PROVO It was a banner day for BYU cross country at the NCAA Mountain Regional, held at Riverside Golf Course. The nationally ranked Brigham Young men took home fourth place and likely wrapped up an at-large berth to the nationals at Terra Haute, Ind., on Nov. 19.
BYU coach Ed Eyestone was very pleased with his team's performance, considering it has been through some rough times lately.
"It's been an emotional weekend, but the team rallied," Eyestone said.
The BYU men had much more on their minds than just this race. One of the team's top runners, Stephan Shay, was dealing with the sudden death of his brother, Ryan Shay. A case of food poisoning forced Shay out of the NCAA meet, but his teammates had his back. They created black wrist bands with a message that said, "Believe in yourself."
BYU senior Chandler Goodwin said this race was different; this race was for their teammate.
"It's been an emotional week, especially for Stephan and his family," Goodwin said. "I think we ran a little inspired today."
The former Mountain View star was the first Cougar to cross the finish line, taking 11th place overall, but four more BYU runners finished in the top 33 to make the Cougars shoe-ins for an at-large bid. Officially, the NCAA will announce at-large teams by Monday.
Weber State's Seth Pilkington managed to qualify individually. His time of 30:49.8 was good enough for 13th place and a spot in the championship meet. The Weber men finished in seventh place but will not be headed to nationals.
Rounding out the men's team results, sixth-ranked Colorado won the meet and received an automatic bid to the NCAA meet, along with second place Texas-El Paso. Northern Arizona's Lopez Lomong won the 10K race with a time of 29:52.1.
Lomong made it look effortless, but that was far from the case.
"It's always tough duty coming to the toughest region in the country ... You never know what to expect, so basically I just held on," Lomong said.
The BYU women were led by freshman Angela Wagner. She finished ninth overall, but five other Cougars placed in the top 32 to propel the women to a third-place finish. Colorado State won the team meet by six points over NAU after the Rams placed three runners in the top 16. Cougars coach Patrick Shane feels his team will be awarded a bid when it's all said and done.
"The top five teams will likely go to nationals from here. ... We will for sure go, at third," Shane said.The women's region was highlighted by five nationally ranked teams and the defending individual NCAA champion Salley Kipyego. The Texas Tech junior won the 6K race going away. She won by almost 15 seconds over her closest competitor, Jenny Barringer of Colorado. Weber State's top runner, Sariah Long, qualified for nationals by posting a seventh-place finish and a time of 21:06.2.