Wednesday, April 14, 2021

BYU track stars crush basketball mile world record

BYU track and cross country All-Americans Whittni Orton and Anna Camp-Bennett broke the world record on Sept. 4 for running the fastest mile while dribbling a basketball.

Orton crushed the previous record, finishing in just 4:58:46 which converted to 4:52:71 with an altitude adjustment. The previous world record of 5:08:57 was set earlier this year by Foot Locker Nationals champion, Sydney Masciarelli. Camp-Bennett also beat the record with the time of 5:10:37 which converts to 5:04:28 at Provo’s altitude.

“This was a lot more stressful than a regular race, cause it’s not just simply running,” Orton said. “You could kick the ball at any moment.”

Because of the global pandemic, the 2020 fall championship for cross country was tentatively postponed to the spring by the NCAA. In the meantime, BYU women’s cross country coach Diljeet Taylor put together competitions like the basketball mile to keep her athletes focused on their 2021 aspirations.

The BYU women’s cross country team came in second at the national championship last fall and looks forward to the opportunity to take the next step when NCAA competition resumes.

“Our dreams haven’t been canceled, they’ve just been postponed,” Taylor said. “I’m really trying to put together some fun opportunities to keep them excited and have things to look forward to.”

The idea to challenge the record came when Taylor saw that the basketball mile record was beaten over the summer. Orton and Camp-Bennett were not only both basketball players in high school, but best friends since coming to BYU, so Taylor texted them to see if they were interested.

“I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it. That looks kind of fun,’” Orton said. “We thought it would be more fun together than just one of us doing it.”

Orton and Camp-Bennett only did a few exercises with a basketball during practice to prepare and the dribbling aspect proved to be a bigger challenge than they originally anticipated.

“It’s so weird because your posture is different,” Orton said. “In running, you want to be straight up, and in basketball, you want to be bent over a little bit and in a stance. So it felt so awkward.”

With their BYU teammates watching from the sideline, both athletes began the race and stuck with each other for the first two laps. Orton took off around the 800-meter mark and finished comfortably under the previous world record time, with Camp-Bennett finishing soon after.

“I knew I was fit enough and fast enough,” Orton said. “I felt confident that if I didn’t mess up with the dribbling that I would get it.”

Orton and the rest of the women’s track and cross country team now look forward to the rest of their coach’s events. Among the activities scheduled by Coach Taylor are the “COVID classic 5k,” the “corona mile” and the “Taylor Twilight meet.”

“I made an entire fall schedule. It’s kind of like our COVID season schedule,” Taylor said. “I want to give them something they can be proud of this fall.”

Orton and Camp-Bennett will both continue running for BYU in 2021, now with a world record under their belts and a national championship in their sights.

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