The BYU cross country teams head to Belmont, Calif., to compete in their first West Coast Conference Championship on Saturday.
The No. 3 men’s team is predicted to be the No. 1 team in the conference but will face a tough challenge from No. 8 Portland. The teams have not raced against each other this season.
Men’s head coach Ed Eyestone said the team will have to work to win the conference championship but believes they can win.
“We are one of the top teams in the country and so is Portland,” Eyestone said. “We do have our work cut out for us but I think we are well prepared to run a strong race and win.”
Senior Miles Batty said he is eager to run against Portland.
“I am looking forward to the battle with Portland because they are eighth in the nation and we are third,” Batty said. “This will be one of the best conference matchups in the country.”
The Cougars will add redshirt sophomore Jason Witt to the lineup at the championship. Eyestone said he believes adding Witt gives the team more of a competitive edge.
“Jason Witt is looking really good right now so we will run him at conference,” Eyestone said. “He will help our team become stronger and have more depth.”
According to Eyestone, a key to winning the race is to make sure the top runners stay ahead of Portland’s top runners.
“I think the race will probably end up looking like a dual race in terms of top runners between us and Portland,” Eyestone said. “If we line up well and each runner stays ahead of who they are assigned to stay ahead of we should be OK.”
The women’s team is also looking forward to its first race in the WCC. It is ranked second in the region behind No. 29 San Francisco.
BYU raced against San Francisco at the Wisconsin Invitational two weeks ago. San Francisco finished 17th, while BYU finished 22nd.
Women’s head coach Patrick Shane said the team made it one of its goals to be conference champions and believes they are ready to accomplish this goal.
“One of our team’s goals for the year was to become conference champions,” Shane said. “We’re excited for the race and I think the team is up to the challenge.”
Shane also believes the biggest challenge for the team will be to focus on their own race and not stress about the aspects of the race they cannot control.
“We need to relax and focus on what we do best rather than on what we have no control over,” Shane said. “We have to focus on what we have done to prepare this year and execute our team strategy as we planned.”
The Cougars will rely on senior Morgan Haws to carry them throughout the race.
“I am really excited,” Haws said. “It should be a fun race and we should be able to run well.”