PROVO — The BYU men’s track team has recorded a rich history, including capturing the NCAA championship in 1970.
This year’s version is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation, having jumped up three spots this week. It marks the Cougars’ highest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association ranking since the ratings began in 2008.
Meanwhile, the women’s team is ranked No. 12, remaining in the top 15 for the third consecutive week.
To what does head coach Ed Eyestone attribute his team’s overall success?
“It’s a nice combination across the board. We’ve got a nucleus of guys who are ranked very high in the distance events,” he said. “I’m proud of all of our groups. It’s in a good place. It’s a testament to the hard work of the coaching staff and the hard work of the athletes. Buying into the team culture of hard work, setting goals, having an expectation of success then achieving when given the opportunity and then being grateful at the end of the day.”
Last week at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford, All-Americans Connor McMillan and Rory Linkletter ran the fastest and second-fastest 10,000-meters in the NCAA this season. Conner Mantz ran the third-fastest time and Clayton Young earned the fifth-fastest time nationally in 2019.
In the event squad rankings, the Cougars boast six of the top-ranked teams. The BYU men’s team has the top-ranked 3,000-meter steeplechase, 10,000-meter and decathlon squads. The women’s team has the top-ranked 800-meter, 1500-meter and 3000-meter steeplechase squads.
In the indoor season, BYU is part of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation — a league that features several Pac-12 foes, among others. The Cougar outdoor team does not belong to a conference.
“Our proudest moment thus far was indoors, where at the MPSF, we won the conference title. That was the best representation of showing that we have a well-rounded team — strong in the distance, strong in the throws, jumps and sprints,” Eyestone said. “We’re capable of scoring points. When you see how many people qualified for the first round of the NCAAs — 30 men and 20 women — I think there’s maybe only one team that has as many individuals qualify. That’s a good demonstration that we’re not just a one-dimensional team.”
BYU's situation as an independent outdoor team affords opportunities to post fast performances, Eyestone said.
“One of the positives of not having a conference meet is we are able to go to meets like we did last week and kind of swing for the fences in terms of running fast times. Other programs are getting ready for their conference meets."
Eyestone has high hopes for the BYU men’s and women’s teams in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in early June.
“We have guarded expectations. We’re ranked No. 3 right now. That’s due to our individual high rankings. We’ve had opportunities to travel to California, where conditions are ideal,” he explained. “We’ve been able to post very fast times. That sometimes will inflate things. There are other very talented runners around the country who haven’t been in the same races and haven’t had the opportunities to run as fast.
"But it’s always nice to have the fast times out there. But we realize there’s plenty of other good people out there we’re going to have to mix it up with to score the kind of points we need to finish on the podium. For us to get a top-four finish, we would have to have everyone deliver on the day. That’s what we’re training for.”
On the women’s side, freshman Jaslyn Gardner recently broke a 22-year-old school record, clocking an 11.38 in the 100-meter. That shattered the record held by Windy Jorgensen, who ran an 11.44 in 1997. Gardner also ran a 23.50 in the 200-meter, good for the third-fastest time in BYU history.
“She’s an amazing freshman,” Eyestone said.7 comments on this story
Junior Erica Birk-Jarvis, meanwhile, is top three all-time at BYU in the steeplechase and 1500-meter.
“It’s fun to see her continued excellence. The fact she just had a baby a little over a year ago just shows her determination. She’s a huge inspiration,” Eyestone said. “It looks like she’ll probably be running the steeplechase in the NCAA championships. We have a proud tradition of steeplechasers in both the men’s and women’s sides. She’ll be a fun one to watch in the national meet.”