The BYU men’s cross-country team enjoyed a successful 2013 campaign, capping it off with its second fourth-place finish and podium appearance under head coach Ed Eyestone.
“We had a great season, one of the best I’ve had here,” Eyestone said. “We hit on all cylinders throughout the year. We felt like we could take positives away from every meet we went to. The last few weeks were a bit of a roller coaster with Jared Ward, but he ended up as a crucial component to help us get a podium spot. All in all, we worked hard and were rewarded for our efforts.”
The Cougars’ fourth place finish tied the highest finish under Eyestone. Tylor Thatcher led the Cougars, finishing in 21st place overall. He was followed by Ward, who finished in 36th place. Both were named All-Americans for the second consecutive year.
Led by Ward’s fourth-place individual finish, BYU took fourth in the NCAA Mountain Region Championships. It was Ward’s first race of the season. Originally ruled ineligible for this season, he won his appeal to the NCAA, and the decision was reversed in time for him to run in the final two races of the year. Ward, Thatcher and Jason Witt earned All-Region honors, as Thatcher and Witt took 18th and 19th, respectively.
The Cougars won their second West Coast Conference Championship in three years, beating rival and perennial conference power Portland. Witt won the individual title, and BYU placed six runners in the top 15 in a dominating performance. Witt, Steve Flint, Thatcher and Thomas Gruenewald received All-WCC honors. Spencer Gardner and Jonathan Nelson earned honorable mention recognition.
BYU had a strong showing at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational, taking second place in a field that included 18 of the top 30 teams in the country. Witt took eighth place to lead the Cougars.
The Cougars won team and individual titles in their first three races of the season. Nelson took first overall in the Utah Open, and Thatcher won the Autumn Classic and Griak Invitational.
BYU opened the season ranked fourth nationally and was picked to win the WCC by the coaches. The team continued with the No. 4 ranking for most of the season before being dropped to No. 5 late in the year and No. 8 after the fourth-place finish at Regionals.
The Cougars were well represented on the WCC All-Academic team, with Flint, Gruenewald and Witt earning honors. Thatcher and Gardner were given honorable mentions.
BYU earned many national and conference honors including Eyestone being named WCC Coach of the Year. Thatcher was September’s WCC Player of the Month, and Ward received the honor for November. Witt earned the USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week award for his performance at the WCC Championships on Nov. 2.
The Cougars will graduate seven seniors including four of their top seven runners with Thatcher, Ward, Witt and Gruenewald completing their eligibility. Flint, Nelson and Gardner lead a returning group looking to duplicate this season’s success.
Justin Green is the sports information director over men's track and cross country for BYU Athletic Communications. He is a BYU student majoring in public relations and minoring in business and will graduate in April 2013. Email: justinjgreen8@gmail.