Calm and collected wins the race for BYU men’s cross country

Family and friends show their support as the BYU men’s cross country team heads to its bus to go to Nationals. (Mele Fangu)

This past Wednesday, the BYU Men’s and Women’s Cross Country  teams were met by huge BYU flags and loved ones cheering and waving posters of encouragement as they head out to compete in the NCAA Championships in Stillwater, OK on Saturday, Nov. 19.

Men’s cross country dominated the 10K course at the NCAA Mountain Regionals, finishing in second place this past weekend in Albequerque, New Mexico. Senior Brandon Garnica broke his career best record, finishing in fifth place within a 0.3 second of his teammates three-time All-American Casey Clinger and Joey Nokes.

“I didn’t even know that I had [broken my record],” said Brandon. “I went away feeling great and pretty relaxed. It was a confidence booster.”

His teammate Casey expressed the same excitement as well. “It was a special experience [to finish the race with my teammates], remembering all the hard work we put in for the season and having it pay off,” he said. “We’re really excited.”

BYU Cross country competing in Regionals at Albaquerque, NM this past Saturday. (BYU XC)

With Nationals occurring within only a week from Regionals, the team’s main goal was to finish in the top three in Regionals so that they could qualify for the championships.

“We executed exactly what we wanted to do,” said Coach Eyestone. “Regionals is a preliminary heat so you want to run as easily as you can and still advance and we accomplished that.”

Coach Eyestone strategically pulled out Davin and Creed Thompson and Aiden Troutner from racing in Regionals in order to “rest up and go in fresh” in the championship race. They will be substituting Kenneth Brooks, Lucas Bonds, and Luke Ludwig this Saturday.

Eyestone explained, “When you’re in a good place in terms of depth wise, you could afford to do that and be a strong-enough team to hold out a couple from your team and still be okay.”

While some runners were held back, top runners such as Brandon Garnica and Casey Clinger will be running back-to-back within this 8-day turnaround between Regionals and Nationals.

Once the team landed back in Provo from Regionals, the team immediately went on a nice easy run and hit the training room for some ice baths and massages.

Going into the national meet Coach Eyestone wants to make sure that his top runners finish in the top 10 to 20 and for his 3rd through 7th place runners on the team to have a “really good compression.” Doing so, the team will not have large gaps between their times and to run more unified as a team.

Tough competitors such as Stanford, Oklahoma State, and Northern Arizona are on their radar as they compete this Saturday.

BYU runners Casey Clinger and Brandon Garnica at Regionals. (BYU XC)

For seniors like Brandon, this race may be his last chance to give everything he has in his collegiate running career. After collapsing in the 2020 Championship 10K race near the end of the finish line, he has had a long mental and physical recovery.

“It put a big damper on my mental strength,” said Brandon. “Coming into this course, I’ve been able to build that back up and be mentally tough. I’ve just been taking it one race at a time, just enjoying the process and the team we have and hoping to do well this Saturday.”

They will be competing on Saturday, Nov. 19 at the Greiner Family OSU Cross Country Course in Stillwater, OK. The Men’s race wil start at 10:10am CST and the women’s race will start at 9:20am CST.

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