By Ryan Curtis
In the wake of the NCAA national championships, the BYU men”s track team has proven it is a force to be reckoned with. As the coaches look back on the season they applaud the athletes and look forward to future national champion contenders.
“Right from the beginning of the season last September, from the way we prepared ourselves, I knew it would be a great season,” sprint coach Leonard Myles-Mills said. “The way we got in shape really impressed me.”
Part of that crew was future Mountain West Conference second place finisher in the 200-meter dash, Paul Smith. Smith only lost by three tenths of a second to perennial sprint powerhouse TCU. This same TCU had a 4×400 relay team that was ranked third in the nation when they came to Robison Stadium in Provo for the Mountain West Conference Championship. The training and endurance the BYU sprinters worked so hard for took over as BYU edged out TCU for first place in the event. Their performance not only beat out TCU but they also finished with a time fast enough to qualify for the national meet.
Myles-Mills said the athletes for BYU are diverse. Not only was Smith running in the 200-meter and two relays, but there were hurdlers on the relays as well. That mix worked well for the race, and winning the 4×400 relay has been a tradition for BYU.
Another tradition BYU is working toward is in the hurdles. BYU sent freshman Chris Carter to the national meet in Sacramento, Calif. where he finished third in the event. BYU had many hurdlers leave their mark in the MWC.
“I think getting five guys qualified for regionals in the 400 hurdles and going one, three, four and five in the [conference] meet was a great accomplishment,” hurdle coach Kyle Grossarth said.
With three of the five coming back next season, Grossarth is optimistic about their chances of getting back to regionals and possibly nationals.
“I am looking forward to them being an example for the younger guys,” Grossarth said.
When it comes to examples, distance coach Ed Eyestone is ideal, a two-time Olympian and national champion himself. Next year”s group will also have another example to follow. Josh McAdams is the National Champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. He worked through hard times and came out on top.
“We learned the importance of persevering and having high goals and keeping the end in sight; working for the national goal and yet taking it one week at a time,” Eyestone said. “Josh had one bad race and then came back stronger than ever.”
The distance group was hurt early on by injuries.
“The main frustration is that we had two runners that would have qualified for nationals, Josh Rohatinsky and Dustin Bybee, but they both sustained season-ending injuries,” Eyestone said.
The good news is that both will be back next year and so will three of the four distance runners that went to the national meet. Kyle Perry, a freshman back from his LDS mission, is looking to improve on his national ranking and get a national title. Eyestone thinks he has the skill and talent to be a contender.
“He was recruited because he was a good runner, but he has a lethal finishing kick,” Eyestone said. “For a freshmen going to nationals, he surpassed expectations.”
BYU is among the best teams in the nation. The Cougars tied for No. 9 overall with Southern California and North Carolina with 26 points, only 10 points from third place. All this means that BYU is set up to perform well next year and continue their winning ways.
“We were the second largest team at nationals and then we had five freshmen, which was the largest in the nation,” head coach Mark Robison said. “We had five All-Americans outdoors and indoors. To take a lot of kids to the outdoor championship is really great.”
Robison and his assistant coaches hope that the injury bug won”t bite next season. They know the experience the athletes had this season will improve their performance next year.
“A lot of them struggle the first time and then the next time around they”re a different athlete,” Robison said. “I am very pleased with the year both indoors and outdoors.”