Cross country: BYU men, Weber State women stage strong showings

Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Nov. 12 2011 11:24 p.m. MST

2011 NCAA Mountain Region Cross Country Championships held at East Bay Golf Course, Provo, Utah. BYU's mens team places 1st in the team championships

Mark A. Philbrick, Mark A. Philbrick

PROVO — The BYU men's cross country team claimed the 2011 NCAA Mountain Region Cross Country Championship at East Bay Golf Course on Saturday to earn a spot in the national championships on Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Ind.

Miles Batty led the way for the Cougars, taking the individual title in the 10K race with a time of 30:09.3.

"Our number one goal was just to take it easy and run as a team, which we did," Batty said. "It was a good result and hopefully we can recover and get ready for nationals."

The BYU men had a team score of 49 to edge Colorado, which finished six points behind with 55. Northern Arizona rounded out the top three with a score of 69. Batty — the 2011 West Coast Conference champion — ran in the lead pack throughout and pulled ahead with the top three late in the race. He made a strong kick to outpace Southern Utah's Cameron Levins and claim the title.

"The team ran extremely well," men's head coach Ed Eyestone said. "This is the best team I have coached in my 11 years and I'm really proud of the boys and look forward to nationals."

Coming in behind Batty for BYU were Rex Shields (30:42.2) and Jared Ward (30:42.5), who finished eighth and ninth overall, repectively. Jason Witt (31.03.4) and Curtis Carr (31:03.7) rounded out BYU's top five and finished 15th and 16th overall, respectively.

Levins crossed the finish line just two seconds behind Batty, recording a time of 30:11.5.

Behind a sterling performance from sophomore Amber Henry, the Weber State women's team stunned the field with a third-place finish at regionals. Two perennial region powers, Colorado and New Mexico, were tied for first place with 84 points apiece. The Wildcats fought off hometown favorite BYU for third place, scoring 135 points. The Cougars were fourth with 140.

"Wow, what a race," said WSU head coach Paul Pilkington. "That is the highest finish ever for our women at the region meet, and it's the first time we have ever finished ahead of BYU in a women's cross country meet — period. And to do it on their home course makes it even more special."

Henry fought off several top-ranked runners to finish sixth at 21:04.0 in the 6K race. The third-place finish may be good enough for the Wildcats to earn an at-large berth to nationals.

The WSU men finished sixth with a total of 190 points, finishing one point head of Utah State.

For the BYU women, Morgan Haws led the way, taking second overall with a time of 20:53.2. With her second-place finish, Haws individually qualified for nationals.

"I've been looking forward to this race all season, especially knowing that this is how we qualify for nationals," Haws said. "I've been really anxious and nervous, but it was fun, especially running at home, and I'm really happy with how things turned out."

Rounding the BYU women's top five were Katy Andrews (21:50.8, 25th overall), Candace Eddy (22:13.6, 35th), Stephanie Jensen-Bills (22:19.1) and Sarah Darby (22:20.9, 40th).

"It was an exciting race," women's head coach Patrick Shane said. "Morgan Haws ran her best race of the year. We'll have to see how the rest of the races stack up to see if we'll be able to go to nationals, but I'm excited for Morgan and we'll keep our fingers crossed."

The University of Utah women's team finished in eighth place at the meet. Amanda Mergaert and Alyssa Abbott led the way for the Utes, as both posted top-15 finishes.

"The conditions were tough for everyone today," Utah head coach Kyle Kepler said. "We didn't finish as high as we would have liked, but hopefully we continue to learn and grow."

For her second straight season, Mergaert led the Utes with a top-10 finish. Mergaert clocked a time of 21:14.5 to earn the ninth overall spot. And in her final cross country race, Abbott posted a time of 21:29.8 to finish 14th overall.

For Utah State, men's senior captain Brian McKenna placed 10th with a time of 30:43.3, leading the Aggies to a seventh-place finish. McKenna earned all-Region honors and will wait for an invitation as an at-large runner to compete at the national championships. The field will be announced on Monday.

Great West Conference champion Utah Valley University was 14th in the men's race and 17th in the women's event.

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