By AARON SHILL
The Stanford cross country team is probably getting used to seeing blue.
BYU’s women separated themselves from Stanford by a big 36-point margin, winning Saturday’s Stanford Invitational 54-90. The men also made their presence known, finishing second to the Cardinal 23-68.
According to women’s head coach Patrick Shane, the Cougars’ margin of victory was unexpected.
“I was quite frankly surprised that we won by so much,” he said.
The women’s impressive score was bolstered by strong performances from the team’s top four runners. Senior Maggie Chan led the Cougars with a time 17:03 in the 5000-kilometer race. Chan was followed by freshman Laura Heiner (17:03), freshman Tara Rohatinsky (17:08) and junior Elizabeth Jackson (17:11).
It was another strong race for Chan, who Shane said is having a “stellar year.” Chan, who wanted to avoid being passed on the final stretch, said last week’s experience in Montana helped her run a stronger race.
“This time, I had the experience from last week,” she said. “I just kept reminding myself what I did wrong.”
Although the Cougars did register some impressive times, Shane said the team has to improve its collective performance.
“We won by a lot, but I’m not sure we ran well,” he said. “We are still not stroking it as a team.”
The men seemed to share the same sentiments. While falling well short of the top-ranked Cardinal in the scoring column, the Cougars posted some impressive individual times in the 8000-kilometer race. Junior Randon Richards placed third overall with a time of 24:40. Junior Jeff Wilson also stayed below the 25-minute mark registering a time of 24:54.
Stanford’s Gabe Jennings led the competition with a time of 24:30 while teammate Jason Balkman crossed the finish line second at 24:32.
Richards, who stayed on the heels of Jennings and Balkman for the entire race, said performing well against stiff competition gave him confidence in the team.
“Being up there and feeling comfortable, it really opened my eyes to the potential we have,” he said.
Richards also provided some inspiration for his teammates. Wilson said focusing on the front-runners helped improve his own performance.
“My goal is to stay with the leaders,” he said. “I did the best that I could to do that, and it pulled me to a better race.”
The team may have tacked up another strong time on the board had junior Matt Poulsen not been forced to drop out of the race. Poulsen left after two miles because of cramping in his leg. Richards said the team took a hit with Poulsen’s absence.
“Once you are a team leader, your team really depends on you,” Richards said.
Wilson said Poulsen’s departure meant the loss of a probable top-5 finish that would have helped BYU’s score.
“We did well without him, but it definitely took something away from the team,” he said. “We would have been closer to Stanford.”
Both the men and the women will now prepare to play the role of the host. BYU will hold the annual Autumn Classic a week from Saturday at East Bay Golf Course.
Shane said the meet will be instrumental in determining the runners who will compete in the upcoming WAC, region and NCAA championships.