Rory Linkletter leads the pack during the men's 5000m at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Track Championships in College Station, Texas.

The BYU cross-country teams will open the 2018 season hosting the Autumn Classic at the East Bay Golf Course in Provo, Utah, on Saturday, Sept. 15.

The Cougars will host cross-country teams from Colorado State-Mesa, Dixie State, Pacific, Santa Clara, Utah, Utah State, Weber State and Westminster. The meet will feature a men’s 7K and women’s 5K with a new route through the golf course that now includes 1K and 2K loops.

Both BYU cross-country teams enter the first meet of the season ranked nationally in the top 25 with the men’s team ranking No. 2 and the women’s team No. 17. The Cougars aren’t the only top-25 teams racing at the Autumn Classic with the 10th-ranked Utah State women’s team and the 15th-ranked NCAA Division II Dixie State men’s team bolstering the competition.

“It is a compliment to be considered one of the powerhouses in the nation, but we also know we have a lot of work ahead,” BYU head coach Ed Eyestone said. “We’re returning most of our top-flight guys from last year, and this weekend will give us our first competition of the year to sort out the last traveling spots. We’re not taking anything for granted.”

The BYU men’s team starts the season with its highest preseason national ranking in 20 years after finishing third overall at the 2017 NCAA Cross Country Championships. WCC coaches tabbed the Cougars to win their fourth-straight conference title in the WCC preseason poll.

Danny Carney, All-American Rory Linkletter, All-American Connor McMillan, Kramer Morton and Clayton Young were named to the 2018 All-West Coast Conference preseason team. Eyestone believes freshman Conner Mantz can help fill the role of All-American Casey Clinger, who is serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Japan. Mantz is coming off a successful freshman track and field campaign where he placed 22nd at the 2018 NCAA Championships in the 10,000 meters.

Worth noting is that a BYU men's runner has won the Autumn Classic every year since 2008. Last year, Linkletter was the 2017 Autumn Classic champion.

After finishing 11th overall at the 2017 NCAA Championships, the women’s team enters the season ranking in the top 25 nationally for the second-straight year. The Cougars tied for first in the WCC preseason coaches poll with the defending conference champion and national runner-up, San Francisco.

“This meet will give me a good idea of how the team competes and what adjustments we need to make moving forward,” associate head women’s coach Diljeet Taylor said. “Most of the team will run as a pack for the majority of the race. We are in a hard block of training this month, so I expect our athletes to be a little tired from that.”

The return of All-American Erica Birk-Jarvis, who missed the 2017 season, helps reinforce a roster that lost three key seniors last season. Courtney Wayment returns to the team after leading the women’s squad at last year’s WCC Championships and NCAA Championships. Wayment was joined by teammates Olivia Hoj and Sara Musselman on the 2018 All-WCC preseason team.

“Erica returned this year, so I am excited and anxious to see how she helps our team,” Taylor said. “We have key returners that are in really good shape, as well as a few freshmen that I expect to make an immediate impact this year.”

BYU will also host the WCC Championships and NCAA Mountain Regional this season at the East Bay Golf Course. Both Eyestone and Taylor look forward to their runners taking the opportunity to preview the course this weekend ahead of the two postseason meets later this year.

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"It will be nice to have so many races in our backyard," Eyestone said. "It's always nice to race at home. We get friends and family to come out and support us. This weekend will be a preview for them to know what to expect with the WCC championships and NCAA regional later this year."

The women’s 5K begins Saturday at 9:40 a.m. MDT, and the men’s 7K starts at 10:45 a.m. Live results can be found on runnercard.com, and live updates will be posted on BYU cross country’s Twitter and Instagram pages. Admission is $6.