The theme of the 2000 men's cross country team could probably be summed up in one word-change. As the Cougars look to start off the new year and the new millennium, they will field a team that looks very different from the one they had just a year ago.
For one thing the Cougars will have a new coach for the first time in almost four decades. After 39 years as head coach of the cross country team, Sherald James will finish his BYU coaching career at the end of this season. James has earned countless honors over the years at BYU, and he has coached several world-class athletes during his career. So it is only fitting that the Cougars have chosen one of his most decorated runners to assume the reigns of the program he has established.
Ed Eyestone earned All-America honors ten times during his collegiate running career at BYU. He is one of only three runners to ever win the college running triple crown-the NCAA 5,000 meter, the 10,000-meter and the cross country championship-in the same year. He is also a two-time Olympian, competing in the marathon in Seoul and in Barcelona.
Eyestone inherits a program that made it to the NCAA Championship meet in 1999, but came home with a disappointing finish. The one constant the Cougars had last year was sophomore John Hedengren. He finished first for BYU in every race he ran in except the championship. Hedengren was named Mountain West Conference Athlete of the Year after winning the individual conference title while leading his team to a first-place finish.
Junior Dula Parkinson came on strong toward the end of the 1999 season, and will look to be in the lead pack for the Cougars this year. He finished third for the Cougars and 21st overall at the NCAA District Championships last year. He was also the fourth finisher on the team at the NCAA Championships.
Seniors Gary Wilson and Trevor Pettingill also bring some race experience to a fairly young team. Pettingill placed at the BYU Triple Crown in the beginning of the season, and Wilson ran at the MWC meet.
From there the Cougars look to add depth to their squad with several top-ranked high school recruits. Freshman Josh Rohatinsky won the Utah State 4A cross country title in each of his four years at Provo High School. He also ran at the Footlocker Nationals three times, placing 27th as a sophomore, 5th as a junior and 4th as a senior. One of his closest competitors in high school was Golden Harper, who ran at Orem High School in the neighboring city of Orem, Utah. Harper won the Utah 5A championship in cross country, and he also recorded a 10th-place finish at the Footlocker meet. He finished first in the 3200m run at the Great Southwest Track Meet his senior year.
The year 2000 could bring many things for the men's cross country team. But as the season begins, coach Eyestone and the Cougars will be looking to consistently improve and make a return trip to the NCAA championships.