There’s nothing quite like bringing home conference championship hardware.
After an eight-year drought, the women’s cross country team has been crowned 2014 West Coast Conference Champions. The confidence-building win has taken the team from “we think we can” to “we know we can,” and there’s no telling where the winning will stop.
“Our motto this year — our slogan — was ‘become,'” said head coach Patrick Shane. “That fits in a lot of areas, but certainly ‘become conference champion’ was at the head in our minds’ eye as we set that goal. They certainly did become conference champions.”
It’s easy to pass off the Cougars’ motto of “become” as cliche — every sports team wants to become champions. Who doesn’t want the thrill of being the best, and who doesn’t want the chance to be the best? The difference for this year’s team — hard work and belief.
The Cougars’ top four runners stepped up huge in the race at the Baylands Park course in Sunnyvale, California. Junior runner Carrie Jube finished second overall with a time of 19:48.7. It was the race of her life.
“It was unreal to me for a little bit; it didn’t really hit me for a while,” Jube said of her second-place finish. “It’s been a long time since I felt like that in a race. It was a lot to wrap my head around, but once it hit me, I was on Cloud Nine — I was so happy.”
Makenna Smith and Jennica Redd finished third and fourth, respectively, for BYU.
Jube improved upon her previous 6K by more than a minute, breaking into the 19s for the first time, but wasn’t the only one to break out at the Conference Championship. Senior captain Andrea Harrison took fourth place overall and couldn’t be more pleased with how the team ran.
“It’s really exciting, just because we worked super hard this season; it’s been our goal (to win),” Harrison said. “It’s been our goal since I can remember, and we haven’t won in eight or nine years. Our coach deserves it after all that time.”
Harrison, a fifth-year senior, is as delighted and emotional about this win as the next girl, but as the oldest rostered runner, it could not have been any sweeter.
“It meant so much that my team was there,” she said. “Our team really stepped it up, and it felt really personal to have the team behind you working hard. It’s so gratifying, because I know we have been working so hard, and to see it come together, it felt so good.”
The Cougars’ next chance to prove themselves will come on Nov. 14 at the Mountain Regional Championships hosted by the University of New Mexico. A strong showing there could mean an at-large bid to the NCAA DI Women’s Cross Country Championships.
“We need to be third,” Shane said. “We probably aren’t going to be in the top two, but we definitely need to be third because that puts us on the bubble as one of the at-large teams, and there are thirteen at-large births, and we like our chances if we’re third, and I think we can do that.”
Shane, who has led BYU to 25 conference championships in more than 35 years as head coach, needs his top four runners to do as well, if not better, in order to give the Cougars a shot at third place.
“We need a solid race out of our top four again,” Shane said. “We don’t have a replacement for those girls, so we have to have those four get out there and get the job done.”
Any time a season culminates in a championship, expectations are set anew and the bar is raised for future teams.
“When you have a break-through race like this it just gives you motivation for the next time,” Jube said. “Since I’ve hit that mark now I know from here I can only move up. I think it’s going to be really motivating to do even better at regionals and races to come.”
The women of BYU cross country are truly becoming champions, in heart and mind, and that bodes well for the future of the program.
“This is really, really motivating for the team,” Jube said. “We know that we can do it, but to actually get it done gives us confidence for the future.”