The BYU men’s and women’s cross country team took the No. 2 and No. 3 spots as a team at the NCAA Mountain Regional Championship at the East Bay Golf Course on Nov. 9.
Both teams have secured their spots in the NCAA National Championship meet that will take place in Madison, Wisconsin, on Nov. 17.
No. 2 in the country, the BYU men’s team placed all seven runners in the top 30. As a team, they received a total of 56 points and placed No. 2 in the regional 10K meet.
Coach Ed Eyestone said he wanted the team to stay in a pack since five of the top teams in the region were racing in the meet.
“Nobody wants to run themselves into the ground the week before nationals, but yet you still have to execute enough to make it to nationals,” Eyestone said.
Conner Mantz, a freshman on the team, placed sixth overall and was the first Cougar to cross the finish line with a time of 29:24.8.
“It was a good experience to run with the team and to run as a pack,” Mantz said. “We know this isn’t nationals. Coach says to ‘save a bullet.’ I can’t push it all out, so I’ve just got to enjoy the process (and) relax, but keep it fast. I was just smiling and enjoying it.”
Seniors, Rory Linkletter and Connor McMillan took seventh (29:26.2) and eighth (29:26.4), respectively. Clayson Shumway placed 15th (29:37.4) with Jacob Heslington right behind placing 18th (29:39.6). Zak Jacklin and Brandon Garnica finished strong in 24th (29:55.1) and 28th place (29:58.5).
According to Eyestone, the team’s plan was to enhance the opportunity and position for the upcoming national meet.
“I think we left a bullet in the chamber for the national meet next week, so we’ll see how that all plays out,” Eyestone said.
The No. 9 BYU women’s team placed five runners in the top 30, scoring 85 points as a team. The women’s team took third place overall in the regional 6K meet.
“We talked a lot last night just about two things and it was execution and heart,” coach Diljeet Taylor said. “I told them if they just execute the race plan and get five girls in the top 30 then we’ll get the job done, and the job today was just qualifying for NCAA’s — getting that third spot. They executed it perfectly.”
Junior Erica Birk-Jarvis placed third (19:34.9) among all female runners. Courtney Wayment fought her way for ninth (20:01.7). Anna Camp and Olivia Hoj placed 20th (20:30.6) and 23rd (20:42.5). Sara Musselman was the fifth Cougar to cross the line placing 30th (20:55.1).
The Cougars fought a hard fight in this race. Musselman and Hoj got pushed back at the start of the race but made a comeback.
“(Sara) fought tremendously as did Olivia Hoj,” Taylor said. “They both fought really hard for the team. I am really proud of those efforts.”
At the straightaway, another runner had cleated and cut Mussleman’s foot. Musselman said she was being elbowed and then was pushed to the ground.
“I hit the ground, got back up and I was infuriated,” Musselman said. “I let that fuel my race and kept going. It’s kind of hard when you get knocked down to get back to where you’re supposed to be. I just put (in) everything, drove my arms and gave it my all.”
Coach Taylor was beaming after the race. She said that she was proud of the way her athletes ran today.
“I saw heart today,” Taylor said. “I haven’t seen this much heart all season. It’s really exciting and comforting as a coach to be approaching the championship part of the season, be a week away from NCAA, and having your team full of more heart than they’ve had all season. That’s what makes a great team.”
The Cougars will be traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, to compete in the NCAA National Championship on Nov. 17.