Whittni Orton runs in the NCAA National Championships in November 2019 in Terre Haute, Indiana. Orton took first at the OSU Invitational to help BYU Women’s Cross Country to a first-place team finish. (BYU Photo)

Women’s Cross Country crushes competition at OSU Invitational, men’s team takes third

BYU Women’s Cross Country took home a dominant first-place victory on Oct. 17 at the OSU Invitational, led by senior Whittni Orton’s fourth individual title of her collegiate career. The men’s team took third, with Conner Mantz and Casey Clinger finishing second and third, respectively.

The women’s 6K ended with six Cougars in the top 10, putting them at 22 points, well ahead of Southern Utah, who finished in second place with 62 points. Orton led the pack with a time of 20:27.8, with junior Aubrey Frentheway taking third (21:00.01) and true freshman Lexy Halladay taking sixth (21:15.4).

The meet took place at the OSU Cross Country Course, the same site where the NCAA Championships will be held on Mar. 15, 2021. Head coach Diljeet Taylor wanted her athletes to treat this race like a preview of the upcoming championships.

“I was really pleased with the effort given today by the women,” Taylor said in the team’s press release. “Our main goal coming into the meet was to get our feet on the grass and get familiar with it. It is a grueling course and very tough. We were very conservative for a majority of the race, running most of it together. Being the first cross country meet, you just never know what to expect so I was pleased with the effort everyone showed today.”

The men’s squad finished in third place with 59 points, behind Northern Arizona’s 36 points and Oklahoma State’s 42 points. The competition was stiff, with many of the teams being relevant in the upcoming championships, namely Oklahoma State, Southern Utah, and Northern Arizona, who took second behind BYU at the 2019 NCAA championships.

BYU’s star duo of Mantz and Clinger performed as expected, with Mantz finishing the 10k only one second behind first-place finisher Luis Grijalva of Northern Arizona, with a time of 23:31.4. Clinger, who recently returned from his Latter-day Saint mission in Japan, crossed the finish line soon after with a time of 23:38.7.

“We went up against four teams that will be very relevant in the NCAA Cross Country Championships this March,” men’s head coach Ed Eyestone said in the press release after the race. “I thought we did a very good job, particularly Casey and Conner. They put themselves up there right where we expected them to be. There wasn’t really a question on how they were going to race, and they ran very, very well.”

A key piece of the team’s scoring was missing in All-American Clayson Shumway, who ran the race unattached and placed eighth overall with a time of 24:01.5. Shumway is taking a gap semester, but will be back in class and running for the team in the spring ahead of the championship.

“With Clayson factored in, it would have been a much closer contest,” Eyestone said. “Without Clayson in the mix and with Brandon Garnica and Matt Owens not 100 percent, I think we’re going to be in a good place come the NCAA Championships based on today’s performance.”

This was the first meet the BYU cross country teams have competed in this year, with no other fall meets currently scheduled until the spring season officially begins on Jan. 23.

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