Mark Philbrick
The BYU women's cross-country team poses for a photo. Tuesday the Cougars moved up in the national rankings and now rank 14th.
I think it’s well deserved. I’d just say congratulations to our group of young women who ran so hard and earned that lofty ranking. —BYU head coach Patrick Shane

A head-turning performance at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational earned the BYU women’s cross-country team a substantial boost in the national coaches poll Tuesday morning.

At 14th place, this is the highest the Cougars have been ranked since the 2006 season, when they achieved a ranking of No. 12 on Oct. 31.

“I think it’s well deserved,” BYU head coach Patrick Shane said. “I’d just say congratulations to our group of young women who ran so hard and earned that lofty ranking. The key there is the nine-second split between our first and fourth runners in Wisconsin last week. When you’ve got nine seconds between your top four, you know you’ve got a good team.”

After consistently rising one place at a time throughout the season, the Cougars finally made their mark when placed on the national stage. Wisconsin attracts a majority of top-30 teams every year, and reshuffles cross-country rankings like no other meet. BYU beat eight teams ranked ahead of it in Wisconsin but wasn’t beaten by any team ranked below.

But a bid to the NCAA National Championship only goes to the top-two teams in each of the nine regional meets automatically. “Bubble” teams can earn criteria points to be invited to nationals based on in-season, head-to-head competition with those top-two teams in each region. With No. 1 New Mexico and No. 3 Colorado in the Mountain Region, BYU should be one of those bubble teams.

“In terms of going to nationals,” Shane said, “we have enough criteria points right now from beating teams that will be in the top two selected out of each of the nine regions. I am anticipating we’re going to get six, seven or eight points and we’ll go in right with Washington. We’ll probably be the first two teams to be selected to go into nationals.”

The University of Utah and Weber State University also jumped in the polls. Where neither team was ranked previously, they sit now at 19th and 27th, respectively.

“Utah and Weber State are both good teams,” Shane said. “They’re both top 25 or 30 in the country to my mind. So our region with No. 1 New Mexco and No. 3 Colorado, and then ourselves, Utah and Weber State, is one of the stronger regions in the country. If you add us all together we might be the strongest region in America. The region meet will be fun.”

But it’s first things first for Shane and the Cougars, and that means focusing on the conference championship next weekend in Spokane, Washington.

“Our goal this year is to win the conference championship,” Shane said. “That’s next week and I think we’re well on track to have a great shot to do that.”

But during the best season the Cougars have had in a decade, the anticipation for regionals and nationals is still in the back of BYU’s mind.

“We’re excited to run and to find out just how good we are at the national championship,” Shane said. “I’ve felt all along that we’re a top-15 team, and how much better are we than that? That’s what we’re going to find out.”

Joe Moxon is a sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications