By AARON SHILL
Senior Maggie Chan said her strategy for Saturday’s race was to jump out in front and stay there. That was pretty much how the entire women’s cross country team ran — dominating the competition in the BYU Autumn Classic at East Bay Golf Course.
BYU’s A team finished first with 27 points while the B team followed up with 48. Weber State, Utah State and Idaho State rounded out the top five while watching the Cougars from behind.
Chan led the entire race and finished with a time of 17:18. The All-American from Hong Kong said she had the confidence to start out strong and assure herself a first place finish overall.
“If I lead, I have to lead the whole race in case I die at the end,” she said.
Weber State sophomore Sharlyn Maughan was the closest runner to Chan, finishing with an impressive time of 17:26. But after Maughan, it was all blue down the final stretch.
BYU took seven of the last eight spots in the top ten, including a 17:32 finish by Sophomore Sharolyn Shields. Shields pulled away from a tight pack to finish third overall.
“She had the best race I’ve ever seen her have,” head coach Patrick Shane said.
Shields credited her strong performance to her mental focus and the team’s preparation during the previous week.
“It all just came together for me today, and I had the best race of my life,” she said.
Senior Emily Nay (17:34), freshman Tara Rohatinsky (17:35) and junior Kara Ormond (17:39) also placed in the top five team spots for the Cougars.
Saturday’s meet was the first of the year for the Cougars in front of a home crowd. Plenty of fans lined up on the fairways to watch the BYU run under clear autumn skies. Shields said competing in front of friends and family gave the team an extra source of motivation.
“It helps so much,” she said. “You go through that little funnel of people and you just get that much more energy. You just totally get re-boosted and ready to go for the next mile.”
The Cougars will now focus on the WAC championships, which will be held Oct. 24 in Houston. Chan, however, said the Cougars are still saving their best for the national championship race.
“Nationals is the most important one in the whole season,” she said. “We just want to peak at the end of November — not now.”
Despite the Cougars’ domination, Shane said the team still has areas in which it needs to improve.
“We have a lot of rough edges we need to get smoothed off before we are where I want to see them,” he said.
One surprise was the performance of senior Courtney Meldrum, who placed ninth overall with a time of 17:49. Meldrum’s finish was not to the standard of the usually stellar All-American.
Meldrum and the Cougars, however, will have plenty of chances to peak in the next five weeks with the conference, region and national championships awaiting.