The men and women cross country teams unleash their top runners on familiar territory this weekend as BYU hosts the Cougar Autumn Classic.
The Cougar Autumn Classic will be held at the Cascade Golf Course in Orem, with the men’s competition starting at 5 p.m. and the women’s starting at 6 p.m. BYU welcomes in-state opponents from Weber State, the University of Utah and Utah Valley University, as well as Idaho State University.
The BYU women’s team recently dropped out of the national poll last week, a move that did not concern head coach Patrick Shane. Instead, he is looking forward to the exciting race ahead of them this weekend and see his runners compete.
“We’ve got one of the best home meets we have ever had, competition wise,” Shane said. “We’re expecting a really exciting team race with Weber State, UVU and Idaho State.”
According to Shane, the Cougars will run their top four freshmen and a couple of runners that have not yet competed this season. They include Shaylynn Fuller, Lindsey Nielson and Maron Fassmann, who has had a great training during the summer.
“We’re more interested in developing our athletes to get ready for these next three competitions,” Shane said.
After this weekend, each meet counts for criteria points that help a team reach nationals. The Cougars are making sure that their best runners will have a chance to compete in the race as they prepare for the NCAA Championships.
Fassmann, a junior majoring in exercise science, also expressed her excitement for this Friday’s home meet.
“I love this race course (Cascade Golf Course). It’s my favorite,” Fassmann said. “I had a good race last year and I’m really excited to run it. It’s a good chance to open up and get this first race going.”
Makenna Smith, a redshirt sophomore majoring in wildlife and wildland conservation, feels the team is motivated to push each other to do well during practice for this upcoming weekend’s race.
“For the team, we’re very motivated since we have so much depth. I think we’re excited to see what happens at regional and conference and hopefully make up the way the national ladder,” Smith said.
She also related the fact that the women’s cross country team has a lot of depth with great runners in their roster.
“I’m hoping to do better than last year. Running is so individual, you really only have control of what you can do,” Smith said. “My goal is to hopefully give my best so I can be on the traveling team and make the team better.”
The race will be a good confirmation for the men’s cross country team to gauge where they are aiming toward nationals.
Head coach Ed Eyestone is looking forward to the competition that this weekend’s meet will hold.
“I’m confident in our ability to run well as a team. I certainly respect the University of Minnesota’s program and our guys know that they will have to have a good race to beat Minnesota,” Eyestone said.
Jason Witt, a junior majoring in statistics, is looking for a solid performance coming off an injury that kept him from competing last season.
“I haven’t felt as strong since last season. It will be my first race since running last year,” Witt said.
In preparation for this weekend’s home meet, Witt has seen an improvement overall as a team since last week.
“Practice has gone well this past week and we’ve been running well together as a team,” Witt said. “We’ll hopefully run well together and feed off of each other together as a group to win this race.”
Thomas Gruenewald, a junior majoring in family studies, recently came back from his mission and is one of the top seven runners on the BYU men’s cross country team. The outlook for this year’s team looks good for Gruenewald and the rest of the crew. Gruenewald said he is blessed and surprised after returning home from his mission in January that he could regain his speed.
“I want to be a contributor and to be in the top five at nationals as a goal of mine,” Gruenewald said. “I’ve been finishing in the fifth, sixth spot but we also got a deep team that we’re all close (time wise) as a team.”
On one of the deepest teams in recent years, the team’s top seven runners are all also returned missionaries.
The theme for the men’s cross country team is “One,” and they certainly have a goal of being one as a whole team.
“Being one as a team, one in the Lord, one goal towards nationals is a high expectation,” Gruenewald said. “We’re going to shoot for the best. That’s the plan.”