Friday, April 16, 2021

The BYU women's cross country team celebrates its national championship on March 15. The Cougars improved upon their runner-up finish in 2019 to win the title this season. (BYU Photo)

Olympic overview: BYU track and cross country teams take home national championships

The BYU track and cross country teams had a heyday at NCAA nationals, taking first place as a team in the women’s distance medley relay and women’s cross country, as well as individually in men’s cross country.

Cross Country

The BYU women’s cross country team won the NCAA National Championship on March 15, the Cougars’ fifth team national title in program history. The team competed at the OSU Course in Stillwater, Oklahoma, finishing with 96 overall points.

BYU had seven runners competing, five of which finished in the top 40. Senior Anna Camp-Bennet led the way for the Cougars, finishing the 6K course in just 20:28.3, 11th place overall. Junior Aubrey Frentheway and senior Whittni Orton were not far behind her, finishing 15th and 17th respectively.

The second-place team finished a full 60 points behind the Cougars, making BYU’s performance all the more impressive.

In addition, BYU star Conner Mantz won an individual championship for the men’s team, placing first in the 10K. Mantz showed his stripes in the final kilometer of the race, breaking away from the lead pack and widening the gap between him and the other runners. Mantz crossed the finish line at 29:26.1, a whopping 22 seconds before the second-place runner. Mantz is the first American to win the race since 2008 and the first male Cougar to win an individual national championship since Josh Rohatinsky in 2006.

Track and Field

The BYU women’s track and field distance medley relay team took home the victory with a BYU record time of 10:52.96 at the 2021 NCAA DI Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 12. This is the first national title for the program in this particular event.

The relay consisted of four senior athletes: Olivia Hoj Simister with the 1200-meter leg, Alena Ellsworth with the 400-meter leg, Lauren Ellsworth-Barnes in the 800-meter leg, and Courtney Wayment anchoring the 1600-meter leg.

The women clocked a winning time of 10:52.96, a full four seconds before the second-place team. The time ranks sixth all-time in NCAA history and beat the previous BYU record by almost a second.

Because of their record-breaking performance, the four seniors were named First Team All-Americans.

The BYU women’s distance medley relay team celebrates its first-place finish at NCAA nationals on March 12. The Cougars set a new BYU record in the race. (BYU Photo)

In addition to her victory with the team, Wayment also won the women’s 3000-meter national title, the first to do so in BYU history.

Wayment led the herd for most of the race, and with 400 meters to go, showed off her amazing closing speed. As she crossed the finish line, the clock read 9:01.47, narrowly defeating a runner from the University of Arkansas.

Men’s Volleyball

The No. 2-ranked BYU men’s volleyball team swept the Stanford Cardinal on March 12 and 13, easily winning the home weekend series. For the first time this season, a limited number of fans were permitted at both games.

The ruckus of the Smith Fieldhouse proved to be too much for the visiting Cardinal, as they were unable to put up much of a fight on the scoreboard.

First Match Results: 25-19, 25-22, 25-15

Second Match Results: 25-16, 25-15, 25-16

Mitchel Worthington digs the ball against Stanford on March 12. The Cougars swept the Cardinal in back-to-back matches over the weekend with fans in attendance for the first time this season. (Hannah Miner)

Gabi Garcia Fernandez filled up the stat sheet, recording 11 kills in the second match and seven in the first. In match two, the Cougars also tallied a season-high 16 blocks, doubling Stanford’s total of eight.

The Cougars moved to 10-2 in the MPSF Conference with the wins and have recorded five-straight sweeps. They will look to keep the momentum going in Malibu as they take on the Pepperdine Waves on March 19-20.

Women’s Soccer

The No. 13 women’s soccer team fell to the No. 23 Santa Clara Broncos on March 13, 2-1. The Cougars gave up a goal in the 88th minute to seal the Bronco victory.

BYU grabbed an early lead off a penalty kick from Mikayla Colohan in the 5th minute, but just eight minutes later, the Broncos evened the score with a goal of their own from Kelsey Turnbow.

Tied at halftime, the Cougars had several opportunities to pull ahead but ultimately fell short. BYU had 12 shots total and only four on goal, while the Broncos had 10 shots, seven of them on goal.

