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BYU cross-country: Stewart and Vidmar lead team in field of 267 runners

By Steven Tew

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Sept. 29 2012 1:41 p.m. MDT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Freshman Rachel Stewart and senior Kathryn Vidmar led the BYU women’s cross country team to a 14th-place finish Saturday at the Greater Louisville Invitational in Louisville, Ky.

“Rachel and Kathryn had solid performances today,” head coach Patrick Shane said. “Rachel is one of our walk-ons this year, but that doesn’t stop her from giving her best effort. She puts blinders on and gets to work. Kathryn finished just behind Rachel and ran the best race of her career.”

Even though Stewart is a freshman and a walk-on, she finished first for BYU and 69th overall in 17:48.05. Vidmar led the BYU pack the majority of the race but was narrowly overtaken by Stewart in the last stretch, finishing .79 seconds ahead of her teammate. Vidmar finished second for the Cougars and 71st overall in 18:48.84. Junior Makenna Smith finished third for BYU and 74th overall in 17:51.59.

Carrie Jube and Ashleigh Warner finished out the Cougars' top five, finishing 94th and 107th overall, respectively.

In a recent interview with ElevenNEWS, Stewart told reporters she was originally accepted to BYU-Idaho but had a dream to run in Provo. Throughout the majority of her senior year of high school, she made it a point that coach Shane knew about her. She kept him informed on her progress all year. Because of her efforts and results, Shane pleaded her case to the admissions board, and she was accepted.

“Being a part of this team is more than I could have ever hoped for,” Stewart said. “Montana definitely is not like other places as far as the competition goes, but there were always great runners for me to compete with. Running in college is so different, but I love it. I’m really excited to see where things could go from here.”

As of a few days ago, Vidmar was not scheduled to travel with the team to the invitational. She struggled to perform well in previous meets but has steadily improved in practice over the last few weeks. Vidmar knew her chances to race were winding down and was determined to make the travel roster to Kentucky. Because of this determination, Shane booked a ticket for her last minute.

“In the past, Kathryn has not performed like she should have to be able to race this week,” Shane said. “But the last few weeks, something changed. She started running really well. Before we made the final decision, she came to me and asked me to give her another shot, so we booked a ticket for her. She earned it, and the best part of all this is she made the most of her opportunity. You could say she hit a home run.”

According to coach Shane, to see Vidmar have such a great race was one of the most rewarding experiences in his 33 years in coaching.

“I had a really bad race a few weeks ago, but I have been doing better, especially the last few days,” Vidmar said. “When coach told me he would give me a shot in this race, I knew this could be it. I knew I needed to perform, or my season could be over. I’m really happy with the way I ran today. I treated it like practice. I tried to watch for my teammates and run close to them.”

The women’s cross-country team does not race again until Oct. 12, at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational where the team will match up against 20 teams ranked in the top 25.

“Overall, we learned a lot today,” Shane said. “This was a great experience for our young team to be in a field with so many runners and so many great teams. However, we learned we need to run more as a group, which is so key. One thing we are going to work on in practice this week is how to find each other. That is crucial going into the Wisconsin Invitational. That race is just as big, but with more ranked teams.”

Steven Tew is an SID at BYU Athletic Communications. He can be contacted at wtrack_sid@byu.edu

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