(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – BYU men’s cross country will kick off the 2015 season with the Autumn Classic this Saturday at Clarence Robison Track. Head coach Ed Eyestone believes his team can be special.
“I think we have as good of a team as we’ve had in a number of years, it’s just not as deep. Instead of 15 guys vying for the top seven, there are more like 10 guys. Sometimes that’s not a bad deal because that means everyone is kind of secure of their spot and they can just work hard without looking over their shoulder the entire time.”
Eyestone said he is counting on freshman Dallin Farnsworth and sophomore Connor McMillan to be the anchors on this year’s squad. Farnsworth has yet to hit the cross country field at BYU, having only competed in track events last season. Co-captains Aaron Fletcher and Dylan Shawhan, All-WCC preseason honoree Mitchell Briggs and recently returned missionary Clayton Young are expected to round out the top six runners in uniform on Saturday.
“We certainly have some good leadership up front,” Eyestone said. “I think we have two or three guys with All-American potential. And what we’ve learned in the past is if we’re going to be a top four team and end up on the podium at the end of the season as a national champion contender, you need to have at least a couple of All-Americans. I think we have those in Farnsworth and McMillan. We have a good 1-2 punch.”
Eyestone also had high praise for his three through six runners for this weekend.
“Fletcher has had a really strong summer and he’s one of our team captains. This summer he really stepped it up, realizing he is going into his senior campaign, and so he is very fit.”
“We have some new young guys just off missions. Clayton Young is in very good shape and he has stepped up really well. In addition to him, our other co-captain Shawhan is looking good along with Briggs.”
What happens in the Autumn Classic will have a lasting influence on the rest of the season.
“We’ll be adding some more (runners) based on the performances of this weekend. We’ll see who steps it up and is prepared to be in our top nine and travel to the meet (WCC Preview) two weeks from this weekend in Spokane.”
The Cougars have also garnered a number of preseason honors. BYU is ranked 14th nationally in the preseason polls. They were also picked to win the WCC championship. Eyestone is happy with the early accolades.
“It’s a good place to start because it’s not so high that it’s going to go to the guys’ heads, and it’s not so low that the guys are going to be bumming about it. I think it’s the right ranking. Preseason rankings really don’t amount to much, but they’re nice because you’re ranked by your peers in most cases. I think people recognize that BYU has been a consistent top-10 or top-20 team.”
The men’s four-mile race is slated to begin at 9:45 a.m. MDT on Saturday at the Clarence F. Robison Track and Field Complex on the BYU campus. Admission to the race is $5, and entry is free with the ROC Pass.