Members of the BYU Women’s Cross Country team run 40 to 75 miles each week, but many start their collegiate careers not by running, but by walking…right onto the team.
Head Coach Patrick Shane says, “I’d say more than half of our team are walk-ons. They’re a critical part of what we do.”
BYU runners are some of the best in the nation, but many of them were never actively recruited by BYU. One of these walk-ons is freshman Rachel Stewart. The Montana native is now racing her way to the top of the team.
“I was pushing it a lot,” Stewart says, “I wanted to come here really bad. I kept telling them how much I wanted to run, and I’m grateful to come down here and get a chance to see what I can do on the team.”
Stewart was originally accepted to BYU-Idaho, but her dream was to run for the Cougars. She set out to make sure that Coach Shane knew about her, updating him through her entire senior season of high school. Her strategy worked, and Coach Shane approached the admissions board to make her case. The rest is history. However, Stewart’s situation isn’t as unique as you might think.
“I know at BYU we do get a lot of walk-ons. In fact some of our walk-ons turned down full scholarships at other universities because they want to be at BYU,” Shane says.
At other schools, many walk-ons end up running for the door. Luckily that isn’t the case at BYU.
Here, recruits and walk-ons work together, and most of them don’t know who was recruited and who wasn’t.
“I didn’t even know she was a walk-on!” freshman recruit Ashleigh Warner says of Stewart, “You know we’re just all freshmen. We’re all just getting to know each other, so we just bonded perfectly.”
This bond between recruits and walk-ons has already led the Cougars to a first place finish at the Reno Twilight Classic and a second place finish in the BYU Autumn Classic.
Stewart shares here hopes for the season when she says, “We’re probably going to do more than we think we can do, so it’s kind of cool.”
The BYU Women’s Cross Country team will run their top runners for the first time tonight in Ohio at the Toledo Inter-regional Bubble Buster Meet.