The Cougars look to be stronger this year, as BYU returns its top two runners from a team that narrowly missed the NCAA Championships in 1998. Seniors Matt Poulsen and Randon Richards, who consistently led the Cougars to the finish line in '98, return to lead the men in their quest for a third consecutive conference title and the first in the history of the new Mountain West. Poulsen ended the year as BYU's team leader and the only Cougar to qualify for the NCAA Championships, where he finished 87th.
"I feel that we are the favorites to win the conference this year," said Coach Sherald James. "There are some tough teams, such as Air Force and Utah, but the competition is not quite as deep as it was in the WAC." Especially noticeable in absence will be UTEP, winners of 14 team titles in the 37 seasons of the WAC, ahead of BYU's 12.
Cross country fans at BYU have reason to rejoice in the arrival of talented freshmen on campus. The three-man 1999 recruiting class includes the two best runners from Utah in David Danley and Nick McCombs and Daniel Heiner, a strong talent out of Virginia. Danley is the reigning 3A athlete of the year and state champion. McCombs is an impressive talent, taking 2nd place as a junior before injuries shot down his quest for the state title as a senior.
Although the Cougars failed to advance as a team to the 1998 NCAA Championships, Coach James feels this year his runners will improve on that finish. "Even though we lost a couple of good individuals, the nucleus of the team returns and others have moved it up a notch. Barring injuries or sickness, we are a top-15 team or better," said James.