As the only teams representing the state of Utah at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, both the BYU women and men are confident that they can produce good showings.

When the starting guns go off today in Terre Haute, Ind. — 10:05 a.m. for the men, 10:55 a.m. for the women — the Cougars will be running on a familiar course.

Not only is this the second time they have raced on the 10K course — they competed at pre-nationals last month — but the trip to the national championships has become almost an annual affair. The Cougar women have brought home four national titles (1997, 1999, 2001, 2002) and the men have notched seven top-25 finishes in as many years.

Being comfortable with the venue is just one of the reasons that men's coach Ed Eyestone cites for his team possessing confidence.

"More than the fact that we're familiar with the course itself, we know the importance of the race, and that helps us rise to the occasion," Eyestone said.

Women's coach Patrick Shane is also positive when discussing his No. 17-ranked team's chances at success.

"We have a lot of youth up front that have come along and really developed nicely this year," Shane said. "I think when you combine our youth with our experience, we're going to run well at nationals. Our senior leadership has been fantastic this year, and they really understand their roles."

Both the BYU women's and men's teams qualified for the championships with at-large bids. Thirty-one teams will participate in each race. That includes the top two, seven-person squads from each of the nine regions, plus 13 more at-large teams.

In addition, 38 individual runners — the first four from each region who are not a part of a qualifying team plus two additional qualifiers — are invited to participate. To qualify, individual runners must finish in the top 25 in their region.

Three Weber State runners — two for the women and one for the men — are among those individuals who will compete. The Wildcats' Sariah Long, Morgan Haws and Seth Pilkington will run. Southern Utah's Sharla Platt will also compete.

Other individuals from the Mountain Region are Jeremy Johnson (New Mexico), Mark Korir (Wyoming), Matt Williams (Air Force) on the men's side and Gretchen Fagley-Johnson (Wyoming) for the women.

BYU — which competes in the Mountain Region — ran well at the NCAA Mountain Regional Championships in Riverdale, Utah, Nov. 10. The women finished third, while the men came in fourth.

The men's teams for Colorado and UTEP were the automatic qualifiers representing the Mountain Region. Northern Arizona received an at-large bid.

For the women, Colorado State and Northern Arizona got automatic bids from the Mountain Region. Colorado and Texas Tech were at-large qualifiers.

Eyestone feels like his team is ready to go.

"We've got a good nucleus of seniors on the team, and I think they realize that and are going to run well for us at nationals," he said.

For the first time in the history of the championships, the races will be televised live. They will appear on CSTV.


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