BYU men’s cross-country finished third with 165 points and the women finished 11th with 342 points at the NCAA National Championships on a windy Saturday morning at the E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park.
The men competed in a 10K and the women ran a 6K.
“I was proud of the way the team battled even though we fell short of the national championship,” head coach Ed Eyestone said. "We would have needed to be perfect to beat NAU today and that was not the case."
Freshman Casey Clinger led the pack with a 24th-place finish (29:46.32). He was followed by Connor McMillan in 30th (29:52.29), Rory Linkletter in 39th (29:59.04), Daniel Carney in 42nd (30:03.5) and Kramer Morton in 65th (30:21.64). Jonathan Harper and Clayton Young also competed for the Cougars.
"True freshman Casey and Connor ran together most of the race up front to nab All-American honors," Eyestone said. "Rory is a natural frontrunner, and he had to dig down and scrap when he wasn't having his best day but he still managed All-America honors. Daniel just missed All-America honors in coming up big time as our fourth. Without his efforts, we might not have made the podium. Kramer worked the last half of the course to bring in the needed support as our fifth."
The No. 2 ranked Cougars competed against the top-rated teams in the country, including the defending champions No. 1 Northern Arizona, which came in first again this year. BYU’s third-place finish was the second-best finish in program history and the best since its second-place finish in 1993.
"It's been a great and historic season," Eyestone said. "We've been ranked higher in the polls longer than any past season. This is my best team ever and the second best in BYU history. When you come up a little short at the meet at the end of the year it's disappointing, but when you focus on all the good things that have happened in terms of the victories and conference titles you realize how blessed we have been. The good news is that four of our top five are returning for next year."
Associate head women's coach Diljeet Taylor was also pleased with the women's team.
“I think the ladies performed really well today,” Taylor said. "Our focus going into the race was just to focus on keeping the pack tight and I think we had like a 20-second gap between one and five, which is the closest gap we've had all season long. I'm pretty pleased with finishing right there at 11th in the country."
Courtney Wayment led the charge for the No. 14 women with a 71st-place finish (20:29.38). Kristi Rush followed in 76th (20:31.39) with Laura Young in 80th (20:34.06), Ashleigh Warner in 114th (20:49.84) and Whittni Orton in 115th (20:50.6). Olivia Hoj and Sara Musselman also ran for the Cougars. Due to an earlier injury, this was Orton's first time racing for the Cougars and her first collegiate race ever.
"For Whittni to come in at the national championship and run her first race and be our number five girl was very impressive," Taylor said. "And Kristi had her best race of the season today and I'm super proud of how she fought for the team."
The Cougars started the race slow but were able to regain ground in order to finish in the top 15.
"We had a slow start in the beginning of the race," Taylor said. "We didn't get out as well as we planned. I think at our first split we were in 18th place and the ladies did a really good job of working together and working really hard for the next 5,000 meters to finish and end up at 11th. They continued to move up throughout the entire race. We didn't really have a frontrunner. What we had today were six women who worked together and led the team."
This was the first time since 2004 and 2005 that the women have had back-to-back top-15 finishes. The No. 14 Cougars managed to beat out some of the top-ranked teams, including No. 6 Arkansas, No. 9 Providence, No. 10 Penn State and No. 13 Villanova.
"We were ranked 14th coming in and we superseded all of our rankings from FloTrack and the Coaches Association so we're really happy with that," Taylor said.
Jenessa Mann works as a Sports Information Director for BYU Athletics. Contact her at: [email protected]