By AmyAnn Rupp
BYU”s cross country teams opened the 2002 season Saturday night at the annual Alumni Invitational held on the intramural fields west of LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The men”s team and approximately 40 other runners from UVSC, the community, and several local cross country clubs braved cold and rainy weather conditions to run the 4-mile race.
Cougar runners ran extremely well and accounted for nine of the top ten finishers.
“You know, we kind of expected it,” men”s head coach Ed Eyestone said. “I was really pleased with everybody.”
Sophomore Kip Kangogo, a junior college transfer, set the pace from the outset and led all the way to a first place finish time of 20:06.
“Kip showed today he will be one of the best guys in the nation,” Eyestone said after the race. “Our other guys aren”t too far behind either, and that”s what we”re looking for.”
Not far behind was teammate junior Steve Barrus. He recorded a time of 20:21, a mere 15 seconds behind Kangogo.
“I feel like I ran a pretty good race tonight,” Barrus said. “I ran four to five seconds faster than I did last year, and it seems like the team is a lot faster this year too.”
The Cougars swept the top eight places in the women”s 5K, even without the help of their top national championship runners.
Sophomore Katie Moon took first place, finishing in 16:36. Close behind her were sophomore Anika Smith at 16:46 and freshman Ann Heiner, running in at 17:17.
“Coming off of a redshirt season, my body felt good. It felt really good to run in this weather. I haven”t run a cross country race in two years, so it feels pretty good to be back again,” Moon said.
“I was pleased with Katie Moon, she did great. She has come a long way,” Shane said. “Actually, I was happy with how they all ran. You just have to get started somewhere. This gives me an idea what shape they are in.”
Several runners at the race represented UVSC, which currently competes at the junior college level.
“Right now we”re running at the junior college level, but next year we hope to get division one status,” UVSC freshman, Craig Stringham said. “This will give us an opportunity to see how well we can do against Division One schools.”
The alumni turnout was less than expected, but two former Cougar cross country runners, Steve Chipman, from the class of 1985, and Doug Stutz, class of 1986, ran in the race.
“I was always behind Steve when we ran in college,” Stutz joked. “So I was pretty happy that I beat him by thirty seconds tonight.”
Shane sat out his upperclassmen, in what he referred to as his progressive strategy. By putting more and more of his top athletes in the race as the year goes by, they are in a better condition to run later. By pre-nationals all of the cross country team is competing, he said.
“It is a long season and it is really all about being ready at the end. We want to be sure we don”t do anything to interfere with that time at the end,” Shane said.
Top runners like junior Michaela Monova and senior Jessie Kindschi will not begin to compete at least for another three weeks.
“By waiting until the very end of the season, runners don”t get as tired,” Manova said. “You are in better shape and have more time for workouts. You are tougher mentally.”
The returning women”s national championship team has a grueling three-month schedule, ending with the national championships taking place only nine days after the NCAA regional meet.
For the top women”s cross country runners, Saturday was just another day of practice with a 10-mile run to prepare them for their upcoming competitions.
Expectations are high this year for the men”s team to improve on last year”s 12th place final national ranking.
“People now recognize that we”ll get there every year,” Eyestone said. “In the past only every couple of years we would go to nationals – now the guys expect it.”
The men”s team”s goal this year is not just to get to the NCAA National Championship Meet, but also to perform well there.
Returning juniors, Lewis Jones, Andy Carman and Barrus provide experience and leadership for the talented team.
In addition to sophomores, Matt Adams, and Nathan Robison, and freshman Chad Durham who is coming off a redshirt year, transfers David Woodbury and Kangogo will also bring more depth to the men”s team.
Woodbury, a transfer from BYU-Idaho, was the junior college 10,000 meter champion last year. Kangogo, a transfer from Lethbridge Community College in Lethbridge, Canada, placed 12th at the Canadian Nationals in cross country last year and finished second in the 1,500 at the Canadian National Track Meet.
The team”s first meet will be the Autumn Classic in Provo. The first major meet will be September 28 at the Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn.