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The 2021 college football season was a very memorable one for the Aggies, who were rewarded accordingly early Tuesday morning.

That’s when Utah State found out it had secured a spot in the final Associated Press Top 25 Poll. The Aggies are ranked 24th in the AP Poll and also 24th in the Coaches Poll, which was released later in the day.

This is only the five time in USU’s 124-year history it has been ranked nationally at the end of the season. Additionally, this is only the fifth Aggie squad to be ranked in the AP top 25 at any point of the season, joining the 1960, 1961, 2012, 2018 and 2021 teams.

The last time the Aggies finished in the top 25 was the 11-2 squad of 2018, which was 21st in the final Coaches Poll and 22nd in the last AP Poll. Utah State also earned a spot in the end-of-season rankings in 2012 (16th in AP Poll, 17th in Coaches Poll), 1972 (19th in UPI poll) and 1961 (10th in the AP and UPI polls).

USU capped off its ’21 campaign by dispatching of Oregon State by a 24-13 scoreline in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, which tool place on Dec. 15. The Aggies won eight of their last games and matched their single-season program record of 11 victories.

The Aggies (11-3) also captured their first ever Mountain West championship by blowing out then-No. 19 San Diego State, 46-13, on Dec. 4 in Carson, California. It was USU’s 13th conference title in program history.

USU was one of just 18 teams at the FBS level to win 11 of more games this past season, joining national champion Georgia (14), Alabama (13), Cincinnati (13), Louisiana (13), Baylor (12), Houston (12), Michigan (12), Oklahoma State (12), San Diego State (12), UTSA (12), Coastal Carolina (11), Michigan State (11), Notre Dame (11), Oklahoma (11), Ohio State (11), Pittsburgh (11) and Wake Forest (11). San Diego State was 25th in the final AP Poll and one spot out of the rankings in the Coaches Poll.

Utah and BYU also finished in the top 25 in both polls, marking the first time the Beehive State’s three FBS programs were able to accomplish this feat in the same season. The Utes are 12th in both polls, while the Cougars are 19th in the AP and 22nd in the Coaches.

PWO COMMITS TO AGGIES

Skyridge senior Jack Hadfield announced his commitment to the Aggies Wednesday on Twitter. Hadfield tweeted back in November that he had received a preferred walk-on offer to USU.

The 5-foot-11, 160-pound wide receiver caught 17 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns this past season for the Falcons, who went 11-2 and lost to eventual champion Lone Peak in the semifinals of the 6A state tournament.

Hadfield hauled in 26 receptions for 464 yards and four TDs as a junior.

MAGGARD’S BIG DAY

Former USU star distance runner Dillon Maggard came oh so close to capturing a national title in cross country last weekend. The current Aggie volunteer assistant coach competed against other professional runners and placed second at the USATF Cross Country Championships, which took place at Mission Bay Park in San Diego.

Maggard, who was a nine-time All-American at USU, completed the 10-kilometer course in 30 minutes, 34 seconds, which was just 1.1 seconds slower than 2016 U.S. Olympian Shadrack Kipchirchir. Kipchirchir finished 19th in the 10,000 meters at the 2016 Summer Olympics and eighth in the 3,000 at the 2018 World Championships.

However, Maggard was able to outkick one of the top distance runners in the country in Sam Chelanga, who placed third. Chelenga competed collegiately at Liberty University, where he captured national titles in the 10,000 and in cross country. He was the NCAA cross country medalist in 2010. Chelanga is still the NCAA record holder in the 10,000 (27:08.49).

“It was intense,” Maggard said in a press release. “I really wanted to get the win. I let it come down to 200 meters and Shadrack outkicked me there. I kind of wish I would have ratcheted it down a little bit more, maybe with a K to go. I tried to keep it honest, but it is hard to stay disciplined when you’re hurting pretty bad. Overall, I’m happy with my effort and happy with my performance.”

Four current Aggies also ran at last Saturday’s meet. Chase Leach led the Aggie charge as he was the runner-up in the men’s under 20 race. The freshman covered the 6K course in 25:50.

Fellow USU freshmen Garrett Woodhouse and Will Dixon placed fourth and fifth in that same race. Woodhouse clocked in at 26:44, while Dixon was credited with a time of 26:57.

Aggie freshman Kaybree Christensen was the bronze medalist in the women’s under-20 race. She crossed the finish line in 23:51.

Additionally, Maggard, Leach, Woodhouse, Dixon and Christensen were able to qualify for the Pan American Cross Country Championships. That meet is slated to take place March 26 in Brazil, but ultimately might be canceled due to COVID-19.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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