The BYU men's cross country team had a great season, finishing first in the MWC and placing ninth at the NCAA Championships. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
A ninth place finish at the NCAA Championships helped the BYU men’s cross country team earn a No. 16 national ranking in the final poll for 2008.
Senior Kyle Perry had an accomplished season as the only athlete from BYU to finish in the top-10 at the NCAA Championships. Perry earned his third All-America title, first in cross country, giving him the peak he wanted to end on for his college cross country career. Perry also received the Mountain West Conference Athlete of the Week and First-Team All-Region honors, as well as being named to the All-MWC Team.
Several other athletes received recognition by the MWC for their accomplishments throughout the season. Stephan Shay and Dan Hinckley were named to the First-Team All-MWC; Shay also received All-Region honors. Also recognized were Jacob Gustafsson, Nathan Ogden and Richard Nelson, receiving Second-Team All-MWC honors, with Gustafsson and Nelson also earning All-Region honors.
2008 BYU Autumn Classic
Shay led his team in finishing the race placing first overall with a time of 21:00.3, while the Cougars swept the track with a perfect score of 15.
“Anytime you have a perfect score at a meet, you come out happy,” said men’s cross country head coach Ed Eyestone. “I was impressed with Stephan’s [Shay] performance.”
The top five finishers for the Cougars were Shay (1), Brandon Hebbert (2), Nelson (3), Perry (4) and Tommy Gruenewald (5).
Perry’s third-place finish overall pulled his team to a first place finish.
“Once again, we performed well,” said Eyestone. “We came together as a team against stronger competition, and we beat some very good teams. We ran within ourselves and were successful.”
Beating out two highly-ranked teams, Northern Arizona (No. 6) and Minnesota (No. 17), the Cougars’ (No. 26) first-place finish came with 32 points.
The top five runners who contributed to the top score included Perry (3), Hebbert (5), Shay (6), Nelson (8) and Ogden (11).
Roy Griak Invitational
It was Shay that pulled his team into the 8K third place finish – beating out Adams State, which placed first and Iowa State, which placed second.
“We had some runners really step up and race strong today,” said Eyestone. “Some of our athletes were sick, so others had to step up and perform well for our team.”
Placing fourth overall, Shay was followed by Perry (6), Gustafsson (16), Ogden (32) and Gruenewald (33).
“I think we’re still on track for being where we should be,” said Eyestone. “Jacob [Gustafsson] had a real breakthrough race and he performed very well for our team.”
Utah Valley Invitational
Hinkley led the Cougars to a second place finish with 41 points, losing only to UVU with 29 points.
“This was a really good performance,” said Eyestone. “Our few runners were battling it out to see who would be the 12th runner on our traveling team going into the Pre-Nationals. Dan Hinckley won that spot, so he deserves it.”
Hinckley placed first overall followed by James Tracey (5) who ran unattached, Reagan Frey (7), Brandon Babiracki (9), Robert Harrison (30) and Aaron Robison (40).
In the Men’s White Race, BYU placed third overall, with Shay coming in first for the Cougars and 19th overall.
“The men ran very well,” said Eyestone. “This was our best team race so far; we had a strong performance and I am very happy with the results.”
Following Shay, the remaining four in the top five for the Cougars were, Perry (20), Nelson (35), Gruenewald (37) and Gustafsson (43).
The team had only a 26 second differential between Shay and Gustafsson giving them the smallest difference among any of the top 10 teams.
“We ran really well as a team and had good compression between our first an fifth runners,” said Shay. “We’re really happy with how we did and I feel like we were able to prove our strength in this race.”
Being able to see how BYU compared to the other teams, Perry felt optimistic about BYU’s preparation for Nationals.
“We performed well,” said Perry, “but there is still a lot of room for improvement. There weren’t too many teams ahead of us, so hopefully we can make it the podium at Nationals.”
Placing third overall and first for the Cougars was Shay who led the team to a first place finish and maintained its conference title.
Going into its fifth straight win, the men placed first overall with 36 points, beating out Air Force, New Mexico, Colorado State, Wyoming and TCU.
Following the team’s finish, Eyestone was honored as MWC Coach of the Year.
Three Cougars were named to the First-Team All-MWC: Shay, Perry and Hinckley, while Gustafsson, Ogden and Nelson were named to the Second-Team All-MWC.
Shay placed third overall followed by Perry (4), Hinckley (6), Gustafsson (11) and Ogden (12).
Moving the Cougars one step closer to Nationals was Perry, finishing first for BYU and second overall.
“We ran a controlled race today,” said Eyestone. “We ran hard enough to get a good performance and make it to Nationals, but we will still be rested enough to give it our all in Indiana.”
The team placed third overall with 70 points in the 10K, falling to Colorado (42 points) and Northern Arizona (65 points).
Perry was followed by Shay (7), Nelson (20), Gustafsson (25) and Ryan Merriman (27).
Also running for the men were Ogden (29) and Gruenewald (31).
All-Region honors were awarded to Gustafsson, Nelson, Perry and Shay.
Perry finished 10th in the 10K, leading his team to a top-10 team finish, with a ninth-place team finish.
“The team ran really well today,” said Eyestone. “We were ranked 16th coming into the race, and our team stepped up and really showed we could bring some competition. It’s great to end with a strong team race. Kyle really put his head where it needed to be and ran the best cross country race of his life”
In his best race of the season, Perry earned his third All-American title.
“Coach really helped me peak at the perfect time of the season,” said Perry. “Having a coach be able to prepare you at the right time is so important. I just tried to keep myself focused because I was competing against the best and wanted to finish strong.”
To take the No. 10 spot, Perry out-leaned the No. 11 finisher. Perry’s 10th-place finish is the best Cougar finish since Josh Rohatinsky in 2006. Other than Rohatinsky, Perry’s finish is the best since Eyestone’s in 1982-1984.
Following behind Perry, was Shay (50), Gustafsson (65), Hinckley (84) and Merriman (102). Nelson (120) was followed by Ogden (165).
Placing ninth overall with team score of 310, the Cougars finished behind Oregon (93 points), Iona (147 points), Stanford (227 points), Wisconsin (229 points), Auburn (264 points), Northern Arizona (281 points), Portland (293 points) and Oklahoma State (305 points).
Despite losing some solid seniors Eyestone expects great things for the 2009 season and believes he has athletes who will step up their performance and fill in the shoes of those who are not returning.
“This year’s season certainly ended on a high note for us,” said Eyestone. “This was one of the best season I’ve coached and it will be very sad to lose our seniors. Next year will be a year for rebuilding because we’re losing four seniors, but I have high expectations that the younger athletes can step it up, and the returning athletes can fill in the shoes of those who left.”