Simone Plourde was in a bind back in 2021.
She had just transferred out of BYU. COVID restrictions still were in effect, hampering her ability to explore other options. And internally, she had told herself that she wanted to stay in Utah. She enjoyed the mountains and liked the skiing.
Typically when players transfer, they get the chance to look around the country for what comes next. But between the travel restrictions and her own requirements, Plourde was limited to just a few potential destinations.
So when Utah coach Kyle Kepler came calling, a school that met her unique criteria, she jumped at it.
“New Mexico [called]. It just came down to a question of like, I really didn’t want to live in Albuquerque,” Plourde said. “The University of Virginia [was also in the mix]. But that was more for the schooling side of things. So I feel like Utah was a good mix of good education and good team. I’ll do the training and it kind of had a little bit of everything I wanted.”
Plourde’s bet to stay in Utah has worked out now. Two years later, she has anchored a resurgent program and qualified for the NCAA Championships this week. She ran the 1500 meter in a personal best 4:08 at the regional meet and capped off a season where she became just the second Utah runner to win an individual Pac-12 championship.
But Plourde’s story is indicative of a wider team trend for the Utes. She is one of a bevy of transfers in the last two years who have helped the Utah track team become ranked. Emily Venters came over from Boise State. She is now one of the premier 10,000-meter runners in the country. Dinedye Denis, who just nationally qualified for the 400-meter hurdles, came from Morgan State and Albany.
“Last year I think we actually had like seven transfers,” Plourde said. “It was nice to have everyone come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives on their programs and everything. It was nice to just be able to build something special here. In a place where we knew we’d be a lot happier.”
This second season for Utah’s transfers is finally paying dividends. It takes a year for people’s bodies to get used to a new training regiment and the altitude, Plourde said. And Utah focuses on tempo and threshold training more than most programs. It doesn’t overwork runners, but it can put different pressures on most transfers.
“I think getting used to that has helped. And then also, even just outside of running, being able to feel like I’m just a lot happier now,” Plourde said.
When the national meet rolls around later this month, Utah will have three representatives. All three will be transfers. At Utah, it is the model that has worked. For Plourde, she feels like it is a model that can be sustainable.
“I’m just extremely grateful for everything that’s happening and how we’ve been able to elevate our program,” Plourde said. “Just like other girls coming in and really stepping up.”