(Photo by BYU Photo)
SEATTLE – In its toughest meet of the year to date, No. 12 BYU men’s cross country took third place at the Washington Invitational Friday at Jefferson Park, thanks in large part to its top three runners cracking the top 10.
Aaron Fletcher (6th), Dallin Farnsworth (9th), and Connor McMillan (10th) led the way for the Cougars, who fell one point shy (70) of upending second place Stanford (69), who is also ranked second nationally, in team scoring. No. 5 Oregon won the meet with 52 team points. The Ducks’ two-time defending NCAA champion, Edward Cheserek, finished first overall.
BYU coach Ed Eyestone, who said the goal going in was to have his top three in the top 10, was very satisfied with his team’s performance.
“We were ranked fourth (among the 11 competing teams) going in,” Eyestone said. “We raced very well against Stanford and Oregon. We beat UCLA who was ranked higher than us. So I think it was a good effort by our guys. I think it gave some confidence to our top three who were mixing it up with other guys who have been All-Americans in the past. I think it gave them confidence that they could do that in the future.”
The race served as a litmus test for the Cougars, who for the first time this season saw how their team stacked up against the nation’s best.
“I think before (today) we thought we were a top-15 team,” Eyestone said. “I think this shows we can be a top-10 team, and if we can close the gap between our third, fourth and fifth guys, then the sky’s the limit. We’ll definitely move up in the polls from this race.”
The next six BYU finishers were all within nine spots of each other. Nicolas Montanez, Mitchell Briggs, Dylan Shawhan and Jonathan Harper all finished in consecutive order, 22nd through 25th. Dallin Taylor and Clayton Young came in just seconds later, finishing 28th and 30th respectively. Steve Morrin was the final BYU representative, coming in 62nd overall.
Another positive from Friday’s race was that nine BYU runners finished ahead of No. 2 Stanford’s fifth runner. Of the result Eyestone said, “I think it just shows we can compete with the big boys.”
BYU ran in two heats, essentially, with its top three finishing in the top 10, and the rest in the 20th-30th place range. Nicolas Montanez was inspired to have his teammates all around.
“If there’s one thing I remember about the race is one of our teammates, at about the 5k mark, yelled out ‘Go Cougars!’,” Montanez said. “Then, another teammate said, ‘Hey, there’s all six of us right here.’ That gave me more motivation. That helped tremendously.”
The Cougars will try to build on their momentum next at the Wisconsin Invitational on October 16. The men’s 8k race will begin at 11:00 a.m. CDT.