PROVO, Utah – Led by junior co-captain Jared Ward, the No. 3 BYU men's cross-country team executed down the stretch Saturday morning to win the Bill Dellinger Invitational in Springfield, Ore.
In order to win the meet, the Cougars had to stave off an Oregon team that performed well in front of its home crowd. The majority of the race was close, with BYU and Oregon having four runners apiece in the lead pack heading into the last half lap. The Ducks' Trevor Dunbar notched the best individual time (23:38), but the Cougars were able to show their depth by scoring five runners within a 20-second frame. When the race finished, BYU had edged the home team 32 to 49 for the victory.
"The team looked very, very strong," head coach Ed Eyestone said. "We had five people ahead of Oregon's third runner, so that showed some nice depth for us. We knew they were going to be strong, but we had the overall depth and a great team performance to pull it off."
Ward finished second overall and first for the Cougars with a time of 23:40. Tylor Thatcher (23:54, fifth overall), Conner Peloquin (23:54, sixth overall), Steve Flint (23:59, ninth overall) and Rex Shields (24:00, 10th overall) rounded out BYU's top-five finishers.
Eyestone said the key for his team was the compression between the second and fifth finishers. Thatcher and Shields finished only six seconds apart and each of the Cougars' scoring runners placed in the top-10 overall. So far this season, BYU has not had a scoring runner finish worse than 10th overall.
"I think we pulled off our overall strategy pretty well," Eyestone said. "Going in, we wanted to put five guys ahead of Oregon's first three. They had a very good squad, and they stepped up to the occasion and made it quite close for most of the race. Over the latter portion our depth kind of came through and we accomplished what we set out to do."
According to Eyestone, the Cougars' plan was for Ward to battle for the top spot, while the rest of the team stayed in the next pack. The strategy proved successful and, although Ward was outkicked for the top spot, BYU was able to win its third meet in a row.
"It's fun to just be surrounded by teammates for most of the race," Ward said. "I went through the finish line and gave Dunbar a high five and turned around to see a pack of BYU coming towards the finish line. It was really cool to see such a solid showing from our whole team against a great team like Oregon."
The Cougars' will next race at the Pre-Nationals meet in Louisville, Ky. on Oct. 13.
Mason Porter is a Sports Information Director for BYU Athletic Communications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.