BYU cross-country: Shields fuels BYU women's cross-country to 24th-place finish at Wisconsin Invitational

By Steven Tew

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13 2012 11:29 a.m. MDT

MADISON, Wisconsin – Freshman Natalie Shields led the BYU cross-country team to a 24th-place finish on Friday afternoon at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational by finishing first for BYU and 54th overall.

The Cougars ran in a field of 49 teams and 327 runners.

“Natalie did a great job for us today,” head coach Patrick Shane said. “This race was Natalie’s, as well as several other runners on our team, second race of the year. They all ran well, but they still haven’t hit their stride.”

Shields, who finished fifth among freshmen, crossed the line in the midst of runners from Minnesota, Yale and West Coast Conference rival San Francisco. Elena Burkhard, a freshman from San Francisco finished 52nd overall, two spots ahead of Shields. Three weeks ago at the Toledo Bubble Buster, Shields finished one place ahead of Burkhard to place sixth overall.

“Before we came out to Wisconsin, our team met together and set some goals,” Shields said. “Going into this race with something to accomplish together, made it so much easier to compete. Even racing against some teams in our conference, like San Francisco, it’s hard to pay attention to who I’m running against because there are so many people. However, I’m excited for the conference championships, where the field will be a lot smaller.”

Senior Michaelanne Laurent crossed the line 16 seconds behind Shields to finish second for the Cougars and 87th overall in 20:46. Lindsey Sowards Nielson followed Laurent to finish third for BYU and 147th overall in 21:00.

Kathryn Vidmar and Rachel Stewart finished 154th and 174th, respectively, to round out the top five.

In the ‘B’ race, Andrea Nelson Harrison finished fifth overall to lead the Cougars to a first-place finish. Ashleigh Warner and Sarah Darby placed fifth and 16th, respectively. Laura Young rounded out the Cougars’ top five by finishing 19th.

“This Invitational was more competitive than we thought,” Shane said. “We didn’t have enough information to make all the right calls. Teams like Duke, Yale and UCLA all finished higher than anyone thought. Even though we didn’t finish as high as we did in Toledo, we preformed better. Our runners should peak at about the right time going into the championships.”

The women’s cross-country team is back in action Oct. 27, at the WCC Championship in Portland, Ore.

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

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