Nate Edwards, BYU Photo
Rory Linkletter (center) high gives a high five. He finished first to lead the Cougars to win the Pre-National Invitational in Kentucky.

The BYU men’s cross-country team finished in first place with 41 points and the women’s team took seventh with 273 points at the Pre-National Invitational on Saturday morning.

Fifty-one men’s teams and 54 women’s teams competed in four races, with the men running an 8k and the women a 6k.

“I thought it was an excellent team performance,” head coach Ed Eyestone said. "Pretty exciting all the way around. It's always nice to have the individual win when you have a good, strong team as well."

The No. 2 men’s team was led to victory by Rory Linkletter (23:08.4) finishing first among the 282 runners in the race. Connor McMillan followed in sixth (23:13.2), Casey Clinger came in seventh (23:17.0), Clayton Young in 12th (23:25.0) and Daniel Carney rounded out the group in 15th (23:25.3).

"Rory got great support form his teammates," Eyestone said. "Connor McMillan had his best race of the year. Casey Clinger, Mr. Consistency, was our third guy, and Clayton Young was right there as well with Danny Carney in that important fifth position. Winning with 41 points was a very decisive win against very good competition."

For much of the race, it seemed that three runners from Campbell would sweep the race. However, nearing the final 400m, runners from Virginia Tech, Liberty and Utah State took the lead. When it appeared that Virginia Tech would finish first, Linkletter broke into an all-out sprint to pass them all and secure the win.

"When the race is on the line, I tell myself I belong and that I should be the one that wins the race," Linkletter said. "So I dug deep and gave it one more push. I thought I could at least give it my all because we train so hard and it would be a waste of time for us to come here and not put it all out there during the race, and today that led to the win."

BYU took first against some of the top teams in the nation, including No. 5 Arkansas, No. 6 Oregon and No. 10 Colorado. This was the first time BYU has won this meet.

Laura Young finished first (20:19.9) for the No. 16 women’s team and 24th in the race. She has finished first for the Cougars three times this season. Courtney Wayment followed in 42nd (20:38.0) with Olivia Hoj (20:46.2) and Kristi Rush (20:47.0) finishing 52nd and 53rd, respectively.

BYU fell to some of the top teams in the nation, including No. 1 Colorado, No. 2 Oregon, No. 4 Michigan and No. 9 Arkansas. The Cougars managed to beat out No. 12 Ole Miss to secure their seventh-place finish.

The Pre-National Invitational often foreshadows the champions of the NCAA Championships in November.

The Cougars head to San Francisco, California, for the West Coast Conference meet Friday, Oct. 27.

Jenessa Mann works as a Sports Information Director for BYU Athletics. Contact her at: [email protected]