Cougar runners easily claim MWC crown

Published: Sunday, Oct. 29 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

BYU's Kassi Andersen, second from the right, leads the pack in the Mountain West Conference Cross Country Championships.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

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BYU's cross country teams swept nearly every team and individual honor available at the Mountain West Conference Championships on Saturday, as the Cougar women won their 18th consecutive conference title and the Cougar men won their ninth title in the last 10 years.

The Utah women's team fell short of its goal of a top five finish, finishing sixth, but improved over last year's seventh-place finish.

BYU men's coach Ed Eyestone and women's coach Patrick Shane both took home MWC Coach of the Year honors.

Kassi Andersen was named the MWC's Female Athlete of the Year after winning the women's 6K race with a time of 20:52.7. She was more than 18 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Calandra Stewart of TCU.

A big help was "running as a team for the first half and then running how we felt as individuals in the second half," Andersen said. "As a team, we did what we came to do and what we expected to do."

Amber Duffin (fifth) and Amy Fowler (seventh) joined Andersen on the All-MWC first team, while Breanne Sandberg (ninth) and Anne Heiner (13th) made the second team in rounding out the scoring for the Cougars.

On the men's side, BYU's Josh Rohatinsky had to shake off a little rust in his first race in a month but still had more than enough kick to distance himself from the pack about halfway through the race. He won the men's 8K by nearly 10 seconds, ahead of Wyoming's Mark Korir.

Rohatinsky, who was named MWC Male Athlete of the Year, collapsed after crossing the finish line. But after taking a few minutes to catch his breath and walk around, he insisted he was fine.

"Every time I passed coach Eyestone or someone else, I'd motion to see how far behind me (Korir) was," Rohatinsky said. "I just wanted to hang on. I don't like to race like that, but I haven't run in about a month and I think that had something to do with it."

Kyle Perry (third), Chandler Goodwin (sixth) and Dustin Bybee (seventh) joined Rohatinsky and Perry on the All-MWC first team, while Jacob Gustafsson (10th) and MWC Freshman of the Year Alden Bahr (11th) made the second team.

While the Ute women finished slightly lower than hoped, coach Kyle Kepler said he couldn't have been more pleased with the team's effort.

"I'm ecstatic with our performance," he said. "Overall, it's a great day for our program. Our program got better today, and that's what we're trying to do in every meet."

Freshman phenom Becky Mackelprang, who had led the Utes in every race this season, was hampered by soreness in her foot. Despite the injury, she still managed to finish second on her team and 28th overall.

"It was one of the gutsiest performances I've seen as a coach," Kepler said of Mackelprang.

Without Mackelprang in the top spot, fellow freshman Alyssa Abbott stepped up for Utah, shaving 1:30 off her best time of the season and finishing 23rd overall.

WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE: The Utah State men's and women's cross country teams won league championships at Fresno, Calif., Saturday.

The Aggie men posted a fairly easy victory as they placed five runners in the top eight individually en route to 26 points.

USU's Vance Twitchell was the meet runner-up, individually placing 28 seconds behind Boise State's Forest Braden. Twitchell, a senior from Helena, Mont., covered the eight-kilometer course in 24:43 to pace the Aggies.

Ben Kessen was fourth with a time of 25:08, while Seth Wold was fifth (25:13), Tony Jones seventh (25:32) and Aaron Clements eighth (25:45) for USU.

On the women's side, USU placed three in the top seven individually, including Jennifer Twitchell, who was fourth at 17:58.8 on the five-kilometer course.

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