Panguitch native Whittni Orton wins individual NCAA cross-country title

BYU senior Whittni Orton, a native of Panguitch, Utah, wins the NCAA Cross-County Championship race in Florida on Nov. 20, 2021 | Photo courtesy of BYU Athletics, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Panguitch native and Brigham Young University senior Whittni Orton captured the first individual NCAA women’s cross country title in school history in Florida on Saturday.

Posting a time of 19:24.5 in the 6K race, Orton led the BYU women’s cross country team to a runner-up finish in the 2021 NCAA Cross Country Championships held at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee.

Orton ran with the front pack of the top-four runners for the majority of the race, breaking off at the 5K mark as she approached the hill leading to the finish line.

Orton would go on to beat Alabama’s Mercy Chelangat, the reigning individual champion, by nearly four seconds. Orton’s time is the second fastest all-time at Apalachee.

The Cougars had three runners finish in the top 40 and earn All-American honors: Orton (1), Anna Camp-Bennett (12) and Aubrey Frentheway (38). All ran personal bests in Saturday’s race.

At the 2020-21 NCAA Cross Country Championships held earlier this year, Orton led the pack before dropping into 17th place toward the end of the race.

“That definitely fueled me a lot,” Orton said. “I did think about it many, many times, not just today but throughout the whole year. I always think that the setback does help with the comeback.”

Graphic announcing BYU senior Whittni Orton’s individual victory in the NCAA Cross-County Championships in Florida on Nov. 20, 2021 | Image courtesy of BYU Athletics, St. George News

Orton also talked about BYU women’s cross country head coach Diljeet Taylor and the impact that she’s had on the program.

“Her culture, I’ve been a part of it for about six years now,” she said. “I am a completely different person because of  it. I’m just so grateful for her and these girls. I’ve seen them grow as well and it’s really amazing to see. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t come to BYU.”

Orton is the first BYU woman to win an individual NCAA cross country title in school history. On the men’s side, BYU’s Conner Mantz won the individual title for the second-straight year, the first repeat champion since 2014-15. It marked just the second time in NCAA history that the two individual cross country champions have come from the same school.

For complete meet results click here.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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