The No. 5 BYU men’s cross country team, fueled by a top-place finish by Jason Witt, placed second in a talent-rich field at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational Oct. 19.
Of the 35 teams that ran Saturday’s race, 19 rank among the USTFCCCA coaches poll top 30, and five in the top 10. The Cougars finished as the pre-race rankings suggested with the help of Witt’s 8th place performance.
“It’s important that we have guys to step up, and I feel like today was one of those days for me,” Witt said. “It was great to be there for the team. We came into the meet as the second highest ranked team in the meet and we finished second. We did what we were supposed to do.”
Northern Arizona, who was No. 3 coming into the race and the top-seeded among participating schools, finished first with 121 points. BYU placed second with 174 points, and West Coast Conference rival Portland came in third with 217 points.
Tylor Thatcher, named WCC Runner of the Month for September, finished second for the Cougars and 22nd in the entire field. Jonathan Nelson finished in 27th and Steve Flint came in 52nd. Spencer Gardner was the fifth and final scored runner for BYU, taking 65th place overall.
“I thought that the guys really delivered,” head coach Ed Eyestone said. “To get second was an awesome effort. Jason Witt led the group and ran a really smart race. The cool thing is that we were second on a day when we were solid, but we still have room for improvement.”
The team has only one slot to move up if it wishes to improve in last year’s WCC Championship in Portland, Oregon, where it finished second. Runners must continue to finish close to each other and run as a pack in order to beat Portland as the conference’s best squad.
“Thatcher felt like he could have run better,” Eyestone said. “Flint is back on track. The cool thing was that between our fourth man and our eighth man, there wasn’t much separation. It’s great to see them run so close and compact.”
Other runners for BYU included Aaron Fletcher, who finished in 71st place, and Thomas Gruenewald who finished in 77th.
The day’s race against so many top-caliber schools prepared the Cougars for their upcoming tests against conference, regional and national foes in the next month. The next stop for BYU is the 2013 WCC Championships hosted by Pepperdine in Malibu, Cali. on Saturday, Nov. 2.