Both cross country teams look to overcome the obstacle of top-ranked programs this weekend as they travel across the country for meets.
The women travel to compete against some of the top teams in the country this weekend in the Greater Louisville Invitational. Louisville, the host team, will present a major obstacle to victory along with top programs Toledo, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Arizona, Michigan State and Penn State.
A challenge head coach Patrick Shane will face with his team are the tough competition at this weekend’s meet. It will be the first time that BYU will race against any of these top 15 teams in the invitational.
Shane will rest last week’s top three runners Michaelanne Laurent, Lindsey Soward Nielson and Natalie Shields. Sarah Darby, a sophomore from San Clemente, Calif., will debut her racing season alongside her teammates Ashley Werner and Laura Young to keep the race close against their competitors.
Brooke Holt and Stephanie Bills had a rough race last week and Shane expects them to come around this week and finishing with the top runners. “Overall, it will be a strong team effort for us. We are going to wait till Wisconsin to lay out everyone on the starting line,” Shane said.”That will be the most important meet that we will run so far this season before we get to the championship series.”
As each week approaches, each race becomes more important than before for the Cougars chance at nationals.
“This one is important because the competition is better and it will give a young team experience that they never had,” Shane said. “It’s a chance to run on a national course and to get a feel of what it will be like.”
Shane feels optimistic about Saturday’s race. “We got a good race plan to run together and push it at the middle of the race and hang on,” he said, “I’m excited to see how this group does.”
The race begins at 9:30 a.m. EDT in Louisville, Ky., on the E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park.
The BYU men’s cross country haven’t had a meet for the past two weeks and are ready to go up to Eugene, Ore., at this weekends Bill Dellinger Invitational this Saturday.
“I think it will be a good racing opportunity because there will be 10 good teams coming from Pac-12 schools, particularly the University of Oregon and University of Washington,” head coach Ed Eyestone said. “It’s always nice to run against Oregon because they a traditionally a strong distance team in the country. Anytime you go into their territory, you want to do well.”
For Eyestone, this weekends meet will provide his team good competition that they haven’t had to compete against so far this season.
Eyestone will take 14 runners with him to travel and race. With the middle of the season in progress, each meets starts to count for at-large points for the national meet in November in order to do place at NCAAs.
“We want to run strong as a team and have a overall good team performance,” Eyestone said.
BYU has been on this course before, but last year they had a sophomore runner named Miles Batty, who finished third at the meet. The team overall ended up second after the University of Alabama, who beat the Cougars at Nationals.
Going off of this history, Eyestone thinks this years’s team overall is better than the previous year and can finish well as a team if they run at the best of their ability.
“All of our meets here on will be at sea level and we have the advantage that we train at altitude and can run a bit faster paces as a result of our training altitude,” Eyestone said.
Trevor Dunbar, a redshirt junior and top runner from Oregon, is one person that Eyestone is most worried about competing against. Another challenge Eyestone sees is to have a compact, group of runners finishing.
“If the team runs in a close knit pack, then I think we can prevail as a team,” Eyestone said.
At the conference, regional and national meets, Eyestone mentioned that the team will be cut down to nine, seven then seven runners to compete for the team.
“We look forward when you see a guy rise up and perform extra well that may pass expectation to show that they are a gamer,” Eyestone said. “So that’s one of the things I’m looking forward to this first trip.”
Who’s going to bring it? Only after the race is finished will Eyestone find out.