BYU Photo
BYU's Rory Linkletter leads the pack to win the 10,000m for the second year in a row at the NCAA West Preliminary Round in Sacramento, California.

PROVO — BYU has a deep and talented track and field squad this season, and it has not gone unnoticed. When coach Ed Eyestone was checking his team of 59 regional qualifiers into the official hotel at the NCAA West Preliminaries in Sacramento, California, a couple of weeks ago, a rival coach quipped, “I’m just glad there are some rooms left over for the rest of us.”

The Cougars proceeded to qualify a whopping 23 athletes for the NCAA Track and Field Championships, which get underway in Austin, Texas, this week.

The BYU men’s team, ranked fourth in the nation behind Texas Tech, Florida and LSU, is attempting to crack the top five for the 12th time in school history — the last time being 2005 — and, as usual, the Cougars will live or die with distance runners. They claimed third- and second-place finishes in the last two NCAA cross-country championships.

“If we are able to equal our rankings, then we would come away from this meet in a good place,” says Eyestone, the former four-time NCAA champion and two-time Olympic distance runner.

Here is a look at the team by the numbers:

10 — Of the 16 men who qualified for nationals from BYU, 10 did so in the three distance races — the 3,000-meter steeplechase, and the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs. Undoubtedly, they could have qualified more runners in the 5,000, but Eyestone chose not to double several of his best runners to keep their legs fresh for the 10,000 at nationals.

“We went through a time when we had mostly good middle-distance runners and I thought one of these days we’re going to get somebody in my events to nationals,” says Eyestone. “That time has come.”

6 — The number of BYU runners who qualified for nationals in the 10,000-meter run. That’s the most any team has ever qualified for any event in the history of the NCAA championships (BYU also held the old record, having once qualified five decathletes). The six qualifiers are Rory Linkletter, Connor McMillan, Conner Mantz, Clayton Young, Dallin Farnsworth and Connor Weaver, who finished first, fourth, fifth, eighth, 10th and 11th in the West region prelims, respectively. They likely would have qualified seven, but Daniel Carney was sidelined by an injury for several weeks and didn’t run well at the prelims.

3 — The number of BYU distance runners with the same name in the same race. See previous graph. “We are the first to have six in an event — and the first to have three guys named Connor,” says Eyestone.

1-2-3-4 — The top four fastest times in the nation in the 10,000-meter run have been produced by BYU athletes — seniors Linkletter, McMillan, Young and Mantz, in that order — the “The Big Four,” as Eyestone refers to them. They’re all Utah high school products.

“It was a special class that came in together,” says Eyestone.

8 — That’s how many distance runners have broken 29 minutes in the 10,000-meter run for BYU this season. For the uninitiated, that’s fast. Five of them now appear on BYU’s all-time top-10 list — this at a school with a great tradition of distance running. So far, none has even come close, though, to breaking Eyestone’s 34-year-old school record of 27:41.05.

5 — The number of school records set by women this spring, all of them long-standing marks. Erica Birk-Jarvis, after setting three indoor school records, broke Whitney McDonald’s 12-year-old school record in the 5,000-meter run, with a time of 15:38.12, and broke NCAA champion Kassi Andersen’s steeplechase record with a time of 9:42.54 (Birk’s mother Nicole still holds the school record in the 3,000-meter run).

Andrea Stapleton-Johnson broke Melinda Boice-Hale’s 25-year-old record in the high jump with a leap of 6-2½ (her father holds the men’s school record). Brenna Porter, a senior from Smithfield whose mother Jodie Bendorf is a former BYU hurdler, broke Julie Bennion’s 20-year-old record in the 400 hurdles with a time of 56.89. Jaslyn Gardner broke Windy Jorgensen’s 22-year-old record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.38. All but Stapleton-Johnson are Utah natives.

6 — The number of BYU women who qualified for nationals. Notwithstanding, it’s a team that can score well at nationals. Stapleton-Johnson leads the nation in the high jump, and Birk-Jarvis ranks second in the steeplechase behind two-time defending NCAA champion Allie Ostrander of Boise State.

4 — The number of BYU athletes in the 3,000-meter steeplechase between the men’s and women’s teams. Birk-Jarvis, who sat out last season to have a baby, is a title contender; Matt Owens has the third-fastest time in the nation among the men. The most surprising of the group is Kenneth Rooks, whose time of 8:36.08 makes him the second-fastest freshman ever.

The bottom line is that this is BYU’s best team in a long time and the Cougars have a chance for a podium finish in Austin this week.

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INSTATE QUALIFIERS FOR THE NCAA TRACK & FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS

BYU

Erica Birk-Jarvis, steeplechase

Michael Bluth, 4x400 relay

Anna Camp, 800 meters

Blake Ellis, 4x400 relay

Lauren Ellsworth, 800 meters

Ricky Fantroy, triple jump

Dallin Farnsworth, 10,000 meters

Talem Franco, 1,500 meters

Jacob Heslington, steeplechase

Rory Linkletter, 10,000 meters

Conner Mantz, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters

Brian Matthews, decathlon

Connor McMillan, 10,000 meters

Whittni Orton, 1,500 meters

Matt Owens, steeplechase

Brenna Porter, 400 hurdles

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Kenneth Rooks, steeplechase

Abram Schaap, 4x400 relay

Clayson Shumway, steeplechase

Andrea Stapleton-Johnson, high jump

Connor Weaver, 10,000 meters

Colten Yardley, 4x400 relay

Clayton Young, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters

SUU

George Espino, 800 meters

Kasey Knevelbaard, 1,500 meters

Frank Harris, high jump

Angie Nickerson, 5,000 meters

Skyler Porcaro, javelin

UTAH STATE

Sindri Gudmundsson, javelin

Cierra Simmons-Mecham, steeplechase

WEBER STATE

Tawnie Moore, 100 hurdles

Kate Sorensen, 400 hurdles

Nathan Dunivan, discus