Meet the Norwegian Olympian leading Utah track and field into NCAA championships


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SALT LAKE CITY — When Josefine Eriksen was transferring away from Texas-Rio Grande Valley after the 2021 outdoor track and field season, she saw something special in the University of Utah.

But it wasn't from a campus visit or conversations with any coaches on the phone.

"I stalked them on Instagram," said Eriksen, who will graduate this summer with a degree in family, community and human development. "But they looked like a really fun group. It wasn't always about just running track, but being a good group. I could tell they could have fun — they had personality."

Four years later, Eriksen has made something special of her time with the Utes.

The senior from Stavern, Norway, will lead Utah into the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in Eugene, Oregon, this weekend, first in the 800 meters and then as the anchor leg of the Utes' 4x400-meter relay squad.

Eriksen owns the school record in both events — 2 minutes, 1.58 seconds in the 800 meter outdoor and a blistering 3:32.60 in the 4x400-meter relay, a record that has been reset three times this year.

Those are two of the seven school records held by Eriksen, who will also compete in the European Championships for her home country June 7-12 in Rome, Italy, and as a member of the Norwegian 4x400-meter relay at the Summer Olympics in Paris. It's the country's first Olympic relay team since 1920.

Utah sophomore Erin Vringer will debut at the NCAA championships after holding the No. 2 mark all-time in the 1,500 meters, a 4:13.17 mark set at the Pac-12 championships. Utah senior Harley Daniel will also compete in the 400-meter hurdles, in addition to her spot on the relay team.

Utah's Erin Vringer after qualifying for the NCAA outdoor track and field championships at the NCAA West preliminary in Fayetteville, Ark.
Utah's Erin Vringer after qualifying for the NCAA outdoor track and field championships at the NCAA West preliminary in Fayetteville, Ark. (Photo: Wesley Hitt for Utah Athletics)

The four event qualifiers is the most in program history, and the three individual qualifiers ties the 2023 outdoor season for the most in Utah track and field history.

Eriksen is looking forward to becoming a multi-sport NCAA qualifier, including leading the first Utah 4x400-meter relay team to the outdoor championships with teammates Ally Gomm, Bailey Kealamakia and Daniel, with alternates Emily Martin and Chloe Shewell.

That group has played a key role in Utah's season, not only in sending athletes to the NCAA championships for the 15th time in head coach Kyle Kepler's 19 seasons at the helm, but also in "raising the energy" from event to event.

"Even before we start running, I feel like we hype each other up," said Gomm, a senior from Provo. "A lot of teams are incredibly focused before a race, but in the tent, we're very up and hyping each other up."

That pairing of energy and sport made Eriksen's transfer to Utah seamless — as well as her fit within a team that blends Utah natives with regional standouts and international athletes.

Track and field is one of the most worldwide sports, and Kepler has had at least one international athlete on each of his teams during a 25-year career that began at his alma mater, Northern Iowa.

But Eriksen was special, added Kepler, who recruited the 800-meter runner out of the transfer portal even while he was hiring a new sprints and relays coach in Rebecca Rhodes at the same time.

"She got on campus and immediately clicked with the team and our team with her," Kepler said of Eriksen. "You've got to lean into change and do the best with it that you can. We've hit the portal, recruited internationally, locally, regionally; it's just about finding kids who fit our program, not just athletically but as humans with kids who want to be a part of something more than themselves."

For Eriksen, it was an easy group to join. She immediately reset the school record in the 400 meter with a time of 54.01 in her first indoor season with the Utes in 2021-22 before adding school records in the 200 meters, 600 meters (indoor), 4x100-meter relay, 4x800-meter relay and distance medley relay squads, in addition to her bread-and-butter events of the 800 and 4x400 relay.

"It was really easy to come to this group. Everyone was so open," she said. "I've never been a part of a women's-only team before; I was kind of nervous, would there be drama? But it was one big family. We hang out outside of the track a lot. We're not just teammates, but we're friends."

NCAA outdoor track and field championships; Eugene, Oregon

University of Utah

  • Erin Vringer, So., 1500M
  • Josefine Eriksen, Sr., 800M / 4x400M relay
  • Harley Daniel, So., 400M hurdles
  • Ally Gomm, Sr., 4x400M relay
  • Bailey Kealamakia, Sr., 4x400M relay
  • Emily Martin, So., 4x400M relay (alternate)
  • Chloe Shewell, Jr., 4x400M relay (alternate)

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