No pressure, Ed Eyestone.
Even if you’re used to it, sprinting down the stretch so many times with lungs burning and legs aching.
The two-time Olympic marathoner, 10-time NCAA All-American and current BYU track coach has a last-ditch chance to give his athletic department a huge boost in a year of many disappointments when the Cougars take off for Eugene and the NCAA Outdoor Championships next weekend.
It is unlikely BYU can win a national championship in track because it lacks the depth in the sprints, but as a distance run brand, the Cougars are loaded and qualified 15 athletes overall. That cadre of participants can make a dent on the scoreboard and gobble up points.
The championship will culminate a sports season at BYU that could be described as: Almost, What the Heck Just Happened? And, Are You Kidding Me?
Early on it was a record seven-loss streak in football that led to a four-win season and the firing of one of the faces on the Mount Rushmore of BYU sports. In men’s and women’s basketball, it was a case of very average at the end. In men’s volleyball, sporting four All-Americans, when it was all on the line, hands went to the throat. Right after making remarkable upgrades to the baseball field, the defending WCC champs barely competed and lost the series to Utah for the first time in decades.
This past weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma, as one of the nation’s hottest golf teams, the Cougars fell into an “accommodated” no Sunday play round filled with bad weather and interruptions and posted a remarkably terrible 18-hole score of 24-over par that essentially doomed them. They were playing like a Top 10 warm-weather team until that fatal round.
So, Ed, if you do anything, please get your men and women to run into the sunset with nothing left in the tank. Save face for the department. Cue up the theme music from “Chariots of Fire.”
There are many who don’t care about the Learfield Director’s Cup standings, a ranking of college athletic performance, but it is a device. Somebody has to count up what’s taking place.
At the end of winter competition, BYU ranked 45th, Stanford, as usual, was No. 1. At this stage of the sports season, heading into the final week, BYU ranks 36th, ahead of half the Pac-12, including Utah, Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, ASU and Arizona.
That says something when you consider Power 5 money for recruiting and hiring coaches.
But as efficient as BYU athletics is, it can be better. A Top 25 ranking is something BYU should always shoot for. Track can help bolster its current 388 points. Utah earned 80 points off its ski team and has 334 points so far. The Utes are ranked 45th. No ski squad at BYU.
BYU currently ranks ahead of Oklahoma State, Tennessee, West Virginia and a lot of other Power 5 schools who will likely also pick up points in track and field next week.
BYU’s 15 qualifiers for the Outdoor NCAA Championship is more than LSU’s (six, plus two relays). USC has 20 athletes qualified in 25 individual events plus three relays. Host Oregon has a whopping 30. Texas has 19 men and women, and Alabama 14 plus two relay teams.
So, these 15 qualifiers for BYU represent a chance to make a run. Pun intended.
Tom Holmoe and company need this, Ed. He’s in search of a collection of uniform wearers with that Y logo that has a killer instinct, finishers. A rare breed this year on campus aside from women’s golf and softball.
Until football rebounds, basketball shows up in the NCAAs or wins a WCC title or volleyball delivers a title when in position, this is what it comes down to for a last-gasp collection of ribbons, medals and other assorted hardware.
It’s up to Eyestone’s guys in singlets, short shorts and 6 percent body fat.