By MELANIE BRIDGE
Saturday night over 22,000 fans in the Marriott Center saw the number one team in the nation.
At halftime, the BYU women’s cross country team was presented four trophies to honor its outstanding season.
President Merrill J. Bateman and Women’s Athletic Director Elaine Michaelis introduced the team to the Marriott Center crowd and presented the awards. The team was awarded trophies for taking first place at the WAC Championships in Fresno, Calif., Nov. 1, winning the NCAA regionals in Ogden Nov. 15, and winning the NCAA Cross Country Championship in Greenville, S.C., Nov. 24. The team members that ran in the championship meet were Maggie Chan, Emily Nay, Courtney Pugmire, Caisa Monahon, Elizabeth Jackson, Tara Haynes and Sharolyn Sheilds.
“I’m flattered that the university would recognize the team in that fashion,” said coach Patrick Shane. “This was a first for the women’s Athletic Department and us. I’m very pleased that this year’s team was able to represent both BYU and the Athletic Department in that manner.”
The team members were amazed that the crowd knew who they were.
“I thought it would be embarrassing, but it was awesome,” Haynes said. “The crowd was pumped up and there was total energy there.”
“I was amazed at the support,” Jackson said. “It was awesome to be there with all the people.”
Along with the team awards, Shane was awarded the NCAA Coach of the Year.
“It’s humbling to realize that my peers thought that much of me,” Shane said. “I appreciate that particular recognition especially from my peers.”
As much as the award meant to Shane, he said he would “trade coach of the year for being number one any day.”
“(Cross country) is an individual sport and we don’t often see that people care,” Jackson said.
The team has a great chance to win the NCAA title against next season. No seniors graduate from this year’s team, and BYU signed the number one recruiting class in the nation last season. Many of those freshman redshirted this year, and will strengthen next year’s squad.
“Being number one will hopefully help us to recruit better runners and in scheduling,” Shane said.
The payoffs are already becoming evident. The number one cross country recruit in the nation has already verbally committed to BYU for next year. The official signing date is not until April so BYU cannot release her name, but Shane said her signing is a sure thing.
“We want to develop a tradition of winning,” Shane said. “Not so that our team feels intense pressure to win and that overshadows everything else. We want to make (winning) a consequence of all things that go into the program.”