The 2009 BYU men's cross country team had a successful season with several top finishes and multiple individual honors as the team finished ranked No. 17 in the country. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Continuing to perform at a high level on a national scale, the 2009 BYU men’s cross country team proved once again why it is considered one of the top programs in both the western region and across the country.
BYU finished the season ranked No. 17 in the country and earned multiple awards and top finish times throughout the year.
“It was an outstanding season for us that featured many highs that will help our program move forward,” said BYU men’s cross country head coach Ed Eyestone. “We are happy that we finished the season as a top-20 program.”
For the first time in Eyestone’s 10-year tenure, the Cougars came in first place at the NCAA Mountain Regional, giving their coach his first Mountain Region Coach of the Year award. The victory at the regional propelled the team to a No. 5 national ranking, its highest mark of the season. Eyestone added the honor to his long list of awards, which includes six-time MWC Coach of the Year honors.
Six Cougars earned All-Region honors at the event following their impressive performances. Sophomore Miles Batty, who led the team in six of seven events on the season, came in second place overall with a 10K time of just over 30 minutes. He was followed by seniors Rich Nelson and Brandon Hebbert in ninth and 12th place, respectively. Tommy Gruenewald (15), Nate Ogden (16) and Alden Bahr (20) also achieved All-Region marks with their top-20 finishes for the event.
“The regional victory was a historic win for us,” Eyestone said. “With how our guys battled to beat Colorado and Northern Arizona at the meet definitely was the highlight of the year.”
BYU also performed well at the Mountain West Conference Championships where they came in second place overall, falling by just five points, 24-19, to New Mexico. It was only the second time in the 11-year history of the MWC that the Cougars did not take first place.
Batty finished in second place just one second behind winner Jacob Kirwa of New Mexico. Along with Batty, Rich Nelson and Ogden earned All-MWC First Team honors while Bahr, Hebbert and Merriman achieved All-MWC Second Team marks for their respective finishes. In addition, true freshman Jonathan Nelson earned MWC Co-Freshman of the Year honors after coming in 17th place overall at the meet.
Overall, the team had three first-place finishes, two second-place marks, a third-place finish at the Pre-Nationals Invitational and 17th place at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. Following two easy victories in their home BYU Autumn Classic and the UC Riverside Invitational, the then-No. 12 Cougars picked up an impressive second-place finish at the prestigious Bill Dellinger Invitational where they knocked off No. 1 Oregon and No. 8 Portland, falling only to a very good Alabama squad.
“I was very impressed with our performance at the Dellinger Invitational to beat some very good teams,” Eyestone said. “Several guys stepped up in that race and helped us to the strong finish.”
Two weeks later at the Pre-Nationals Invitational, they overcame Portland, No. 12 Iona, No. 19 Arizona State and No. 21 New Mexico for a third-place finish behind No. 1 Stanford and No. 4 Colorado.
BYU culminated the season with a solid performance at the NCAA Championships and finished in 17th place despite having multiple runners with sicknesses or other ailments. Rich Nelson led the team with a 50th-place finish followed by Gruenewald in 54th place.
“It wasn’t our best national meet, but that happens sometimes,” Eyestone said. “The meet was ill-timed for our team because we were struggling with several guys fighting illnesses or other injuries.”
Individually, Batty enjoyed a stellar season in which he was honored two times by the MWC with its Male Athlete of the Week award. He had two first-place finishes, two second-place marks and a third-place finish at the Bill Dellinger Invitational.
Hebbert, Rich Nelson, and Merriman performed very well in several competitions to cap off their Cougar careers in fashion and proved to be sound leaders through their performances. Robert Harrison and Brandon Babiracki also ended their honorable BYU careers while Gruenewald will depart for two years to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ogden, Utah.
“We lose some guys that have been very dependable in their work ethic and have contributed in many ways to our program,” Eyestone said. “They were captains through leadership and helped the younger guys out a lot.”
Returning next year will be Batty, Ogden, Bahr, Reagan Frey, Jon Kotter and several others to provide leadership to what should be a very strong and exciting 2010 squad to continue to build on the tradition of the BYU cross country program.