BYU Cross Country to compete at OSU Invitational for first meet of 2020

BYU Cross Country will compete at the OSU Invitational Saturday in Stillwater, Oklahoma, the first event in defense of the Cougars’ national championship last season. The men will run an 8K while the women will run a 6k.

The men’s team will be competing with a target on their back as the defending champions from the 2019 season – the first national championship in program history. The women’s team is coming off a second-place finish at nationals, its best since 2003.

Conner Mantz and Whittni Orton lead the BYU Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams, respectively. Both athletes will be key to BYU’s success at the OSU Invitational. (BYU Athletics)

The OSU Cross Country Course is the location for the 2020-21 NCAA Dl Cross Country Championships, creating a perfect opportunity for the team to preview the course before they compete for the championship in March.

Northern Arizona, who had its three-peat championship streak snapped by BYU last season, will be running at the OSU Invitational. Other official entries for the meet include Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Christian, Oklahoma State, Southern Utah and UTEP.

Because of the global pandemic, the NCAA postponed the fall season to the spring, which will officially begin Jan. 30. Fall meet results will still impact championship qualifications however, so the level of intensity is high for both athletes and coaches.

Junior Conner Mantz and sophomore Casey Clinger are the top runners to look out for on the men’s team. Mantz is a two-time All-American, and took third at the championships last season to lead the team. Clinger returned from his mission in December and hopes to make the same impact this year as he did before his mission, when he was the top finisher for the team at the 2017 NCAA Championships.

“I think we’ve actually got a better team this year than last year,” head coach Ed Eyestone said of the high expectations for the 2020-21 season.

On the women’s side, seniors Whittni Orton and Anna Camp-Bennett lead the team. Orton was an All-American and finished seventh overall at the 2019 NCAA Championships. Camp-Bennett, a close friend of Orton, was the fifth finisher of the team last season.

While both the men’s and women’s squads have plenty of experience, both teams will also feature athletes that are making their cross country debut in a collegiate meet. The men’s team will include Aidan Troutner, Zack Ericksen, and Adam Wood for the first time, and the women’s roster will see three true freshman: Lexy Halladay, Anna Martin, and Simone Plourde.

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