BYU cross country sets strong precedent in season opener

The BYU men’s and women’s cross country teams gave strong performances in their season opener Friday, setting a strong precedent for the 2022 season.

This event marked the first Run Elite Program Cross Classic, a race founded by former BYU and two-time All-American distance runner Jared Ward. This was the Cougars’ only race in Utah for the season, replacing the BYU Autumn Classic, which was canceled this year because of construction at the Timpanogos Golf Course. 

The women’s team was voted No. 1 in the WCC preseason poll for the sixth straight season and is ranked No. 7 in the nation. The team boasts 33 runners on its roster this year, the largest pack coach Diljeet Taylor has worked with. 

Taylor used this race as a starting point to gauge how well her runners worked as a team, especially her 11 freshman recruits.

From left, Riley Chamberlain, Carmen Alder, Sadie Sargent and Madi Moffit lead a pack of BYU runners during the Run Elite Program Cross Classic on Friday. (Gabrielle Shiozawa)

“I wanted to see what kind of intense drive they brought,” Taylor said. “This is a perfect opportunity for us to see where our starting point is and really just walk away from it knowing that we have to put our heads down and work really hard for the next couple of months.”

2022 Preseason All-WCC Team members Lexy Halladay-Lowry, McKenna Lee-Hansen and Aubrey Frentheway led out the 5k with a 17:24 finish.

Frentheway, a two-time All-American, sees a lot of strength and unity in her team this season.

“I’m noticing a lot of friendship and sisterhood that we’re building in our workouts and races,” the BYU senior said. “As we saw today, our working together as a sisterhood is what’s really helping us succeed.”

Coach Diljeet Taylor addresses the women’s cross country team in a post-meet huddle. The 33 runners on the 2022 roster make up the biggest team Taylor has worked with. (Gabrielle Shiozawa)

A new runner to watch out for this season is freshman Riley Chamberlain, who came fourth at 17:46 this race and brings accolades like California Gatorade Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year 2020–2021 and CIF Division 3 Cross Country State Champion in 2018 and 2019. 

Freshman Addi Bruening, who ran 18:13 this race, also brings the titles of Utah Women’s Cross Country Gatorade Player of the Year in 2021 and Utah 6A Women’s Cross Country State Champion in 2021 to the table.

The men’s team starts out the season No. 1 in the WCC preseason poll for the eighth season in a row and No. 4 in the nation. Casey Clinger, Brandon Garnica and Lucas Bons were all named 2022 Preseason All-WCC Team members.

Creed and Davin Thompson, Christian Allen and Joey Nokes finished the 7.5k together Friday at 22:08.

The BYU men’s cross country team runs in a pack at the start of the Run Elite Program Cross Classic on Friday. (Gabrielle Shiozawa)

“The Thompson twins are really running their best early in the season here and I’m happy about that because it shows how fit they are,” men’s coach Ed Eyestone said. 

But the twins also take a lighthearted approach to the sport. At Davin Thompson’s spontaneous suggestion, the four top finishers ended the race in an unusual way: holding hands to cross the finish line together.

“We’re just having fun with it. In my opinion, if you’re not having fun with it, then there’s no point,” Davin Thompson said. 

Christian Allen ran the race unaffiliated as Eyestone gauged whether or not to use Allen’s eligibility this season. Friday’s race gave strong indications for Eyestone that Allen is a runner to watch for. 

The BYU men’s cross country team runs in the Run Elite Program Cross Classic on Friday. (Gabrielle Shiozawa)

Eyestone also took note of sophomore Kenneth Rooks, running with the cross country team for the first time after shining on the BYU track & field team in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 800 meter. Rooks took fifth Friday at 22:21.

“We didn’t have much competition today so we just wanted to run as a team and put in the work,” Creed Thompson said. “We’re looking good as a team this year and I’m excited to see what we do.”

The Cougars’ next race is Sept. 24 at the Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State University cross country course will also be the site of the NCAA Championships on Nov. 19.

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