Following the loss, BYU moved to 4-3 on the season and 2-1 in West Coast Conference play. 

Men’s Tennis

The men’s tennis team won its third-straight match on March 12, demolishing the Air Force Falcons 6-1 in Provo, moving to 6-4 overall and 1-0 in West Coast Conference play.

The doubles teams developed early momentum with wins at No. 1 and No. 3, quickly clinching the doubles point for the Cougars. The momentum continued into the singles matches with Sean Hill dominating his competition, 6-1, 6-3. Mateo Vereau Melendez came back from a large deficit to win his match 7-5, 7-5, at No. 4 singles. Ben Gajardo won the deciding singles match at No. 2, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. 

The Cougars will look to keep the momentum going as they face UNLV on the road next Saturday, March 20.


Women’s Tennis

The women defeated Weber State 6-1 on March 12, earning their second victory over the Wildcats this season and improving to 9-5 overall.

BYU easily took the doubles point, sweeping both of the initial sets. The Cougars quickly picked up another two points in singles with Anastasia Abramyan winning 6-1, 6-0, and Leah Heimuli winning 6-0, 6-4.

Emilee Astle won a hard-fought match despite dropping the first set, 3-6, 6-1, 7-5. Astle’s win gave the Cougars their fourth point, solidifying the victory.

The women will begin conference play on Friday, March 19 with a home match against Portland.

Gymnastics

The No. 12 gymnastics team fell just short of defeating No. 11 Denver on March 11, despite earning the Cougars’ highest score since 2004, a 197.300. BYU also recorded season-high scores in both the beam and floor events.

It was the Cougars’ final home-meet of the season, sending off their seniors with an impressive last performance.

The women posted a 49.175 on the vault, a 49.375 on bars, a 49.400 on beam, and a 49.350 on floor. Denver clinched the victory with just a .75 point advantage. 

The nigh ended with a ceremony for the team’s seven seniors: Abbey Miner-Alder, Avery Bennett, Helody Cyrenne, Jordan Danbury-Matthews, Haley Pitou, Abby Boden-Stainton and Angel Zhong. 

BYU will head to Logan, Utah for the MRGC Championships on Saturday, March 20.

The seven seniors on the BYU gymnastics team are recognized following their final home meet against Denver on March 11 in the Marriott Center. The Cougars recorded a 197.300, the highest team score for the program since 2004. (Hannah Miner)

Baseball

The BYU baseball team fell to the University of Utah 6-3 on March 11 and 7-1 on March 12, giving up seven-straight runs before finally scoring in the seventh inning.

Josh Cowden was the singular Cougar to score in the game-two loss, running to home with a single to center field.

The two teams were set to finish the three-game series at the Cougars’ home opener at Miller Field on March 13, but snow the morning of kept the game from taking place.

BYU takes on Dixie State in St. George on March 16, followed by a three-game road series at Loyola Marymount to begin West Coast Conference play on March 18.

Softball

Despite a good showing, the BYU softball team fell 10-7 to No.10/11 Texas on March 13. 

HannahJo Peterson hit a three-run homer in the top of the fifth to bring the Cougars within two. Minutes later, a single from Martha Epenesa drove in Violet Zavodnik, moving the score within one, with Texas leading 7-6. Texas managed to hit three runs in the bottom of the inning to go up 10-6, a lead the Longhorns would never lose. Rylee Jensen-McFarland hit a homer in the top of the sixth, but it was too little, too late. Both teams remained scoreless for the remainder of the game, ultimately granting the Longhorns the victory.

The Cougars’ luck turned around later that day, however, as they managed to beat Tarleton State, 7-1. BYU led the whole game, with Jensen-McFarland scoring a quick run at the top of the first inning.

The Cougars kept the momentum going, scoring run after run as the innings progressed. The undeniable highlight of the game was when freshman Zavodnik hit her first career grand slam, giving BYU a 7-0 lead in the top of the seventh. Tarleton State managed to score a run, but BYU easily secured the win.

The women will take a week off before playing Arizona State on Wednesday, March 24.

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