dug deep to improve her time.

“I started seeing black spots and started feeling tingly,” Larsen said after the race. “I just had to put my head down and finish it and go as hard as I could.”

And while Larsen now holds the outdoor 800 record at 2:14, teammate Addi Wyatt holds the indoor mark at the same distance and now the outdoor 400 top mark, finishing second on Saturday in 57.54.

Utah Tech’s Addy Wyatt crosses the finish line, establishing a new school record in the women’s 400 meters (57.74 seconds) at the Utah Tech Invitational track and field meet at Greater Zion Stadium Saturday, March 11, 2023 | Photo by Stan Plewe, Utah Tech Athletics, St. George News

Atkins noted this particular duo, along with Megan Atkins, who established a new Utah Tech best in the 400-meter hurdles, coming in at 1:03.32.

“We had a few highlights and a lot of PRs,” Atkins said in a UT Athletics press release. “Some school records as well. The big highlights would be those records — Megan Jenkins in the 400 hurdles, Lexi Larsein in the 800 and Addi Wyatt in the 400. Addi runs the 800 so it will be interesting to see Addi and Lexi line up against each other at our next meet.”

Atkins said establishing team chemistry has been a focal point since the inception of the program. And while he feels that has been accomplished and continues to evolve, the result is being reflected in several ways.

“This is our third year, and we’re growing,” Atkins said. “In track and field, it’s is all about seconds and having the right team culture. The girls are very supportive of each other.  Having a healthy team culture is very important — that was my No. 1 priority in my first two years. And now we’re looking at our performances on the track and continuing to grow our relationship with the community.”

L-R: The Utah Tech women’s 4×100 relay team of Ashlyn Parish, Alaynah Reed, Mary Fallon and Abigail Yadon pose after placing fourth in 47. 97 seconds, tying the No. 2 all-time best for the Trailblazers, Saturday, March 11, 2023 | Photo by Vin Cappiello, St. George News

This unity Atkins emphasized was evident Saturday with the very first running event — the 4×100-meter relay. Trailblazers Ashlyn Parish, Alaynah Reed, Mary Fallon and Abigail Yadon smoothly passed the baton three times en route to a 47.97-second clocking.

The foursome gathered minutes after the race to discuss the result, smiling at their success but also looking toward future success.

“The goal in the 4×1 is the get that baton around the track and get to the finish line as fast as possible,” said Parish, who ran the leadoff leg.

And their goal as the season progresses?

“Just get better every day,” Fallon said.

The Trailblazers next compete at the Vince O’Boyle Track & Field Classic at UC-Irvine March 30-April 1.

Click here for meet results.

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