Karli Branch led the way for the Utes with a seventh-place finish in the regular-season finale meet.

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah cross country team wrapped up the regular-season on a beautiful Thursday afternoon at the Utah Open and was paced by Karli Branch (19:07.5) in the 5K race at Sunnyside Park.

“It was a perfect day, can’t complain about the weather at all,” head coach Kyle Kepler said postrace. “Thanks to so many people. Our director of operations, Michael Tamayo, was terrific helping set this up along with our assistant coaches. Really thankful for all the help and support we get from our administration and support staff because we couldn’t host a home meet like this without their help.

Branch ran with the lead group from start to finish for the Utes, making it the second meet this year she’s led the Women of Utah in a race. Meanwhile, Maddie Reed was the second Ute to cross the finish line and crushed her previous 5K PR time (20:09.2) with a 14th-place finish at 19:38.0.

“It’s a challenging course. We train here and to run a bunch of laps on this course is tough. It’s probably a more challenging course than people think it’s going to be. Overall, I thought our kids ran really well; gave great efforts. Karli [Branch] led us the whole way while Emma [Earl] and Natalie [Platil] ran their last races as seniors – which I thought they did a great job. Maddie [Reed] is kind of on the comeback trail. She was injured a year ago and has struggled with that a little bit but is starting to put things together and ran really well today.”

Natalie Platil closed out her career with a 19th-place finish on the 5K course at 19:56.9. Fellow senior Emma Earl was the next Ute to cross the finish line and checked in with a mark of 20:50.2 to wrap up her career on the cross country side as well. Freshman Maren Busath was right on Earl’s tail and finished right after her with a time of 20:52.5 while Kaitlyn Mercer rounded out the list of Utes racing at 22:06.7.

“I thought all our women ran tough out there and continued pushing to get better every lap. It was a great little meet and that is why we put it on. Really excited for them to have the chance and opportunity to go show themselves and see where their fitness level was.”

The Utes now turn their attention towards the postseason, specifically the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships – which they will host next Friday, Oct. 29, at the Regional Athletic Complex (Meet Central).